What Integrated eCommerce Solution is Right for you and your Sage ERP?
Today, there are several integrated eCommerce solutions on the market for your Sage ERP. In this article, we will discuss several of them; their Pros, Cons, and Flexibility. To be considered for this article, each product needed to have the ability for deep integration (either internal or through a third party vendor) to at least one Sage ERP.
Iciniti has a proprietary eCommerce solution for Sage 300. The product is very feature rich, and they have a flexible, PADSS verified Credit Card Payment app that supports multiple payment gateways around the world. A customer can purchase this product as modules – full web store with “My Account” bundle and Credit Card App or, the My Account and Credit Card app as stand-alone modules. First delivered in 2001 Iciniti is the Sage 300 web store that has been around the longest. It is written as a .NET application so it must be hosted on a Windows server. The customer is responsible for getting their own Hosting and SSL certificate, although Iciniti will assist with this. Iciniti eCommSuite is predominantly a B2B store, although it does also support B2C. According to builtwith.com, Iciniti has approximately 350 installs worldwide.
PROs – Iciniti has decent integration to Sage 300 and in-depth knowledge of Sage 300. The product is somewhat modular, so you can pick and choose the pieces you want. The CMS is Sitefinity, which is a very popular CMS with over 11,000 users worldwide.
CONs – Iciniti eCommSuite is a proprietary application with a tiny development community (internal development staff of about six and one known external developer). All new features are done as customizations, which can be costly and often take months to get completed. The company has not released a significant update in several years, although on occasion there are new features added. There is very little in terms of marketing automation with this system. Sitefinity offers some excellent Marketing Automation; however, to take advantage of those features would require quite a bit of costly customization to the eCommerce modules.
Flexibility – Being able to buy individual modules is a nice touch. Having to get customization only from Iciniti is very limiting. The Sitefinity CMS gives users a powerful tool for making the system look any way you want; however, changes to Sitefinity may require customizations to the underlying eCommerce modules to accommodate them.
(Formerly XM Symphony and Sage eCommerce)
This is a good solution for companies that want a fully hosted solution where the vendor takes care of all hosting, and you simply pay a start-up fee plus services and monthly hosting to get it up and running. According to builtwith.com, CommerceBuild has approximately 200 installs worldwide. CommerceBuild Supports both Sage 300 and Sage EM. The product is very feature-rich and is developed with newer technologies than Iciniti, but it is still a proprietary system with virtually no development community other than in-house staff. Because it is a multi-tenant design, CommerceBuild can automatically add new updates to all customers quickly and easily without much disruption. However, because it is multi-tenant, any customizations must take into consideration how they would affect other sites in the tenancy. In the past, new major versions of the software have caused problems with the UI and have caused companies to have to rebuild their UI completely.
PROs – CommerceBuild is a pretty feature-rich product, and Version 4 promises to have some speed, search and throughput improvements. They have a very powerful product configurator, and a very basic instance can be installed and connected to your Sage ERP in hours.
CONs – The lack of a development community means that CommerceBuild must do all customizations and they are often expensive and time-consuming. The multi-tenant aspect also limits the customizations that can be done. It is a proprietary system, so, at the end of the day, you do not own the code and do not have access to the code to make your changes. Therefore, if you decide to move to a different vendor, you lose your entire investment other than data. The pricing model is strange – you pay for the software and services up front, but then you pay for it monthly as well.
Flexibility – Some of the inner modules for CommerceBuild, such as the product configurator are quite flexible. However, overall, the solution is not – the templates can be hard to work with, and you must host on their servers. Customizations can be limited due to the effect that they may have on other customers.
This is a very popular eCommerce solution. According to Builtwith.com, they have 1.2 million installs about 60 templates and hundreds of add-on apps. The solution is built with an open source language called Liquid, which was developed by Shopify. It is a hosted only solution, and although the upfront costs are very low, merchant fees can add up quickly. You are required to use Shopify’s merchant accounts and gateway, and if you opt out, they still charge you a credit card fee for each transaction. Shopify is a mainly B2C application; however, Shopify plus does support B2B, with a base cost of $2,000 per month up to $800,000 a month in sales and then it converts to a fee of 0.25% of your transactions to a maximum of $40,000 per month (all charges are in USD). Shopify is extremely feature-rich, but it is not fully open source, so if you leave them as a supplier, you walk away from your investment. If this is your first web store and you have little or no eCommerce experience Shopify may be a perfect solution. There are programs available from Baass and Realisable to integrate Shopify to Sage 300.
Pros – Shopify is straightforward to get up and running with a great looking website. Low initial cost and everything is handled for you – Web hosting, SSL certificate and templates. Shopify also offers award-winning support.
Cons – Shopify can get costly as your business grows. Shopify tightly controls the program; you can add content and change the themes, but you can’t really modify the site logic unless you hire a third-party developer to build an add on app.
Flexibility – Shopify is relatively flexible in that it has thousands of options that can be configured to tweak your site to meet your needs. It is less flexible in areas such as hosting (you must host with Shopify) and Merchant accounts (the push you towards using their merchant accounts and payment gateway – if you use someone else’s you will pay their fees as well as a fee to Shopify).
According to builtwith.com, WooCommerce has 2.1 million sites running its software worldwide. They supposedly have more stores running their software than any other company. WooCommerce is a plugin for the extremely popular WordPress CMS. Woo Commerce is open source, and the programming language is PHP. There are hundreds if not thousands of low cost or free plugins for WooCommerce; you can purchase most with or without support. Realisable iMan has very robust integration plug-in between WooCommerce and multiple Sage 300 ERPs. With WooCommerce you can select from hundreds of available templates. The development community for WooCoomerce is extensive so, you don’t have to worry about being held hostage by a sub-par vendor. If this is not your first eCommerce effort, and you have some experience running a web store, WooCommerce may be the perfect solution.
Pros – the main pros are the massive install base, a vast number of templates, and a significant development community. It is impossible to overstate the power of the development community; as new trends come along the community is continually updating the core as well as adding new plugins. This allows you to keep pace with the everchanging face of eCommerce easily. The PHP language is prevalent, so, finding local developers should be easy. Moreover, the fact that it is open source means that you own and control your eCommerce destiny. Woo Commerce is very scalable with some store having over 100,000 products.
Cons –to have a store with 100,000 products you will likely need a powerful server and an IT staff to tweak it for speed continually. Unlike Shopify, you will need to find your own hosting service and SSL certificate. Also, WooCommerce expects you to get support from your vendor not directly from them, although many Plugins do offer email support.
Flexibility – Due to the open source nature of the product, the unlimited hosting options, the vast development community, and the thousands of plug-ins and theme templates; WooCommerce is an extremely flexible offering in a relatively easy to use package.
This product which is now owned by Adobe, virtually owns the mid-market up to Enterprise open source eCommerce market. According to Magento, they have over 600,000 clients worldwide and a development community of 300,000. This is a very robust, feature-rich offering written in PHP with some parts using the Zend framework. There are a plethora of plugins to meet virtually any an all needs. Magento has an open source edition as well as the Enterprise edition. The open source Edition is free, and the Enterprise Edition currently costs $25,000 per year. The OpenSource edition is mainly B2C, but third Party developers have developed plugins to add B2B functionality. Magento will supply hosting if you wish, but most companies provide their own hosting; either in-house or through Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or some third party hosting facility such as Rack Space. Companies such a Realisable, EBridge and Greytrix have developed integration tools for Magento to allow connectivity between Magento and your Sage ERP. Because of Magento’s popularity in the mid-market, there are also integration components for many other ERPs as well.
Pros – The main Pros for Magento is the vast array of plugins available, the enormous install-base and development community. As mentioned, it is very robust and relatively easy to customize.
Cons – The Main Con is that the open source edition is really a B2C store. To get built-in B2B functionality, you need to get the much more expensive Enterprise edition. The other concern is that Adobe just paid 1.68 billion dollars for this company, which leads one to question how long the open source edition will be free. Adobe has committed to keeping it free; however, in the past, they have purchased open source solutions and bundled them with paid software such that, to get the free software you had to buy something else.
Flexibility – In terms of customization, functionality, hosting options and scalability, this is a very flexible product. For some companies, the amount of flexibility is overwhelming, and they find the product hard to manage. This can be resolved with good IT support; either internally or from a reseller.
PimCore is the new kid on the block at only nine years old. However, in those nine years, they have managed to attract 82,000 clients. PimCore’s youth also means that it was coming of age as the eCommerce world was moving towards Digital Transformation and omnichannel solutions. For that reason, PimCore is inherently designed to enable a company’s Digital Transformation strategy and give them the tools they need to empower an omnichannel vision within the organization. PimCore represents a different strategy than anyone else; combining Product Information Management (PIM), Digital Asset Management (DAM), Master Data Management (MDM) and eCommerce into a single, common user interface. Over the years I have met several companies that wanted to list their supplier’s entire product catalogue for sale, on their website; however, they did not want to add all of those products to their ERP until they sold one. PIM allows you to do just that and much more.
However, the major advantage of PimCore is its automated digital marketing capabilities. The system gives you the ability to segment your customers either automatically or manually. As an example: a persons gender is one of the standard fields in the customer master so the system will automatically create segments based on the data in that field. For manual segmentation, you can create simple scripts that have conditions and triggers. As an example: if you wanted to create segments for customers that regularly purchase from you, you could create a simple script that said – find all customers with more than ten orders where the total of the orders exceeds $1,000 before taxes and shipping. When those conditions are met, it would automatically add the customers to the segment you created. Of course, you can also go in and manually add any segment to a customer. You can also assign customers to multiple segments. PimCore also has deep integration to mail chimp, and all of the segments show up in the MailChimp interface. This allows you to easily select the segments that you want to use in a targeted email campaign. It is also effortless to create custom landing pages for your campaigns and specific customer segments.
One area in which PimCore eCommerce is radically different from all the rest is the fact that it is more of a framework than an out-of-the-box program. PimCore is designed from the ground up so that the end-user can customize it to meet their exact needs. Therefore, it does not have as many plugins as WooCommerce or Magento and may have a smaller development community; however, it is written using PHP’s most popular framework Symfony which is supported by thousands of developers worldwide; so finding a developer should be easy. PimCore claims that it is written by developers for developers. In researching this article, I found several PimCore developers that said it was faster to build a working site with PimCore than Magento because you built only what you need and did not need to worry about clearing out features that you didn’t want so you can add features that you do want.
Pros – having PIM, CMS, DAM, MDM and eCommerce in a single open source and free package makes this a very compelling offering. When you add in the marketing automation, it is even more so. This is a product designed from the ground up for B2B, although it does a great job with B2C as well. PimCore designed this product for companies that want to drive their business with an omnichannel vision. PimCore is very scalable; some of their users have over one million customers in their database.
Cons – being a framework as opposed to an out-of-the-box product may be daunting to some. You will need to set up your own infrastructure for hosting; either on-site or with someone like AWS, Azure or RackSpace. If you take advantage of the PIM and MDM, then you will have to rearchitect much of your existing data structure. Although, in truth, this Con is also one of PimCore’s most significant Pros.
Flexibility – As a development framework, PimCore is likely the most flexible system of all of those listed. However, as with any freedom, there comes responsibility, and the responsibility of managing the ultimate freedom offered by PimCore may be too much for some.
I do confess to a bias towards open source solutions as I believe that they give a merchant much more control over their eCommerce destiny. Having said that, let’s look at how these stack up.
SMB to Mid-market – I think that this is a tie between Shopify and WooCommerce. They both serve similar markets; it is really a choice about the control you want to have over your site as well as the time and effort you are willing to put into getting a site up and running and your willingness to manage it, long-term. The long-term cost of WooCommerce is likely to be less, but the setup cost will be more.
Mid-market to Enterprise – Magento is the clear winner here, especially in the B2C market. I would also strongly consider PimCore if your company is working on an omnichannel strategy.
Marketing Automation – If any of the following is true then PimCore is the clear winner;
- Corporately you are working towards a Digital Transformation strategy.
- Corporately you are working moulding yourself as an omnichannel company.
- Marketing Automation to unique customer segments is key to your marketing strategy
- You need PIM to fully manage your inventory and sell items that are not yet in your ERP
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Bill Parkinson, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-851-8515.