May 15, 2012, 11:34 AM

NetSuite moves upmarket with new e-commerce software

The new version gives e-retailers more flexibility in web site design.

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Business software provider NetSuite Inc. unveiled e-commerce technology today aimed at making it a stronger contender for the business of midsized and larger online retailers.

“By transforming the NetSuite business application into a commerce-aware application, we enable our customers to extend the richest set of cloud operational capabilities anywhere directly to their customers regardless of the device those customers are using—be it a smartphone, a tablet, a personal computer, a point-of-sale system, or touchpoints not yet developed,” CEO Zach Nelson said today in announcing the release at the company’s annual SuiteSummit client meeting in San Francisco.

NetSuite’s new platform, called SuiteCommerce, adds two important capabilities, the company says. First, it allows e-retailers to more easily customize the content of web pages that are tied into back-end financial systems, such as the checkout flow, and to tailor page design to mobile and other devices. Second, it makes it easier to plug in software from other vendors into NetSuite, which is built around a core of accounting software and offers a variety of modules that makes it suitable for many types of companies, including retailers and consumer goods manufacturers that sell online.

Until now, NetSuite’s e-commerce clients have mainly been small retailers or departments of larger companies, says Gene Alvarez, an analyst at technology consulting firm Gartner. With this release, Alvarez says, “NetSuite is moving upmarket in terms of the size of the companies it is going for in e-commerce.”

Among the online retailers that have been testing the new NetSuite software is GoPro, a maker and e-retailer of cameras that consumers can wear while surfing, skiing or engaging in other activities.

“They’re doing a fairly drastic leapfrog improvement in the current platform,” says GoPro chief technology officer Stephen Baumer. “They’ve exposed all the functionality so that a merchant like us can customize the shopping experience the way we want it for our customers.”

In particular, the ability to change and test new checkout pages is a big plus in the new software, Baumer says.

Nelson concedes the NetSuite software previously was “fairly rigid,” with a standard checkout page design that retailers could not easily alter. A standard presentation may be fine for showing accounts receivable clerks outstanding invoices—the kind of NetSuite functionality many companies use—but web retailers want the flexibility to design their own checkout pages, he said.

That’s particularly true for the larger companies NetSuite increasingly is targeting, Nelson says. “A page that works well for small retailers doesn’t necessarily work well for a $100 million fashion company that wants to control the user experience as much as they control the back-end processing,” he says.

GoPro’s Baumer also likes the way the new NetSuite software lets him control how a web page will look on a particular device, such as a tablet computer. GoPro often signs up customers at trade shows and sporting events and now will be able to design a sign-up page specifically for the iPad that can be different from how the same page would render on a personal computer. However, the data entered on either device would feed into the same NetSuite order management and customer history modules. NetSuite hosts all its software and client companies connect to it via the Internet, a delivery model known as software as a service.

E-retailer SportStop.com has been beta testing the feature that allows easier integration of software from other vendors, says Paul Dell, president. That’s allowed the e-retailer of lacrosse equipment to plug in to his e-commerce site the Ignite Commerce faceted search and navigation system introduced a year ago by LX Group Inc., which NetSuite subsequently acquired in August 2011. SportStop sells more than $5 million a year online, Dell says.

NetSuite has been working on the new SuiteCommerce software for about 18 months, with the project headed up for most of that time by Andy Lloyd, general manager of e-commerce, who joined NetSuite in January 2011 from Fluid Inc., an e-commerce design firm where he had been CEO. He says his e-retail design experience complements NetSuite’s background in providing accounting and planning software used by accountants, business planners and factory managers. “We want to make sure we can talk to both sides of the business, people who are customer-facing, designing the brand experience and who want to put every pixel where they want it, as well as the people responsible for the order and payment processes and making sure the orders get out the door to consumers,” Lloyd says.

NetSuite will offer SuiteCommerce in two options. The Enterprise version is aimed at larger companies and is designed to handle extensive product catalogs. It includes the Solr search technology, open source software developed by the Apache Lucene project that’s known for its ability to sort through large quantities of data quickly. It also includes as a standard feature product feeds to online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.

The Mid-market version targets retailers with smaller product catalogs. The marketplace feed feature can be added to that version for an extra charge.

The Mid-market suite starts at $1,999 per month and the Enterprise version at $3,999. That includes the core NetSuite accounting and business planning software.

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