My team here at Elastic Path manages the buying experiences on the front line of researching and evaluating eCommerce solutions, including business development, chat, Website, and marketing automation. Being on the front line, my team gets asked many different questions. Some are very common, like "how much do the eCommerce solutions that Elastic Path provides cost?" But since eCommerce can mean different things to different buyers, we see a wide variety of great questions. Therefore we felt it might be helpful to share what we are hearing to maybe help buyers that are researching headless commerce solutions get insights into what their peers in the market are asking.
You can always get your specific questions answered by reaching out to us and we would be happy to have a personalized Q&A.
A Bit of Context Before We Start
Before we get into it, I want provide a bit of context for what it is like being on the front lines of marketing and selling eCommerce platforms and solutions. As I mentioned, eCommerce can mean different things to different buyers depending on the complexity, size and scale of their requirements. Not to mention, the experience a buyer has working with different eCommerce solutions at different stages of their career.
For example a small business owner may only need a simple out of the box solution, like Shopify, that comes with all the basic pieces need to get their products and services online. A rapidly growing emerging business looking to scale up to $50M -to- $100M in revenue might be feeling the need to advance their investment in technology, but they may not know the scope, skills, and architecture required to build and manage a solution that can provide the control and customizations to differentiate its brand. Then there are companies with B2B use-cases that might be looking to digitally transform their business by moving a traditional selling model online to meet customer demand for online engagement that creates more value and improve margins using eCommerce approaches. These B2B companies are likely just starting out with eCommerce, but they need advanced capabilities that can integrate with their existing CRM/ERP architectures. Maybe the buyer is a seasoned eCommerce developer/architect focused on enabling eCommerce as a core business function and looking to modernize and "future proof" their architecture. But let's be honest they don't need to ask my team questions, they just need access to our product and technical resources to figure out how they want to approach a Proof of Concept (POC) with Elastic Path.
The bulk of questions we get on the front lines tend to be from the first three buying groups, and many of those buyers are under pressure to grow and transform their business quickly. As a result they looking for more control and flexibility to differentiate experiences, improve how they operate and scale up online revenue. Many of the questions we get from these groups indicate they are just starting the path of learning about modern eCommerce technologies - such as microservices, API-centric, composable, headless eCommerce solutions (aka MACH). They may not be fully aware of the skills and budget required to invest in this emerging approach to cloud-based eCommerce. So hopefully the following questions and answers will provide some clarity and if you have more questions - never hesitate to ask Elastic Path for help.
Top 10 eCommerce Buyer Questions
QUESTION: What is the time it takes for a basic implementation? We hear you say two weeks - is that real?
ANSWER: Implementation time depends on the scope of the project but some of the Elastic Path customers were able to implement a solution from scratch as quickly as 4 weeks. The key to our fast implementations is a combination of using Accelerators, Pre-Composed Solutions and designing an MVP approach so that we can get customer experiences into market that can flex and evolve vs. trying to boil the ocean with an oversized project plan or build everything from scratch.
QUESTION: I see what your webpage says you are. But who are you really? What is different about you from other vendors?
ANSWER: We provide the only commerce solution that combines the flexibility and control of DIY eCommerce (i.e. a custom, home-grown solution) with the turn-key ease of Shopify, Magento, or Salesforce. Our microservices architecture was built totally de-coupled so that you can customize for your business requirements.
Vendors like Big Commerce claims to have microservices. Shopify and Magento claim to be headless. The reality is they have taken their monolithic-style platforms and built APIs on top, which means that customizations are incredibly time consuming and expensive.
Vendors like Commercetools promise the control of DIY, but lack the support and guidance to de-risk integrating best of breed technology and partner solutions. Brands who go with this type of solution often find themselves overwhelmed by the complexity. Elastic Path offers Pre-Composed Solutions which integrate core commerce functionality, partner integrations, and customizations so that getting live is fast. In addition, we offer Composable Commerce XA which provides operational experience assurance from Elastic Path services team to triage, manage, and resolve issues across your multi-vendor solution. When you have an issue (which is not often as our uptime SLA is 99.9%), you have a single throat to choke.
QUESTION: How can Elastic Path provide a way for my 3rd party vendors to manage their selling experience on my marketplace site?
ANSWER: eCommerce Marketplaces, especially those who support a third party model, take user experience a notch above traditional digital commerce avenues. Not only are consumers able to save a trip to a physical store, but now they have a one stop shop to compare similar products without switching from site to site. This type of ease of use, convenience, and accessibility continues to attract shoppers presenting an opportunity for many brands to capitalize on.
QUESTION: What is Composable Commerce? Is it the same as Headless Commerce?
ANSWER: Composable Commerce is an approach that enables brands to bring their unique digital vision to life by launching and continuously optimizing digital commerce experiences leveraging multiple best-of-breed technologies composed together into a complete, business ready solution. Headless Commerce is a component of Composable Commerce, along with other MACH technologies (microserices, APIs, Cloud-native, and headless). Shaneil Lafayette from our Product Marketing team wrote an entire article on this subject, so best to just direct you to her blog: What is Composable Commerce?
QUESTION: Does Elastic Path have the capability to handle over 50,000 SKUs? Complex Catalogs?
ANSWER: The short answer is yes. In fact we can support almost infinite SKUs, and by decoupling the way you manage product content, price books, and availability rules we can enable infinite selling experiences on you site using our Product Content Management solution. We also created a short video that explains how PCM works:
QUESTION: Does Elastic Path provide a front end solution or Content Management System (CMS)?
QUESTION: How does Elastic Path provide front-end capability and back-end integration with an ERP system?
ANSWER: Because Elastic Path was architected from the API layer up vs. monolithic based headless competitors that retrofitted their APIs, we enable the most open and flexible eCommerce integration framework on the market. It is one of the reasons we can take an MVP approach to just about any eCommerce project and create new experiences that align with just about any existing architecture. No matter how complex (or simple) your current architecture we can right size your eCommerce goals and make sure the align with you internal business processes - both human and digital.
QUESTION: How are you hosted? SaaS, on-prem, private cloud?
ANSWER: As our CEO Jamus Driscoll likes to say, "Have it your way". Elastic Path provides flexible deployment models including SaaS, on-premises, and private cloud to address the business needs of any customer.
QUESTION: What development languages does Elastic Path support?
ANSWER: Elastic Path is language agnostic, so you can leverage any front-end language you wish and access the core microservices commerce functionality via standard API calls.
QUESTION: I don't have a large in-house tech team, do I need one to do headless commerce?
ANSWER: When looking at any cutting edge technology, there are always learning curves. However, we have developed an ecosystem of capabilities and support to get even an emerging digital savvy team started down the path of headless commerce.
- Our foundation is Cloud-based, so you are not dealing with coding the actual platform itself to customize your ecommerce. Instead you are connecting common systems using an API framework where you likely already have skills inhouse or via existing partnership. For example the store-front is your CMS, you inventory and pricing might be an SQL database or ERP application, etc. You then use our business centric composable solutions to manage the data flowing in and out of the eCommerce workflow.
- Then next way we make headless commerce a reality is by bringing together the best technology and solution integration partner network in the business. This is one of the fastest growing areas of our business, which is also how we are building core pre-composed solutions new customers can essentially buy and configure with only 20% of the effort.
- Listening to our customers and thinking different about solutions and support.
a. Pre-Composed Solutions were not developed by a back office product team, they are real-world solutions developed by our partners and customer designed to solve real business problems.
b. Composable Commerce XA means Elastic Path is your support partner for all the technology within the best-of-breed headless solution you need to succeed.
c. Product Content Management service was announced earlier this year to solve one of the oldest challenges in eCommerce, managing/changing online catalogs. eCommerce is now at the core of your revenue strategy and buyers expect the same level of personal experience in a digital world that a sales person or account manager provides, which means it needs to be data driven and capable of delivering an infinite combination of suggestions, pricing, promotions and availability across multiple catalogs, geographies and channels.
Want to learn more about Elastic Path Software? Check out our Demo Library here.