What does a common B2C e-commerce project look like? Well, every project is different, but they usually have a few key elements involved. When working with e-commerce implementations it’s all about the integrations. You’re going to be pulling data from various different systems to populate the products and inventory on the site. You’ll also most likely be pushing your order data back to a master system of record where that data is tracked. On top of that you’ll be integrating with Payment Providers to offload the payment processing, logistics systems to handle the shipping of physical products, and with analytics platforms to give you the valuable insights into how your customers are interacting with you.
A lot of the time the creation of the actual storefront ends up being just a small part of the project, with a larger portion of the time being spent weaving together these disparate systems. If you look at the diagram below you can see a high-level overview of what integrations there could be in a typical B2C e-commerce system.
This shows some of the common ways that the different users and systems will interact with each other.
- Business Users will be interacting with the back-end tools to configure how the customers interact with the site. They will be editing content, configuring offers, setting up personalization and A/B Testing on the storefront. They will also be viewing the detailed analytics coming back out of the DXP to ensure that they’re doing all they can to increase sales.
- An Entity Resource Planning (ERP) or Retail Management System (RMS) system could be used to pull in the commerce data used on the site. This could be product and inventory information, or promotion and coupon data which is automatically imported into the Sitecore Experience Commerce system and made available for use on the storefront.
- Your customers will interact with the Storefront that is served by Sitecore Experience Commerce. This will include all of their storefront based activities, e.g. viewing products, adding and removing items in their basket, and performing the checkout process.
- As part of the checkout process your users will interact with your payment provider of choice. Typically the handling the payment is handed off to a 3rd party to alleviate the Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance requirements on the e-commerce system.
- Once the checkout process is complete and the order has been created in the e-commerce system this is usually exported out to a master system of record, like an Order Management System (OMS)
- The OMS will then interact with the Logistics system. It is this system which deals with the actual physical shipping of the product, arranging for it to be taken from a shelf in the warehouse, put on to a truck, and delivered to the customer.
- As the order is being processed an email system will typically be used to provide updates to the customer about how their order is progressing. The emails don’t have to stop there though, you can also use this to contact the customer with future marketing emails to help drive further sales. Sitecore Email Experience Manager provides all of this functionality for you, meaning you don’t need to purchase and integrate with a new system. It also makes it simple to leverage all of the data you already have in Sitecore Experience Commerce.
- While your customers are interacting with you through your various channels you want to record all of this data in a Digital Experience Platform (DXP). This will allow you to not only use an individual customer’s data to personalize all of their future interactions with you, but it also lets you aggregate all your customer’s data together to get an overall view of how your users are interacting with you, and crucially what is and isn’t driving your customers towards the sale. Sitecore provides its Experience Database (xDB) for this just purpose recording every action your customers do and providing detailed reports at both a macro level in Sitecore Experience Analytics and a micro level in Sitecore Experience Profile.
- A Marketing Automation system will allow you to remove many of the manual tasks that your marketers have to perform. This means you can automate the sending of key emails to your customers for things like order or shipping information, or key marketing emails like abandoned cart emails used to help drive further conversions. Sitecore Marketing Automation can handle this for you, again saving you from having to manage the integration with another external system and making it simple for you to leverage all of the content and analytics data you have stored in Sitecore Experience Commerce and Sitecore xDB.
As I said at the start of this post, this is only talking about typical integrations that we see on a large number of projects. As the market matures and retailers are looking to leverage any competitive advantage they can get we’re also seeing new integrations appearing to support this push. Things like integrating with Alexa or Google Home to implement conversational commerce interactions, or integrating with Machine Learning platforms to leverage the wealth of data being collected about their customers in the DXP.
On top of that this post has mostly only focused on the Web channel, when you also factor in mobile apps, in-store systems like Point-of-Sale (POS) or smart advertising boards you can see how the bigger picture can become a lot more complicated. However, if you implement Sitecore Experience Commerce our extensibility features make pulling these different channels together to get a truly holistic view of your customers a lot simpler.