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eCommerce/WCM Integration - What are your options?

We often receive requests from clients or prospects who are weighing their options for providing eCommerce capabilities on their WCM managed website. While this can be a daunting task, we usually present a few options to help determine which solution best fits their need.

A few initial questions can help drive the conversation:

  1. Will eCommerce functionality be an integral part of your website?
  2. Is the main purpose of your website to sell products, to tell your story or drive traffic to your brick and mortar store?
  3. Will you be looking for a single interface for content entry, including managing your products and managing fulfillment?
  4. How can you leverage your ERP system to be the source record for your products?
  5. How can you tie your customer record back to your CRM to continue to build that relationship?

Once these questions have been answered, we begin to look at three possible scenarios:

Scenario #1
Two tools, two completely separate sites:

    a. www.yoursite.com
    b. Shop.yoursite.com

This scenario is the easiest to implement due to the fact that content from disparate systems does not have to coexist on one website. However, this scenario poses a problem for end users as they now have to navigate two sites and potentially two different user experiences. These issues can be minimized through creating single sign-on utilities and/or creating similar site designs for both sites.

Scenario #2
One site, two interfaces for managing content. Marketing content will be managed using the WCM and product content will be managed using the eCommerce Admin UI. For display purposes, product IDs will need to be synchronized into the WCM to help drive navigation.

This scenario provides one website for your end users to navigate, which is ideal, especially for search engine optimization. Technically, this approach has some challenges, as product references will need to be integrated into the WCM, however these challenges are minor. From a content author perspective, they will need to use two different UI’s to manage content on the site. Within some larger organizations, this is not an issue as one user may be a marketing manager managing generic content and the other user being a product manager. However, within other organizations this may be one person managing all content, so they will need to be well versed in both the eCommerce and WCM systems.

Scenario #3
One site, one interface for managing all content, marketing and product. While this solution creates an intuitive way for content authors to manage content using one UI, it does pose more difficult development challenges. All products will be managed using the WCM environment, which typically manages content using a hierarchical model, where products are arranged in a “tree” structure and each “child” can only have one parent, as opposed to eCommerce software which typically manages content using a relational model, where many-to-one or many-to-many relationships are not a problem. Additional planning is required to make this work and to ensure performance does not take a hit.

In the end, you should carefully weigh your options. The tendency is towards the Swiss army knife approach, one tool to do many things. If your site is by and large eCommerce, with some managed content, be careful not to force fit your primary need, selling products, into a WCM. The reverse is true as well. Both WCM and eCommerce solutions usually include some capabilities that the other tool does best but in both cases they are meant to handle very light loads. A true integration may be warranted, but know that you will give up some things along the way like cost, seamless upgrades and in some cases flexibility.

Which of these options best fits your needs? Contact Aware to help guide you in your selection process.

eCommerce, content management systems, WCM Integration, Sitecore integrations

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