As the experience journey consolidates from monolithic commerce and content platforms to experience commerce platforms, there are still some challenges being faced:
1) Interface: Content is still managed from the CMS Platform while the commerce is still managed from the commerce platform.
- This brings two different interfaces into the equation which increases the learning curve exponentially.
- There is a need to understand which content is stored where and how does it link to the related information in the other system.
- Login and authentication for each system are separate.
2) Search: It is always a challenge to understand how to index and deliver optimum search results from both the content and commerce repositories.
3) Integration: Content and commerce are not always well integrated.
- There is a lot of redundant information in both the systems.
- All the commerce services are always not exposed, resulting in custom development to import/export of data. At the very least, all data is not real-time.
4) Loyalty Programs: Today’s commerce platforms are almost always integrated with a loyalty program. This is, however, not out of the box.
5) Digital Subscriptions: In the case of complex product bundles, there is almost always a need for a subscription or add-on (e.g.: five-year extended warranty on TV's), something that many commerce platforms still don't do well today.
6) Global Deployments: A key challenge that most organizations face today deals with the need to deploy the platform globally. The source data is different; the branding/product name and pricing structure also vary across regions. Today, this results in heavily replicating the entire infrastructure across regions, custom coding in many cases and sometimes different platforms driving different regions.
7) Pricing: Pricing is one of the most complex and challenging parts of any commerce implementation. Most systems have pricing logic spread out between ERP/Commerce and front end systems out of necessity, which is extremely complex to support.
All this, however, is set to change with the introduction of the Sitecore Commerce platform. Sitecore, as we all know, has long been recognized as one of the leaders in the content space. With the introduction of version 8.2.1, they are set to transform the commerce space as well.
Here are some salient points:
1) Interface: Both, content and commerce, share the same interface. All the tools are presented in a single common interface, which drastically simplifies the learning curve for a user. In addition, since the marketing teams are already familiar with the interface, they will be able to dive into the platform immediately. There is also support for visual merchandising.
2) Unified Catalog: An ability to create or edit content and catalog from a single interface. All assets are co-located.
3) Unified Faceted Search: Search automatically contains all elements or content and commerce in its indices. The facets can be derived out of any of the content or commerce attributes.
4) Unified Personalization: All content (both, transactional and non-transactional) is delivered in a highly relevant and personalized way through Sitecore’s single all-content personalization subsystems. Personalization is delivered through a single unified solution, eliminating overlap by separate content/commerce personalization tools.
5) CSR Module: A free CSR module allows reps to view existing orders, issue RMA's or answer any customer queries. All orders have embedded contextual information, resulting in lesser time to resolve customer issues.
6) Entitlements: There is an out-of-the-box support for loyalty programs / entitlements.
7) Pricing: A highly configurable and extensible pricing engine that has the ability to be dynamic, based on various attributes and calculations.
From a technology angle, following salient points exist:
1) The product is rebuilt from ground up on ASP .Net 4.0. This is extremely useful, in case there are planned deployments on Azure.
2) All services are exposed via Rest, allowing for a truly headless deployment.
3) The architecture is micro services based. This promotes elasticity, provides an ability to structure the platform based on its footprint and very flexible global deployments.
In conclusion, tying these diverse commerce features to the already powerful Sitecore CMS along with XP, brings a game-changing experience platform into the market that addresses both, B2B and B2C needs.