4 Ways To Deliver eCommerce From Salesforce

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The Salesforce platform continues to evolve. With each release, the global CRM leader gives companies new ways to run more of their businesses on its cloud platform.

In 2016, Salesforce added eCommerce to its suite of solutions. Since its debut, new ways to run eCommerce on Salesforce have emerged. This article explains four popular ways companies are running their eCommerce businesses on Salesforce.

Option 1: Commerce Cloud Digital

Salesforce debuted as an eCommerce software vendor in 2016 when it purchased Demandware. Since then it's been slowly migrating the backend technology to the Salesforce cloud platform and refactoring the storefront architecture.

After two years, the backend Demandware application has been fully ported to Salesforce. It's been rebranded as Commerce Cloud Digital and Salesforce is going to market with a "Unified Commerce" story. Unified Commerce is when companies combine Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud to deliver an end-to-end brand experience.

Architecture

Commerce Cloud Digital gives developers a suite of tools to build and customize the eCommerce storefront. One example are the templates for common eCommerce pages like Home, Product Details and Cart.

These templates are built using a proprietary markup language called ISML. Page components communicate with the server via JavaScript controllers. Developers that want to become proficient with these tools face a moderately steep learning curve.

Unified Commerce is when companies combine Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud to deliver an end-to-end brand experience.

Customers

Commerce Cloud Digital is positioned as a B2C solution. Its customer base is a mix of retail and consumer goods brands that use online to sell direct to the consumer.

Customer acquisition is a high priority for these brands and marketing leaders usually influence commerce technology purchasing decisions. Catering to digital marketers, Salesforce has built point-and-click connectors between Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud that allows the software to seamlessly interoperate.

  Source: Salesforce.com

Source: Salesforce.com

What We Like Most

What we like most about Commerce Cloud Digital is its product maturity. It's the most-complete offering of the four options evaluated in this article. It comes with a suite of robust developer tools and a powerful site optimization apps. 

What We Would Change

Commerce Cloud Digital has a variable-pricing model based on the merchant's annual Gross Merchandise Value (GMV). Licensee's should expect to pay anywhere between 2-3% of annual GMV to use it, and this means the more a merchant sells the more they pay. The creates a paradigm where success comes with a cost. We'd like to see Salesforce reconsider this approach and move to a fixed-price model.

What We Predict

We predict the next major Commerce Cloud Digital innovation will involve improved content management tools.  This will be a response to Adobe's acquisition of Magento and the deepening integration between Adobe Experience Manager and the Magento commerce platform.


Option 2: Salesforce B2B Commerce

Salesforce doubled down as a major eCommerce vendor when it purchased CloudCraze in March 2018.

CloudCraze was an ISV partner that built a B2B eCommerce application native to Salesforce. Soon after the acquisition, Salesforce rebranded CloudCraze as Salesforce B2B Commerce rounding out its eCommerce offering.

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Salesforce B2B Commerce uses some core CRM objects including Accounts, Contacts and Users. As the legacy product is absorbed into the platform, we expect its data model will evolve to include versions of Products, Price Books, Orders and possibly even Quotes.

It will be interesting to see if Salesforce moves towards an architecture where B2B Commerce and Salesforce CPQ share the some of the same data model. If it does, companies will have a way to deliver powerful and engaging self-service configure-price-quote and configure-price-buy experiences.

This capability is essential for B2B companies that sell configurable big-ticket items and for product lines where the final stages of the transaction requires a human touch.

Customers

The Salesforce B2B Commerce customer base includes the traditional B2B verticals including manufacturing, high-tech and distribution. Interestingly, it also includes a few of the same consumer goods brands that use Commerce Cloud Digital. These companies are using Salesforce B2B Commerce to sell to their B2B partner companies including suppliers, distributors and wholesalers.

  Source: CloudCraze.com

Source: CloudCraze.com

Architecture

The out-of-the-box storefront UI architecture is in transition. This is good news because the legacy CloudCraze front-end architecture was not one of the product's strengths. It was hodge-podge of aging web technologies and VisualForce pages widely known to suffer from performance issues.

When Salesforce took over product development it started to focus on creating new software development tools like those offered by Commerce Cloud Digital. This includes delivering the storefront in an entirely new way. It's rumored that new templates for the standard eCommerce storefront screens will be built using Salesforce Lightning optimized for high performance.

What We Like Most

What we like most is Salesforce B2B Commerce customer-user model is the same as Communities. Companies with existing Customer and Partner Communities have a straightforward way to extend those communities with self-service digital commerce tools. With B2B Commerce, companies can create more value from their communities by giving customer revenue-generating tools for placing orders and requesting quotes.

What We Would Change

We'd like to see Salesforce B2B Commerce invest in creating a better administrator experience. The legacy CloudCraze administration screens are click-heavy standard Salesforce screens. Modifying data for multi-object concepts like the product catalog are cumbersome, time-consuming and frustrating. We'd like to see Salesforce B2B Commerce raise the priority of the admin user experience.

What We Predict

We predict Salesforce B2B Commerce data model will evolve to interoperate with Salesforce CPQ without the need for heavy coding. A robust B2B digital commerce solution offers its users more than the ability to just place orders. The ability to configure complex product bundles, build engineered-to-order products and create quotes are essential capabilities to meet the needs of today's B2B buyers.


Option 3: APTTUS E-Commerce

The third option for running eCommerce on Salesforce is APTTUS E-Commerce. APTTUS is best known for its configure-price-quote (CPQ) and contract lifecycle management (CLM) products.

In June 2014, it added a B2B eCommerce offering to its suite of quote-to-cash software products. The application is built as a managed package and installed directly in the Salesforce environment the same as other native Salesforce applications.

APTTUS E-Commerce

Architecture

The APTTUS E-Commerce and CPQ applications share the same data model. This architecture is unique among the large eCommerce vendors. It enables companies already using APTTUS CPQ to reuse the data and rules in the CPQ engine to support digital commerce use cases.

APTTUS provides developers with a SDK they can use to build the storefront. It can be modified and extended to support advanced eCommerce experiences including creating quotes directly from the eCommerce storefront. APTTUS has chosen the Google-backed Angular as the core JavaScript framework used to build the storefront.

Customers

Nearly all APTTUS E-Commerce customers are part of its CPQ install base. There are some examples of companies that only license APTTUS E-Commerce (and not CPQ), but this number is small. APTTUS E-Commerce customers include manufacturers like KUKA AG and high-tech companies such as Spark Digital and InsideSales.com.

What We Like Most

We like APTTUS' decision to use Angular as the core JavaScript framework for its front-end solution. Angular is popular among web developers with a huge global development community and excellent tooling. Angular also fits nicely with Google's Progressive Web App architecture which offers unique features (e.g. offline, poor networks) we believe are essential for delivering mobile B2B commerce solutions.

What We Would Change

We'd like to see APTTUS provide developers with better tools to create sophisticated customer-facing product bundle configuration interfaces. The current storefront reference architecture does a good job supporting basic B2B commerce use cases, but it still has a ways to go before it puts the true power of its core configuration engine in the hands of the commerce user.

What We Predict

APTTUS faces an uphill battle to be competitive with Salesforce; especially for companies that don't use its CPQ software. We predict the APTTUS E-Commerce product team will adopt the same strategy as its CPQ and CLM product teams and focus development resources on building versions that run on Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud. 

APTTUS E-Commerce does a good job supporting basic B2B commerce use cases, but it still has a ways to go before it puts the true power of its core configuration engine in the hands of the commerce user.

Option 4: Build a Custom Solution

The fourth way companies can run eCommerce on Salesforce is by taking the DIY approach and building a custom solution.

Architecture

With a custom solution, merchants can develop the front-end storefront using the technologies of their choice. They own the code base and have full control over the storefront's function and form.

The role Salesforce plays for custom solutions is the provider of the database, service layer and administration views. Developers are responsible for fleshing out the data model which carries risk because it must be done right and isn't trivial. The storefront connects to the data model and backend Salesforce org primarily via web services.

Custom solutions can be cost effective since the seller doesn't pay a vendor licensing fees (other than Salesforce of course). However, the merchant shoulders 100% of the cost of innovation. Contrary to a vendor-built solution, a custom solution will evolve only if the seller invests in making ongoing enhancements.

Any merchant that choose to go down the custom solution path should be aware of potential hidden fees. API calls from the storefront to Salesforce count towards a licensee's API limits. It may be necessary for high-traffic sites to purchase additional licenses and capacity to avoid hitting API governor limits.

What We Like

What we like most about the custom solution approach is the flexibility to choose the storefront's technology stack. For developers, this means they can use the technologies they already know. This eliminates the learning curve of a vendor-specific architecture, increases developer productivity and accelerates build cycles.

What We Predict

Building custom eCommerce solutions is appealing to companies that have competent web development teams. Good software engineers embrace the DIY approach. They know how to make a convincing case to build software instead of buying it.

As running eCommerce on Salesforce becomes more popular, we predict more vendors will create apps and accelerators that appeal to organizations with good software engineering teams. These technologies will make building custom solutions easier and faster, and at price points significantly less than software licensed from the major vendors.


About The Author

Joshua Enders CEO Six Vertical

Joshua Enders is founder and CEO of digital commerce consultancy Six Vertical. He advises companies on how to deliver high-quality modern digital commerce experiences using Salesforce technologies.

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