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Cloud firm challenges traditional ERP

By Retail Technology | Wednesday May 15 2013

NetSuite challenges ERP giant SAP to match application functionality development, dismissing its rival's strategic database vision for building out commerce systems


The development of commerce software can be characterised through the tale of two user conferences, it emerged today.

That's according to Zach Nelson, chief executive of NetSuite, who addressed a 5,000-strong audience at the cloud-based financials, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and commerce software company's third annual customer conference in San Jose.

Nelson drew a number of comparisons between the strategic vision and development roadmap of NetSuite versus that of SAP, which is simultaneously holding its own SapphireNow user conference in Orlando, in support of what he called, "the next generation of commerce".

Strategic system of record

"SAP is unveiling their database in the cloud," he stated, "while no customer has ever asked for a database in the cloud. They want new application features and functionality."

He argued that, going forward, core operational ERP systems should become the customer-facing system of record regardless of channel and that SuiteCommerce, which NetSuite launched last year, was “defining the next platform for global commerce”.

“We talk about it today as e-commerce, but every company has to interact with customers whether they are business customers or consumers, in a modern, automated and web-driven way,” he added. “CRM [customer relationship management] is also much easier when you have the order as a central customer record.”

Large enterprise traction

The company was keen to validate the multichannel and international credentials of SuiteCommerce when it also unveiled Williams-Sonoma as its first multi-billion dollar retail customer

Having helped the US kitchen and homewares brand owner go live in Australia with new operational and store systems within 10 months and complementary transactional sites within three, Nelson declared that it demonstrated the “traction and diversity of use of the product”.

Evan Golberg, NetSuite founder and chief technology officer, aimed to underline this message when he revealed details of the upcoming second version of the commerce platform's front end – SuiteCommerce Advanced Storefront.

He admitted: “The SuiteCommerce experience has not been optimal for the e-commerce manager. But we’re going through a massive overhaul of how you work with your site.”

Adding to commerce technology

Just as last year, when the company added point-of-sale (PoS) capabilities to its suite with theacquisition of Retail Anywhere, this year Goldberg pointed to the addition of web software developer Element Fusion as a key building block of the SuiteCommerce vision.

Goldberg highlighted new functionality acquired with LightCMS from Element Fusion, including assetdrag-and-drop, automatic resizing of images to the size of the element and features like real-time views of stock both online and by store using a postcode search populated directly from the NetSuite lead record, as well as social media integration.

To speed responsiveness, the likes of Akamai’s content delivery network and the Javascript framework facilitating Solr server queries – AJAX Solr – will also aim to beef up the commerce capabilities.

Andy Lloyd, general manager of commerce products at NetSuite, summed up the difference in strategic direction between NetSuite and its traditional ERP competitors by confirming its interests lay firmly with the verticalisation and localisation of its applications, including commerce.

“If it’s a standard process, then NetSuite should be building that,” said Lloyd. “But we have great examples of localisations in every market and will be looking more at partners to take the product that last mile in terms of integration.”


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