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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 Commercemodule based on Mediachase's .NET e-Commerce Framework (ECF) works withthe latest release of EPiServer CMS version 6.0 and is available as apackage downloadable from the EPiServer World community. Due to theintegrations, all content management, community building or customermanagement activities can be done in one unified UI.

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Overall EPiServer Commerce and CMS Architecture

The releaseis rather large and complex, so let's take a look at some of thefunctionalities:

Multi-site, Multi-lingual Experience

GivenEPiServer's multi-lingual Web CMS capabilities, it doesn't come as asurprise that online stores can be localized to cater to specificaudiences. That also applies to site content and features that arecustomizable for multiple audiences.

This is important if you thinkabout how diverse not only the cultures are, but the payments, taxes,shipping as well. The ability to configure payment and tax options foreach country comes in handy.

The admin interface works inavailable in six languages – English, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish,Finnish and Dutch – with more languages to come later.

CatalogManagement and Reporting

Catalog management capabilities includecatalog uploads, support for SEO, product bundles and packages,inventory tracking and support for product variations with differentSKUs. All catalog items are just another content type managed in theCMS, and catalog nodes can be used to produce site's navigation.

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EPiServer Commerce Catalog Management

Assetmanagement is robust enough, so that users can upload a variety ofbinaries from PDFs, user guides to videos, MP3s.

Using thebuilt-in dashboard users can get a quick access to net sales andprofits, top sellers, in/out of stock, number of orders and othercustomizable reports.

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EPiServer Commerce Reporting

Customer Management

In this area,there are e-mail notifications available, as well as the ability todefine customer roles, groups, and organizations.

Learning Opportunities

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EPiServer Commerce Customer Management

MarketingPromotions

Using marketing modules from EPiServer Marketing Arena,online retailers can craft and deploy more relevant campaigns. But thisgoes nowhere if you don't have the tools to measure the effectiveness ofyour campaigns, capture lead generation data and improve sales goals.And these features are also available.

Marketing campaigns camalso be segmented for different audiences, regions, discount bundles, orseasons.

Shopping and Checkout

Shopping cartabandonment is one of your daily pains? Perhaps, checkout processes needa bit of work, so EPiServer came up with a Customizable checkout wizardand guest checkout options.

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EPiServer Commerce Order Management

Includes shipping and paymentprocessing using a Scandinavian vendor DIBS as payment engine provider,but can also support PayPal transactions.

Other Features WorthExploring

  • Integration with community building social softwareRelate+ to make shopping online more social
  • Fully exposed.NET API (which can be used, for example, for building personalizationfeatures, as they're lacking out of the box)
  • Access to web analyticsdata via an integration with Google Analytics
  • Search, includingfaceted search based on open source Lucene
  • Advanced comparefunctionality (by comparing product metadata)

Solving OnlineRetail Challenges

B2C and B2B online retailers may need to rethinkhow they're communicating and engaging their customers. As we'vediscussed in our WEM series, online relationships are no different thanoffline relationships and need to be treated with the same (if notbigger) amount of TLC.

“Ask yourself is your online shoppingexperience today any different than it was five, even ten, years ago? Inmost cases, the landing pages are static, there’s limited interactionwith fellow shoppers and the checkout process remains complex,” saidMartin Henricson, CEO of EPiServer. So, there's definitely some room forimprovement.

With avariety of players in the e-Commerce and online engagement field,there's more and more choices of integrated platforms that allowretailers to better understand and measure customer behavior, deliverpersonalized and optimized content, make it easier to shop and turnvisitors into buyers, and one-time buyers into long-term relationships.