More news from the land of Web Engagement Management, where EPiServer (news, site) has been creating some WEM magic. As initially promised in late 2009, they released an e-Commerce product that includes product catalog management, multi-language stores, customer management, reporting and a slew of other features -- all in the name of better online engagement with customers.
Weaving in e-Commerce, CMS and Community
The EPiServer Commerce module based on Mediachase's .NET e-Commerce Framework (ECF) works with the latest release of EPiServer CMS version 6.0 and is available as a package downloadable from the EPiServer World community. Due to the integrations, all content management, community building or customer management activities can be done in one unified UI.
Overall EPiServer Commerce and CMS Architecture
The release is rather large and complex, so let's take a look at some of the functionalities:
Multi-site, Multi-lingual Experience
Given EPiServer's multi-lingual Web CMS capabilities, it doesn't come as a surprise that online stores can be localized to cater to specific audiences. That also applies to site content and features that are customizable for multiple audiences.
This is important if you think about how diverse not only the cultures are, but the payments, taxes, shipping as well. The ability to configure payment and tax options for each country comes in handy.
The admin interface works in available in six languages – English, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish and Dutch – with more languages to come later.
Catalog Management and Reporting
Catalog management capabilities include catalog uploads, support for SEO, product bundles and packages, inventory tracking and support for product variations with different SKUs. All catalog items are just another content type managed in the CMS, and catalog nodes can be used to produce site's navigation.
EPiServer Commerce Catalog Management
Asset management is robust enough, so that users can upload a variety of binaries from PDFs, user guides to videos, MP3s.
Using the built-in dashboard users can get a quick access to net sales and profits, top sellers, in/out of stock, number of orders and other customizable reports.
EPiServer Commerce Reporting
In this area, there are e-mail notifications available, as well as the ability to define customer roles, groups, and organizations.
EPiServer Commerce Customer Management
Using marketing modules from EPiServer Marketing Arena, online retailers can craft and deploy more relevant campaigns. But this goes nowhere if you don't have the tools to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, capture lead generation data and improve sales goals. And these features are also available.
Marketing campaigns cam also be segmented for different audiences, regions, discount bundles, or seasons.
Shopping and Checkout
Shopping cart abandonment is one of your daily pains? Perhaps, checkout processes need a bit of work, so EPiServer came up with a Customizable checkout wizard and guest checkout options.
EPiServer Commerce Order Management
Includes shipping and payment processing using a Scandinavian vendor DIBS as payment engine provider, but can also support PayPal transactions.
Other Features Worth Exploring
- Integration with community building social software Relate+ to make shopping online more social
- Fully exposed .NET API (which can be used, for example, for building personalization features, as they're lacking out of the box)
- Access to web analytics data via an integration with Google Analytics
- Search, including faceted search based on open source Lucene
- Advanced compare functionality (by comparing product metadata)
Solving Online Retail Challenges
B2C and B2B online retailers may need to rethink how they're communicating and engaging their customers. As we've discussed in our WEM series, online relationships are no different than offline relationships and need to be treated with the same (if not bigger) amount of TLC.
“Ask yourself is your online shopping experience today any different than it was five, even ten, years ago? In most cases, the landing pages are static, there’s limited interaction with fellow shoppers and the checkout process remains complex,” said Martin Henricson, CEO of EPiServer. So, there's definitely some room for improvement.
With a variety of players in the e-Commerce and online engagement field, there's more and more choices of integrated platforms that allow retailers to better understand and measure customer behavior, deliver personalized and optimized content, make it easier to shop and turn visitors into buyers, and one-time buyers into long-term relationships.