Aug 13 2007

Integrated eCommerce: Starting to Crawl

What is integrated eCommerce? In it’s most basic form, it is the integration between your eCommerce system and your back-office applications, namely ERP and CRM. The concept has been around for years, as businesses scrambled to automate their back office systems in an effort to increase the efficiency of their operations. Disconnected systems cost more time, money, and resources. But only within the last few years has this concept really become a reality for small businesses with a large portion of their operations stemming from online sales. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been a few players in this realm for years with limited success, one of which being Everest Software, but in this author’s perspective there hasn’t been any promising offers until recently.

For eCommerce merchants this means orders placed on the website come directly through to ERP, with customer information available for CRM functionality, and of course real-time inventory and product information coming directly from the warehouse, and accounting and sales information all running out of the same system. For years, eCommerce merchants have developed integrations between a number of systems (for example most shopping cart packages have an export/import feature for QuickBooks) in order to realize a taste the benefits of a connected system, but many of them fall short of full integration and are often consumed with maintenance issues and data redundancy.

Two products available today come from Netsuite, and Interprise Solutions.

Netsuite has actually been around for a number of years now, and has been a pioneer in integrated backoffice systems. Particularly focused towards small to medium sized businesses, Netsuite has received rave reviews both from a backoffice and corporate perspective. They compete in multiple software markets, in CRM with SalesForce.com and Microsoft CRM, as well as in the ERP and eCommerce space. They really have been on the forefront of the SaaS (Software as a Service) products which basically means that you don’t buy software in the traditional sense, it is offered to you as a service for a monthly fee. This usually means that the software is hosted in some datacenter, and you access it over the web. So one negative aspect of the platform is the lack of flexibility in deployment – it has to be hosted, and it has to be hosted by them. Netsuite’s entire set of functionality sits within their product, there is a somewhat large partner program for enhancements, web design, and the like, and they’ve seen tremendous growth over the years – both from online retailers and non-internet retailers.

Interprise Suite is a relative newcomer, introducing their product just in 2006. This product offers a similar functionality set as that of Netsuite, touting itself as an “all-in-one” eBusiness Application. However, there is a sharp distinction between Netsuite and Interprise Suite – namely, it’s flexibility. Interprise Suite is a smart client based application, I know, these client-server based models were popularized back in the 90s, in which SaaS has taken over since then, but Interprise Suite has seemed to have mastered this model. Let me explain why in one word – performance. First of all, you have an option of hosted this application, or managing it in house – big plus. Secondly, by leveraging a “thin client”, they’ve minimized the data transfer necessary for the application to run. Let me explain further, with typical SaaS applications, like Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com, etc. you are essentially loading a web-based application through the internet. Which means that not only data must be transferred for a page to load, but also all of the images, scripts, and html to render each page. This typically means that those applications take at least a good second (or 2 or 3 in some cases) for each page to lead. However, with Interprise Suite, all of the application specific files are installed locally, and only the data is transmitted between server and client. Which means a more responsive load time. It’s also built on a WebServices platform, which makes it extensible and allows for custom developed modules by 3rd party partners. Another major difference between the applications is actually it’s handling of the eCommerce component. Namely, Interprise Suite leverages well established ASPdotNetStorefront in the shopping cart layer of this package. The settings and such are all maintained in the IS application, but the interface is controlled by ASPDNSF. So for developers and eCommerce integrators already familiar with that platform, it will be an easy transition to this system.

While integrated solutions do provide a lot of business value, one thing that’s important especially for businesses where eCommerce represents a significant portion of their business: Performance. And this is something that needs to be addressed on a number of fronts:

  • Hosted Solutions: The SaaS industry has had plagued for years with service outages. If your business relies on eCommerce, you’ll want to get references as well as research the performance of any hosted system. Also, because there is much more overhead involved in hosting these systems than say, a traditional eCommerce website, you will be better off looking at dedicated hosting for your system to dedicate the resources available. And, furthermore, bandwidth is something to consider. The data centers hosting these applications should have incredible bandwidth to handle the volumes of data coming through both from visitors to the website, but also users of the backoffice systems – remember, everyone’s using the same data, from the same servers.
  • Speed: Database indexing will be paramount for any of these systems. Because of the volume of data stored, a simple search for a product by a customer on your website may take much longer than in a database with only eCommerce data. I actually see this as one of the biggest drawbacks, the bigger the system, the more overhead you’re going to have, and when it comes to the experience your shoppers are going to receive on your website, that, in my opinion, is the most important factor in choosing any eCommerce system. If the performance is slow for your users, sales will suffer.

All in all, the concept of an integrated system is something that most organizations are working towards, with customized solutions to tie in back office applications, special SQL queries scheduled to run constantly to sync data between apps, and other hodge podge hacks as businesses look to reap the benefits of an integrated solution. These two solutions offer promising alternatives, and as they grow, look for them to be major players in that space. I personally would love to see a combination of systems, a separate but integrated approach where the databases are separate, but only necessary data is synced real-time on the backend.

Kevin Eichelberger

Founder & CEO

Founded in 2008, Blue Acorn is the product of Kevin’s great passion and knowledge of all things eCommerce. Kevin’s data-driven approach has culminated in a strong, growing business that’s success is closely tied to the success of its clients. When he’s not immersing himself in eCommerce, Kevin works toward expanding Charleston’s tech community by serving as a board member for the Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation, and is also a mentor and advisor to several startups. A business-savvy technologist, you can find Kevin evangelizing about data, optimization and eCommerce.

6 Comments

Mark Morgan
Aug 15 2007

I am a reseller of the product and before, I signed on with Interprise Suite I sold Everest. I considered Netsuite but it trapped me in and allowed for no customization. Customizing the system for my clients is a big part of my consulting and Interprise Suite has an excellent plug-in technology that allows me to develop custom solutions without breaking the upgrade path of the core product. Any one interested in this product can contact me at 770-422-1300

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Edwin Miller CEO Everest
Aug 16 2007

Customers want revenue creation and then they need to manage the operation. Everest delivers this as a business operating system. Our ecommerce offering is fully integrated with the ERP offerings. Whether is be ecommerce, CRM, Inventory Management, Supply Chain Management, Accounting & Finance, all SMB’s need these solutions at some point in their growth. Customers from 3M to 70M in revenues are at various places on the mountain. Some of these companies are at base camp and they really need to build revenues so they need ecommerce and CRM software and services, yes both, to truly begin building their businesses. Once they develop the revenue, multiple sales channels, and a supply chain, they are at base camp 1, 2, or maybe even 3… These companies need ERP help, expense and inventory management. Everest takes an SMB and lives with them in their climb up the mountain with both software and services that will help them based on where they are in their business climbing experience. We see every small business and large business in the world wanting to create revenue. We then see every business that is successful wanting to manage the growth for the good of their customers!

Living on the mountain with our customers is our primary focus, delivering one application that can serve as the The Business Operating System for their entire Company. They want to own their data for ERP and they like to outsource the IT. They want to have ecommerce in the cloud and they want the transactions to be on their systems… We strive to meet the customer where they are and aid them as they climb!!! We are getting better every day and are excited about the SMB’s of the world!

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Keeping Tabs on Your Brand | BlueAcorn.com
Sep 04 2007

[…] great example of this in practice is in a previous post about Integrated eCommerce Solutions – I mentioned a few product names, one of which being Everest software.   Shortly therafter, the […]

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Joel McElroy
Apr 16 2008

I am a current user of Everest and one of there biggest clients. I have to say that I have had a terrible experience dealing with Everest.

The accounting inventory managment side of there system is not bad and has some nice functions and features that allow us to operate our business more efficiently.

With that said the reason why we purchased Everest was we wanted and all in one solution. Eccommerce is where there company completley fails. We spent hundreds of hours and nearly 100k designing and building our website using Everest Ecommerce and it was all for nothing. First off there ecommerce is very hard to work with and customize. We were spending lots of money trying to get the look and feel we wanted but there system is very limited. We finally after 8 months got to the point of launching only to find out there shopping cart does not calculate shipping. We contacted Everest and we were told it was a bug in the system. It took everest 2 months to give us an anwser but as far as I know they never fixed the problem. We were also told by another customer of Everest’s that they had the same issue. Could you imagine having your website down for 2 months becasue of a bug? There were many other bugs in the system that I will not go into detail about. We decided to stay on Yahoo store until we could figure out another solution. Basically if you have a real business to run do not use Everest eccomerce. I am currently trying to get a refund on on the ecommerce add on and there CRM studio add on which does not work at all.

Finally I get to the worst part of Everest’s business….there support and customer service. We used to use a Var to help with the installation and technical and bug problems we had with Everest but from his word Everest forced him out of the business by courting his clients to sign on with them directly for service agreements. After our Var Quit we decided that we would give Everest a shot at support and paid them $7000 for a year of service (a little cheaper than our VAR). This was a huge mistake. We were lucky to get a call back on issues within a months time and that call would come from our ssales rep who new nothing technical or barely anything about the Everest system. Once we would go through our rep then we would get an appointment with someone in India for tech support which would usually be around a month later. ON two seperate occassions we were told by our rep that we would have to pay $195 for support. This is very strange becasue we already paid for this. I have also been hung up on several times over there. Everest has not been able to take care or assist on any problem, bugs or projects we have attempted. This was a total waste of money. We are currently seeking a refund against Everest for there support package.

I am glad the CEO of Everest reads this blog because maybe he will hear me now. I would never reccommend a company like Everest there business practices are completley unethical.

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Blue Acorn
Apr 16 2008

Joel, we appreciate your insight and experience with Everest software. It’s always good to have an insider’s view of the software, especially for those that are evaluating or considering implementing it. If you are still looking for an all-in-one type solutions, feel free to look at Netsuite and Interprise Suite as alternatives, maybe you’ll find better luck with them. Either way, I’d be interested in hearing how things turn out for you – best of luck!

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Thatcher Michelsen
Nov 02 2008

Hello. I was also an Everest user/reseller in the past, and was seriously let down by that company and that product. I am very excited about InterpriseSuite and will become a VAR Reseller very soon. I have successfully launched a professional website powered by InterpriseSuite for my client Rosie Hippo Wooden Toys, Earth Friendly all natural non-toxic and handmade toys. check it out here http://www.RosieHippo.com

Looking forward to discussing things further with you guys and potentially working together.

_Thatcher Michelsen President We Unite Data, Inc – http://www.WuData.com

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