E-Commerce Systems Options
Choose the Platform That Best Suits Your Needs
By Ernie Schell
E-commerce platforms play a vital role in today's multi-channel marketing mix. With Web sales growing faster than catalog or retail revenues, they also can provide the biggest return on investment.
There are essentially four ways to create an e-commerce Web site:
BroadVision One-To-One Enterprise allows you to build scalable, adaptable, secure Web applications from reusable components that accommodate growth in Web traffic and frequent changes in Web site content and services. A three-tiered, modular architecture permits business rules to be modified without affecting external applications, databases or other interfaces.
One-To-One allows visitors to create profiles. It then matches profile data to Web content and tailors your site for individual viewers each time they visit with personalized editorial content, advertising and incentive programs.
The BroadVision platform offers several levels of programming access. Command Center, a Windows-based module for technical developers, provides rapid application creation and deployment. It uses visual point-and-click construction tools with built-in HTML syntax and application programming interfaces using BroadVision Template Editors, a set of default templates for basic business functions (order entry, payment processing, etc.)
The pages created with the templates are browser-independent and use an extensive library of dynamic objects that provide access to One-To-One services, including profile management, electronic commerce services such as virtual shopping carts and order processing, targeted content and ad insertion.
Links to analysis platforms such as Kana and Epiphany allow you to measure and analyze the results of marketing campaigns.
Managers can use BroadVision's point-and-click Dynamic Command Center to modify business rules that dictate editorial content, advertising placement, product pricing or promotional incentives, without involving programmers or taking the site off-line.
Intershop's system, Enfinity, supports multi-channel selling via Web stores, marketplaces, affiliate selling, kiosks—even mobile commerce. You can collect and analyze cross-channel customer data to deliver targeted offers and promotions in every channel, with consistent branding and content across sales channels.
Enfinity lets you sell to a global marketplace with comprehensive globalization features, including support for multiple languages and currencies.
It also supports customer loyalty programs through rules-based personalized content, pricing and promotions.
The system includes integration tools for existing back-end systems such as inventory, accounting, ERP, CRM, supply chain management, purchasing management and sales automation systems.
Set-up is straightforward, with rapid deployment. Extensive out-of-the-box functionality includes: personalization, auctions, product configuration and comparisons, targeted merchandising, loyalty programs, campaign management, marketing analysis, upselling and cross-selling, catalog image and data management, online stock availability and pricing, affiliate selling, customer-specific and contract prices, multiple payment and shipment options, customer service functions, advanced customer profiling, business intelligence and m-commerce functionality.
Blue Martini applications provide rich interaction for customers and partners via an array of touch points, including Web sites, call centers, partner portals, mobile and wireless devices (including PalmTM and Web-enabled phones), in-store kiosks, online marketplaces and e-mail.
Like the other two packages, it offers extensive out-of-the-box functionality, but the open standards allow your developers to create application extensions. Blue Martini also provides a visual integration manager that simplifies integration with other systems.
For direct-to-business operations, Blue Martini lets you create many online catalogs—based on geography, industry, customer type, and whatever other criteria you'd like to use. It manages relationships with complex accounts, including multinational corporations, and tracks information at all organizational levels. There is support for personalized content and role-based views of catalogs, e.g., showing engineers detailed product specifications, while showing buyers pricing and delivery information.
The system also handles contracts and negotiated pricing, and supports multiple payment types, including purchase order, check, credit card and corporate card.
For direct-to-consumer operations, it allows you to continuously update product collections and implement promotions, cross-sells and upsells. It provides a gift registry, allowing your customers to register and access their registry online or via mobile devices, such as in-store handheld devices. It also supports multiple consumer payment types such as credit cards, checks, gift certificates and point-based purchasing.
A single instance of the application supports Web sites and other touch points in any language and currency. Items can be represented in an unlimited number of languages, with payment in any currency, including the Euro (supported by multiple international price lists). Customers can select, independently, the language and currency of their choice.
iCentrix offers a set of "Component Frameworks for eBusiness Solutions" in the iCentrix "Integrated Component Environment" (ICE). As a fourth option, this isn't a plug-configure-play package, but it's not a build-it-from-scratch platform, either.
ICE allows developers to specify data elements and business rules for configuring a basic set of Web-enabled, direct-commerce objects that encapsulate those rules in an object-oriented (OO) application for supporting both e-commerce platforms and call center solutions.
The OO application structure gives ICE unlimited flexibility and extensibility—if you're willing to invest the time and effort. With solutions starting under $50,000, it may be significantly cheaper than a standard package, as well.
Ernie Schell is author of "The Guide to Catalog Management Software" and president of Marketing Systems Analysis Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 396-0660.