If you follow the trials & tribulations of of the legacy Microsoft Commerce Server product you've probably seen Sitecore's recent press release on the release of Sitecore commerce 8.0. This is the much anticipated release since Sitecore acquired the Commerce Server product back in November of last year.
Sitecore Commerce 8.0 is fully integrated with the Sitecore Experience Platform, which means customers can natively enjoy all of Sitecore's rich presentation, marketing and analytics functionality throughout the product catalog and checkout. We expect this much needed marketing functional lift is going to be very well received by legacy Commerce Server customers who choose to re-platform onto Sitecore. Some use cases that we think will resonate with eCommerce merchandisers include;
- Fully responsive/adaptive product catalog using Sitecore's responsive ready layouts and devices -- think: easily shop on web, tablet or smart phone, from the same site. This includes adaptive image swapping for each device.
- Dynamic product filtering using the inclusion of Lucene within Sitecore -- think: amazon styles product summary filtering.
- Multivariate product testing of elements like imagery, romance copy, price, buy button styling or even an entirely different product detail layout. Want to test out your new design? Run a multivariate experiment on a small sample of your customers and get real-time feedback.
- Content targeting based on a wide variety of conditions -- Want to promote different home page featured product to visitors from the Northeast than the Southwest? Use the IP location rule to do that. Want to personalize product options based on your shopping persona's? Use a rule that pulls shopper profile information from the Commerce Server customer object.
- Customer experience automation -- Use the Sitecore Marketing Center to script an abandoned cart engagement plan... Send the visitor a reminder email 4 hours after abandoned cart. Send them a follow-on promo offer the next day. Send them a strong win-back offer 7 days after that. Track every open, click, conversion at each level and use it to tune your messaging.
These are just a few use cases that become real with this release. Legacy Commerce Server customers have had to handle these functions through custom development and 3rd party system/service integration until now. I'm not saying that this release will negate the need for any external enhancement. 3rd party enhancements will always be a key part of any best-of-breed eCommerce bundle. But, it is nice to have your core product, website presentation and marketing management within a single system.
We stood up our first Commerce Server storefront in 2003 and have been along for the ride ever since. We know it inside & out, warts & all. We were very fortunate, as long-time Commerce Server partners to be invited to preview early releases of the product as it got built out and integrated into the Sitecore platform. We got our first preview of product catalog in early spring. Since then, we've been working with it in the lab and the tight integration with Sitecore really opens up options. Every data point from Commerce Server comes over to Sitecore, so merchandisers can spend most (not all - yet) of their time inside the Sitecore tools. There's a new and improved merchandise manager workspace built on Sitecore's SPEAK UI framework (good bye catalog manager). More commerce-centric tools are expected -- marketing, order, etc.
So, you might be wondering, what does the conversion path look like? Well, we all know that it's most likely not going to be an upgrade, but rather a re-platforming discussion for most. The Commerce Server side (upgrade from ~CS09 to CS11) is pretty straight forward. Data comes over clean and there are fairly minor code adjustments needed to account for well documented breaking changes. We've completed the conversion of a couple of client upgrades in our lab - just to prove to ourselves what's required. The preview of CS11 that we've been working with includes a basic MVC storefront. This illustrates the straight forward approach to product presentation. The model is very easy to follow. We expect the production release includes (or soon will) more documentation.
If you're a legacy Commerce Server customer you owe it to yourself to review this release and (more importantly) Sitecore's roadmap for eCommerce. We'll be at Sitecore Symposium in September. If you'd like to hear our perspective first hand feel free to drop us a line.