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E-Commerce, Content and Closing the Gaps: A Look at Elastic Path

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Yesterday we saw how e-Spirit has developed a best-of-breed approach to bridge the gap between content management and e-commerce.  But there are other approaches to this problem. Today we'll look at how Elastic Path tackles the problem with  API-centric commerce. This gives enterprises a single, unified customer experience no matter what device is being used to access the site.

Siloed Content

The Elastic Path approach aims to break down content silos across the entire platform so all applications can access all the information, no matter where the content resides. It corresponds with a growing trend across the enterprises to invest in e-commerce platforms, and Web Content Management (Web CMS) systems that provide end users with the ultimate digital experience.

The content management systems (CMS) many organizations use are too siloed from the e-commerce platform “with no way for the two to meet.” David Chui,  e-commerce industry strategist at Elastic Path, explained:

For the online customer who is using the internet as their principle way of shopping this does not cut the ice. Consumers expect the same experience in-store, in-app and on the web. As you begin gathering requirements for your Digital Experience Platform, it is important to understand the increasing importance of interconnecting your back-end systems and making data digestible for your front end systems.”

Evolving CMS, E-Commerce

But how did this problem arise and how do you fix it? A recent white paper from Elastic Path entitled Three Pillars of Digital Experience describes the problem as the result of the fragmented development of enterprise web experience. Content management systems and e-commerce systems generally evolved as separate but complementary sets of software for two different jobs.

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The CMS stored and managed the content assets of enterprises including copy, visual assets and video assets and had a heavy reliance on editorial interfaces that could be applied to many different scenarios. E-commerce applications focused exclusively on retail and came with a number of commerce-related systems like profile information, tax related capabilities, pricing and anything else that could help sales online.

But both systems have been evolving, the white paper explains. CMS is increasingly web facing, and morphing into customer experience management (CXM), customer relationship management (CRM) and many other public facing experience management systems. E-commerce has grown to support multichannel commerce, with less focus on web experience.

But because online shoppers have become more discerning, e-commerce, and Web CMS applications have been forced to come together.

Integration Problems

In the current online world, this also means using different kinds of applications from analytics to social platforms and recommendation engines. The problem is more than just integration, Chiu said.

One of the things that we are seeing with early adopters is an approach developed from an IT perspective, where we replicate e-commerce functionality or integrate that functionality into the CMS and try to monetize it."

This results in a strategy that pulls bits of the e-commerce site into CMS-driven content sites. There is also the possibility, he said, of writing integration scripts to pull content out of the content repository and feed it into the e-commerce site. Neither offers a satisfactory customer experience, he argued.

The Elastic Path strategy focuses on the development of APIs that can "pull down the walls of content silos," making content accessible to all applications involved in developing and improving customer experience.

Our idea was to take a look at what kind of technologies you really needed to drive a unified experience rather than just cobble them together and try and copying content from one site back to another. So, for example, if a price need to be changed, it only had to be done once, and it would appear everywhere on the site as the new price, rather than having to update it in both the CMS and e-commerce site."

Elastic Path’s Commerce Engine, Cortex

Elastic Path has developed a unified API strategy in its Commerce Engine and Cortex products. In a statement issued at the time of the release v6.7 Commerce Engine and its v1.7 Cortex last year Harry Chemko, CEO of Elastic Path, explained the combined interaction of the two achieves.


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