Commerce Investments Are Set to Surge
E-commerce moves beyond Web-store hosting to managing customer data, orders, and inventory across the enterprise.
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Companies are paying more attention to how their customers are paying them, encouraging many multisite businesses to upgrade their commerce technology.

Pier 1 Imports, for example, debuted an e-commerce site this fall with two options for order fulfillment—Pier 1 To You and Pier 1 To Go. Pier 1 To You lets customers order online and have a product shipped to their homes. Pier 1 To Go facilitates an order online with pickup in-store.

Walmart launched its Pay-With-Cash program earlier this year to enable online customers to pay with cash in a store rather than giving their credit card details online. Walmart can ship products purchased directly to the customer or to a local Walmart store or FedEx office.

These companies are not alone. More than half (52 percent) of companies plan to change their commerce platform—or "replatform"—technology solutions within two years, according to a recent Forrester Wave report.

"Not only is commerce completely changing, observes Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO at Constellation Research, but "we have to take into account…the buyer-centric point of view. The seller has to figure out [whether] people are interested in [his] products and [whether they are] available or not. This is a much bigger problem than just commerce, and that's why you're seeing the data out there reflect that."

"Many businesses today are on homegrown or aging first-generation e-commerce solutions," says Brian Walker, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research and lead author of the report.

"Primarily, replatforming is driven by the need for better business tools, new customer touchpoints like mobile, and, of course, the need for omni-channel capabilities."

Moving forward, Walker says, "we can expect the rate of replatforming to come down in three to four years in B2C, but to extend for many years in B2B."

Companies looking to replatform their commerce technology should consider product and Web content management, Walker said. Greater control over the customer experience on the company Web site without the need for developer or IT intervention is a major selling point, as is resource allocation for marketing, selling, shipping, and customer support.

Before selecting a commerce solution, Walker says companies should identify their business goals (such as improving multisite, global, mobile, or order management strategies). Then he suggests defining brand and service differentiators and mapping out the desired customer experience and strategies for technology implementation, operations capabilities, and strategic objectives.

The Forrester Wave report also identified the top 10 e-commerce software vendors. IBM took the top spot based on technology it gained from its 2010 acquisition of Sterling Commerce and its own WebSphere Commerce product, which delivers cross-channel marketing, personalization, and merchandising capabilities. Hybris, and Oracle, which blended solutions acquired during its acquisitions of ATG and Endeca into the Oracle Commerce suite, rounded out the top three. Demandware, which offers a software-as-a-service solution, scored high for its multisite and merchandising tools, but its order management capacity was considered far less developed than the other three vendors for larger or more complex client needs. Also on the list were Digital River, Intershop, Magento, Micros-Retail, RedPrairie, and SAP.

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