We regularly get asked for our advice from companies looking at .net eCommerce solutions. Our unique position as a partner of Episerver, Kentico and Sitecore gives us a good perspective on the pros and cons of each system. In this article we look at the pros and cons of each of these platforms.
eCommerce clients using Sitecore fall into two categories:
1. Businesses who sell a small number of products who tend to use the inbuilt Sitecore eCommerce engine.
2. Businesses who sell hundreds or thousands of products who are much more likely to use the uCommerce connector.
On the basis that you’re reading this article we’re going to assume that you’re probably looking at the second option. A more true reflection of an eCommerce requirement.
The reason that some businesses choose to connect uCommerce with Sitecore is that it leverages the advanced marketing automation and web personalisation capabilities of a best of breed CMS. As integrated software products go the integration is pretty mature…you can even buy a licence with pre-configured integrations, so it’s not as if you’re sticking two products together that run the risk of being incompatible.
The major drawback of the Sitecore / uCommerce approach is fairly predictable. Any integration of two systems to provide a good end to end customer experience needs to be robust. If you go outside of the connectors provided you’re going to need a good implementation partner who know how to use API’s properly.
Like Sitecore, Kentico has its own eCommerce offering and has just announced a partnership with uCommerce.
Unlike Sitecore we tend to see Kentico customers using its eCommerce features for larger product sets and volume of sales. This is because it has a few more features as standard and at the lower mid-market you tend to see more organisations trying to get most of the functionality they need from one system at the lowest cost possible. At this level (online sales of between £5m and £10m) a Kentico eCommerce installation is a bit of a no-brainer: you would be hard pushed to get that level of eCommerce with advanced marketing tools elsewhere at that price point.
The drawback of Kentico is that it can struggle from a performance perspective once you get over the £10m revenue marker. This is a combination of the volume of traffic and the fact that organisations with this many transactions online tend to need more conversion tools than Kentico offers out of the box.
Episerver has been commended for a number of years as the .Net CMS with the best native eCommerce offering. On a feature maturity basis this is probably true, but, this doesn’t necessarily translate into the best performing eCommerce websites.
A common criticism of Episerver is that it is inflexible and at times buggy. We’ve found that when you get to the edges of what it does out of the box it starts to struggle. This really isn’t ideal for eCommerce projects as so many checkout journeys and product finding journeys require validation or unusual configurations of off the shelf products.
Having said this, for vanilla eCommerce projects that require marketing automation and web personalisation tools you won’t go too wrong with Episerver.
Umbraco’s ecommerce product is uCommerce. uCommerce was built using the Umbraco tool set so you can expect these two products to work well together.
Umbraco doesn’t tend to get a look in on eCommerce projects alongside uCommerce and it’s difficult to understand why. It is flexible, capable of integrating with other systems such as eCRM which regularly drive loyalty schemes and email sales and most importantly allows you to create nice looking marketing pages without paying for a CMS licence. You would have thought this would make it a natural choice especially for organisations frustrated with Magento who dream of eCommerce with the ability to create sales landing pages without the need for developer support.
The limitations of the Umbraco / uCommerce approach might just be that the lack of technology to run campaigns means that another platform is needed to provide this service. For risk averse IT Directors that might be one additional platform too many.
Q1: Should I hold my product data in my CMS?
As a general rule this is a bad idea. Product records contain lots of data, images and sometimes attachments or brochures so trying to serve all of this information up to every web user can slow the solution down. Integration with a third party Digital Asset Management (DAM) system or Enterprise Resource Planning systems like SAP is always advisable. For smaller eCommerce sites where there isn’t a lot of product data it’s still a good idea to hold images, videos and downloads in a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Q2: Do all of the platforms allow you to sell products overseas?
At a broad level yes but there are some limitations in using anything apart from uCommerce when it comes to setting different VAT rates. Multiple currencies are available in all the other platforms.
Q3: Can I set up multiple eCommerce websites and have a central CMS where I can publish things to different websites?
Yes absolutely all of these systems allow you to do this. There are some things to consider if you plan on doing this; for example how much stock should be ring fenced for each website and also what the implication is from a licencing perspective. Feel free to email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have something specific that you would like us to look at for you.
Q4: Do any of the systems have integrations with commonly used CRM’s like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and Hubspot?
Sitecore has an established partnership with Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce. Kentico has connectors has been integrated with Dynamics a lot and has connectors for Salesforce. Hubspot is relatively new to the CRM market but has a very good API which should make it relatively easy for any of these platforms to integrate with it.