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NetSuite extends commerce capabilities 

By Retail Technology | Wednesday May 16 2012

Business management vendor outlines strategy to link transactional, product and customer-facing, Miya Knights reports

Cloud software company NetSuite is aiming to disrupt business-to-consumer (B2C) business-to-business (B2B) and machine-to-machine (M2M) commerce with the release of new software enhancements.

Building on its heritage of accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software using a single data source, the firm unveiled the latest iteration of its commerce front end at its second annual SuiteWorld customer conference in San Francisco today.

Zach Nelson, NetSuite chief executive, outlined the strategic thinking behind SuiteCommerce, the company's new commerce engine, offering tight integration to the customer and product information managed by its back-end ERP and CRM functionality.

"The interesting thing about the consumerisation of technology is that these consumers also have jobs too and want as compelling an experience at work as they have come to expect from the likes of Amazon and Apple," he said. "This is why we're introducing 'commerce as a service'."

Introducing commerce as a service

Nelson explained that some 2,800 e-commerce sites are already powered by NetSuite's existing front-end Commerce capabilities, making it the fifth largest e-commerce platform by number of transactions behind the likes of eBay and Amazon.

But, with SuiteCommerce, he said all kinds of companies could extend a rich set of cloud operational capabilities out of the core NetSuite platform anywhere directly to their customers, "regardless of the device those customers are using—be it a smartphone, tablet, PC, point-of-sale system, or touchpoints not yet developed".

He told Retail Technology that this new platform would put it directly into competition with the likes of Venda: "But they are primarily design-based front ends, where you then also have to embed the back-end transactional processes."

Legacy B2B systems such as Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains, Sage or SAP systems forced retailers to integrate discrete front-end silos for each customer touchpoint. And e-commerce systems such as Demandware and Magento require ever-increasing integration costs as e-commerce revenues grow.

SuiteCommerce is designed to provide a presentation layer, business logic and application programming interfaces (APIs) to architecturally support B2C, B2B, M2M business models, exposing existing NetSuite commerce capabilities -- including merchandising, pricing, promotions, payment processing, support management and customer management -- while integrating back to its core management platform.

Potential technology market disruption

Michael Fauscette, group vice president of software business solutions for analyst firm IDC, told Retail Technology that the strategy behind SuiteCommerce was potentially very disruptive, for its ability to integrate customer-centric experiences into back-end processes.

"There are only two other technology companies trying to offer an immersive, preintegrated customer-centric experience across channels, and that's IBM and Oracle," Fauscette said. "But that positions NetSuite really well as the only vendor doing this for the midmarket."

The question he said retailers should be considering was whether their front and back-end systems offered the flexibility to support new and emerging endpoints, such as social and mobile.

"You never know, one day consumers might want to go into a store an buy a pair of jeans with Facebook credits," added Fauscette. "To remain competitive retail systems have to be flexible enough to quickly support these demands, as well as perhaps tell the store staff about other recent purchases too." 

To support the launch at SuiteWorld, NetSuite also announced partnerships with B2C and B2B commerce providers such as Square, Stripe, SPS Commerce and Retail Anywhere to support SuiteCommerce Services, which expose NetSuite's back-end commerce functionality and data as services to the SuiteCommerce Experience and any other commerce front-end application.

Three product versions introduced

NetSuite SuiteCommerce is available in three versions designed to meet the needs of small, midsized and large enterprises. 

NetSuite SuiteCommerce Limited is available for up to five users and costs $799 per month. Its Mid-market version also includes the core functionality of SuiteCommerce Services, as well as access to a number of add-on modules including product feeds, ratings and reviews, and loyalty programmes. At $1,999 per month, it is designed to support companies with smaller order volumes and product catalogues. 

The Enterprise version includes the entire SuiteCommerce offering, including SuiteCommerce Experience and the SuiteCommerce Services Platform, providing support for enterprise-scale order volumes and product/item catalogues at $3,999 per month and "companies that need to control every pixel on the screen'" according to Nelson.

He also said the Enterprise version would be available to up 100 initial pilot customers over the next year and extended to others as its professional services organisation built up its SuiteCommerce expertise.

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