June 17, 2010, 6:21 PM

NetSuite targets larger e-commerce technology clients

As NetSuite builds its base of web-based technology partners, its competitors continue to upgrade.

NetSuite Inc. has long held a strong place among small retailers looking for a software-as-a-service e-commerce platform supported by back-end accounting and financial software. Now it’s out to move up market to serve much larger customers, and it’s enticing them with a broader range of technology.

“Our sweet spot has always been companies doing from $1 million to $5 million a year in revenue,” Darayush Mistry, senior director of product management, said in an interview at last week’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition. “Now we’re looking to serve companies with revenue of up to $50 million.”

Marketing its e-commerce technology as part of its SuiteCloud group of on-demand, web-based applications, NetSuite announced at IRCE the availability of new offerings in social media and search marketing for its e-commerce platform: Fluid Inc.’s Fluid Social shopping platform, which enables shoppers to use online chat, e-mail and links to Facebook to consult with their friends in real time while deciding on a purchase; and a search engine marketing application from Kenshoo, which is designed to help retailers better manage their paid search budgets by choosing the most effective search marketing keywords.

NetSuite also has other technology integrations covering areas including live chat, consumer reviews and gift registry.

By expanding its offerings to serve a broader market with larger clients, however, NetSuite is stepping into an area where software-as-a-service companies like Demandware Inc., Venda Inc. and MarketLive Inc. are also serving mid-size clients with an expanding range of products. To succeed in this market, NetSuite will have to prove that it can provide the kind of e-commerce site customization and professional support services that larger clients are likely to demand, says Bill Mirabito, founder and principal analyst with B2C Partners, a consulting firm that helps to match retailers with technology vendors.

Other vendors, meanwhile, continue to further establish themselves with broader technology platforms.

Demandware launched in April the Demandware Link program, which provides for formal technology integration between the Demandware e-commerce platform and the technology applications from more than two dozen providers covering areas such as payment gateways, personalization systems, e-mail marketing and consumer reviews.

Although Demandware has been integrating its platform with other vendors’ technologies for years through special customizations for its clients, its Link program provides for a more formal integration based on application programming interfaces and more permanent connections that can save time and trouble when a Demandware client wants to expand beyond the company’s basic web site infrastructure.

Its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. “Demandware has set the pace and taken things to a new level,” says Bernardine Wu, CEO of FitForCommerce, a technology consulting firm that advises retailers on matching e-commerce technology needs with vendors.

Demandware also recently integrated with Kenshoo, the search marketing technology provider, and it released last week its Summer ’10 upgrade of its e-commerce platform. Among its latest offerings: the ability to plan and test merchandising campaigns across consumer-facing web and mobile sites as well as web pages accessed by contact center reps for customer support and cross-selling and upselling.

Venda announced at IRCE an agreement with Digby, a developer of mobile commerce sites, to offer m-commerce development technology and services to Venda’s clients. Jeff Max, president of Venda, said several of his e-commerce clients were already working on Digby m-commerce sites and that he expected to have as many as 200 clients with a Digby site by year-end.

Venda’s Digby news came shortly after Venda announced another arrangement with Quiet Logistics to offer warehousing and fulfillment services to Venda’s clients. Quiet Logistics provides outsourced services that include the use of Kiva Systems robots, which function like automated warehouse pallets on wheels, that are designed to improve efficiency by bringing inventory to workers fulfilling orders.

MarketLive also announced an improvement last week to its on-demand e-commerce platform. It unveiled a combined customer service and order management application designed to enable customer service reps to check inventory, place orders, track shipments and process returns and exchanges. The system also provides the reps with access to online product catalogs, current pricing and promotions to support cross-selling and upselling.

As NetSuite also looks to serve larger clients that may be inclined to go with MarketLive, Venda, Demandware and others, however, it will need to prove it can go beyond just offering a suite of software products to help retailers differentiate their e-commerce operations from other merchants.

“NetSuite can offer more value than others with its suite of customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, order management and other systems that not all e-commerce platform providers offer, so from that standpoint it can offer something compelling to mid-market retailers,” Mirabito says. “But it really has to also show it can demonstrate a high level of service and flexibility on the e-commerce front end to enable retailers to differentiate their web sites from their competition.”


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