Top 10 Key Criteria When Selecting a Commerce Platform
A search on the internet for the term Commerce Platform, will get you many results for E-Commerce platform. But it will hardly give you anything for a Commerce-without-the-E-Platform, and that is strange: years ago one could claim to be an online retailer or an e-commerce business, but today these terms don’t really apply anymore. E-commerce -or online retailing- is nothing more than a sales channel for the products or services that you deliver to your market. A Commerce platform incorporates this online sales channel but is not limited to it: it includes all sales channels, like the traditional brick-and-mortar, kiosks, pop-up stores and mobile points of sales.
As a retailer or business owner you have your OmniChannel strategy or are working on it. Your main objective here is that shoppers can find you, receive an exceptional shopping experience, recommend you to others, get acquainted and can order and receive your product how, when and where they want. Convenience is the keyword, it’s what drives your margins and will boost your sales.
So what should you take into account when searching for your Commerce Platform? Obviously the sequence below is arbitrary, it is my point of view as a supplier of the preferred Commerce Platform. And since it is arbitrary, I will accept invitations to discuss it!
1. Future ready?
Inverting in a Commerce Platform is a strategic decision, one whose effects will last for a long time in your organization. The answer to the question “Is the new Commerce Platform future ready” is the most relevant, and one that should not be answered with a simple yes or no.
According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Retail technologies there is a tropical storm coming. The retail landscape will see many different technologies in the years ahead and your new Commerce Platform should either address them already or have the majority in its strategic roadmap. In either case, the platform should have an open architecture that allows to extend the functionalities in a robust and cost-effective way.
2. Multichannel ready
Even though you obtained a positive and satisfying answer to the first question, if the Commerce Platform is not already multichannel ready (web, kiosk, mobile, brick-and-mortar), you might want to skip it. It´s not as easy as it sounds and –as in any development- multiple issues need to be overcome. Since there are multi-channel solutions available, why suffer from the unavoidable issues of a development project?
3. Cloud Based
Cloud based does not necessarily mean SaaS. Cloud based software can also be deployed on-premises with full control over hardware and software. Regardless of how you deploy cloud based software, it will come with the following benefits, each of them reducing your TCO:
- It runs on any device that runs a web browser: smart phones, tablets, kiosks. This will allow you a wide choice of hardware.
- Install updates and/or upgrades with a few simple clicks: Costs of system maintenance will be drastically reduced.
- Faster implementations due to the plug-and-play nature of the installations and user friendly web-user interface.
- Inversion is mainly OPEX. CAPEX is reduced to owned servers in the ‘On-Premises’ model.
4. Global support from a retail-focused supplier
Very nice all this, you might say now. But what if my supplier also runs hospitals, industries or governments? Where is My Priority as a simple retailer? For this reason I would place the global support of the retail-focused supplier as number 4 of the Top 10. Only a supplier that knows, breathes and eats retail for breakfast will give you the sustainable competitive advantage.
5. Integration and Adaptability
Starting with adaptability, the key question is how agile the commerce platform is to adapt to new tendencies and technologies. This is key because of the expected turmoil in retail (see also Gartner’s Hype Cycle as mentioned in the first point). Then, the capacity to integrate with a back-end system is in many cases a must-have: Bigger or multinational retailers have their processes organized with one of the known ERP solutions and do not wish to abandon it. For their part, these back-end systems do not have the flexibility that a state-of-the-art Commerce platform has. With the Openbravo Commerce Platform, integration on the level of Finance or on the levels of Finance and the Supply Chain comes as standard.
6. State-of-the-art commercial functionality
Can’t go without this, right? But then again, having obtained positive and satisfying answers to the Top 5, you would have all the numbers to expect this one to be there. Well, you’d better check it with the supplier. Just an example, here is the mobile POS that allows your staff to help the customers where they are. This will allow you to adopt retail tendencies like line-busting or assisted sales with up- and cross-selling possibilities. But also Loyalty programs, Social integration, all types of promotions and a good supply chain to deliver should be there. If it also has finance features and complies with the legal requirements of your country, then you probably have your wish list completed. If not, continue reading.
7. Centralized master data maintenance
Only those who have experienced the problems of redundant systems with regards to master data, know how difficult –and costly- it is to get this solved. Products, prices, assortments, inventory, customers, loyalties etcetera’s that are in more than one database will give you a never ending synchronization process. But it gets worse: Every synchronization takes a) time and b) control. Wouldn’t it be nice if a changed customer/delivery address was instantly available on the internet, at the POS and at the kiosk? Wouldn’t it be great if your promotions were consistent across all channels? And a dream if all channels saw the same inventory levels? Actually this should be higher up in the Top-10.
8. Scalability and on-/off-line capabilities
Have you ever had the nightmare that your system collapsed…during Black Friday? Or that the connection to the server failed? The Openbravo Commerce suite is completely resistant to this. You should check with your vendor if.
• …the system allows you to add servers during business hours so that you can deal with peak volumes without losing sales.
• …the system allows the business to continue the operations even though the connection to the server (SaaS or On-Premises) drops. And what happens with the transactions and refreshed master data when the connection suddenly comes back. .
9. Extendibility and Analytics
You should also check if the platform has embedded analytics. This would allow the channels to analyze the operations themselves and take corrective or preventative actions. But make sure that all channels of the same organization, or even of multiple organizations in the group share the same database in order to facilitate central analytics as well.
We understand extendibility as an indicator of the relative effort that is needed to add functionalities. In the most traditional systems, functionality is programmed and a database is defined. While in Openbravo the functionality and database are defined in the Application Dictionary. The database is generated when compiling and an executable code is generated at runtime. In this way, new functionalities can be added as building blocks and will not interfere with other building blocks unless specified in the Application Dictionary.
As in all purchases price is a factor, so it is also here. And if you haven’t made up your mind yet, this pricelist will probably help.
If you have already gone through this process, we invite you to comment on this blog to find out how your experience has been.