B2C software suites make virtual shopping possible
By Eric Kulisch
Retailers that want to enable consumers to make purchases when and where they want, and for each of their brands, need help integrating products, Websites, orders, and customer data with their enterprise systems.
That’s where providers of holistic commerce suites such as hybris, IBM, Oracle, Digital River, RedPrairie, Magento, Intershop, Micros-Retail, DemandWare and GSI Commerce (now eBay Enterprise) come in. They stitch together Web storefronts, inventory management, order management and other systems to provide an end-to-end shopping experience.
“No longer are businesses selecting a set of solutions and technologies to launch a site: They are now selecting technologies that can support marketing, shopping, buying, and service capabilities across a multitude of customer touch points,” including Websites, mobile sites, applications, social media, call centers and in-store options, according to a September 2012 report by Forrester Research.
Business-to-consumer commerce suites enable online browsing, shopping cart functionality, product comparison, promotions, registries, multichannel ordering, posting of product content, Web content management, order management, customer service and integration to back-end systems.
Each of the B2C commerce suites has different areas of strength, according to Forrester.
hybris, which was acquired by global software giant SAP on Aug. 1, is an open software platform that lets retailers connect their systems via standard interfaces. The company also operates platforms for business-to-business sales.
What distinguishes hybris is its focus on software and having a more modern architecture, Rick Chavie, vice president of OmniCommerce, said.
Other providers may have to connect four or five systems to create a smooth customer interaction, whereas with hybris all the software (e.g. order management, customer engagement, search engine, call center management) needed for a good shopping experience is in a “single stack,” he said.
“We can integrate to existing software, but people are finding that older systems can’t be exposed to the consumer in real time. There are too many interfaces, batch updates, it’s too heavy to be operated on a smartphone,” Chavie added.
hybris orchestrates the whole e-commerce process. It provides the software engine that lets a retailer load content from manufacturers and other suppliers to its Website, personalize the view and search functions, suggest other items to purchase, accept coupon codes and special pricing, provide shopping carts, and handle payment and delivery preferences.
Then it transmits all the necessary messaging to various carriers about the availability of the shipment, labels and routing instructions.
“Think of hybris as the face to the consumer,” Chavie said.
The hybris platform also lets retailers communicate with stores and customers about the status of shipments, such as whether it was picked from the warehouse or is on a truck or at the store, with the information also available to the call center run by hybris.
A company called Arvato Systems is a systems integrator that sets up the hybris software on a retailer’s IT system to create the look and feel of the Website, and trains its personnel to use the system. hybris also offers a managed cloud service for companies that don’t want to buy, maintain and operate the platform themselves.
Arvato is similar to eBay Enterprise in that it can run distribution centers and handle the fulfillment for customers in addition to implementing digital platforms.
hybris has 15 offices around the world and SAP’s resources will help the company expand, Chavie said.