Unified Commerce: NetSuite’s Approach to Ecommerce

Steve Goldberg and Neil Lynch, Principal Outbound Product Manager and Commerce Product Marketing Manager

February 1, 2024

If you're searching for a new ecommerce platform, there is no shortage of solutions on the market. But an important factor that’s often overlooked in the evaluation process is the connection between your potential ecommerce solution and the rest of your business systems. This is especially important if you’re expecting to take advantage of integrated systems and the data within to provide a superior customer experience.

Choosing NetSuite SuiteCommerce can result in cost savings, fewer setup and maintenance headaches, smoother business operations, and an improved customer experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Unified commerce is an approach to meeting a company's ecommerce requirements with a solution that’s a native part of its core business systems.
  • Most ecommerce vendors cannot offer this to their customers because their platforms operate outside of the core application and require numerous, sometimes complex integrations.
  • Unified commerce gives businesses and customers seamless access to data and business processes directly in their back-end systems, eliminating the need to synchronize two systems and data sources.
  • By simplifying the technology stack and eliminating costly integrations, many businesses realize lower costs, greater sales team efficiency, and fewer technical issues.

What Is Unified Commerce, and How Does It Differ from Other Forms of Ecommerce?

Some definitions of unified commerce are quite narrow, focusing on running all your ecommerce operations on a single platform. From NetSuite’s perspective, unified commerce means running your ecommerce and the rest of your business on a single platform.

NetSuite’s unified business system includes not only ecommerce, but also product management, inventory management, order management, customer relationship management, warehouse management, shipping, billing, and more. For example, when a customer browses for products on your site, they see the product catalog with personalized prices, real-time stock levels, and orders that flow directly into the order management system for fulfillment. 

How Does Unified Commerce Benefit the Customer Experience?

At NetSuite, the term “Suiteness” describes the harmony of workflows, information and people working together to deliver benefits to the business. It describes specific optimized features, functions, and experiences that are only possible when all of your critical data and business processes are in one place working together.

Let’s look at a few ways SuiteCommerce(opens in new tab) can provide Suiteness in your business.

Collaborative Ecommerce with CRM Sales

Many businesses leverage ecommerce as a self-service extension of their sales team that operates outside of their core business systems. But this creates a separation between sales logged in their CRM and their ecommerce system. With a unified commerce approach, you can differentiate your sales team’s process and your customers' experience, letting you determine which parts of your sales cycle require human intervention and which parts customers can handle themselves.

For example, your customers can create their own estimates, which then flow into the CRM for your salespeople to manage. Any special pricing set up in NetSuite is available everywhere, regardless of sales channel. Your salespeople can still manually override prices or offer discounts as needed, with all changes reflected in real time on the ecommerce site.

Your business gets the best of both worlds: your customers get the space and time to research and purchase through an intuitive, rich ecommerce experience, and your sales team can shift focus from transactional to offering a value-added service.

Self-Service Product Configuration with CPQ

Many businesses that sell complex products leverage configure, price, quote (CPQ) solutions to simplify the manual and error-prone quoting process with a rules-based, automated, easy-to-use process. This “product configurator” interface is typically only available internally to salespeople or customer service agents.

A unified solution such as NetSuite CPQ(opens in new tab), however, can leverage Suiteness by directly providing the product configurator interface to your customers as a native part of their buying experience. The rules-based nature of the product configurator means that it's unlikely customers will be able to create something that the business cannot provide. Just like self-service ecommerce, salespeople are freed up to focus on other responsibilities while still being able to guide and monitor customers’ choices.

Self-Service Support

If you're using NetSuite CRM(opens in new tab), you know the system can log customer support cases and issues. These often require your employees to take a phone call or email, and then log it in NetSuite.

With a unified commerce system, your customer can submit support cases themselves that are then posted directly into NetSuite. In SuiteCommerce, a full history of a customer's cases, including their status and full conversation history, is available online whenever someone needs it. Best of all, they can create, update, and close cases themselves. There's no need for a separate system and subsequent worries about a case languishing in a separate system or getting lost. Everything is always available to both your customers and employees without the need for an integration.

How Does Unified Commerce Benefit Businesses?

In addition to offering an outstanding experience for your customers, unified commerce also provides real benefits to your business.

The primary benefit is that there is no need to integrate your ecommerce application with your business systems, as they’re already part of a single system. Anyone who's worked with complex business software knows that getting your systems to communicate and stay synchronized can be a persistent challenge.

With a unified commerce solution, your ecommerce and business systems run from the same database. When an order is placed online, it appears instantly and accurately in your order management system. If you update prices in the product catalog, they’re available to your customers in real time. There's no duplicate data, no silos, and no synchronization needed.

Another benefit for businesses is reduced costs. All businesses, including software vendors, have fixed overhead costs that they pass on to their customers, particularly the time and cost associated with connecting your systems. These costs are minimal with a unified commerce implementation, since there’s no need to integrate the systems, test the connection, or maintain the bridge between them.

Does Unified Commerce Work for All Businesses and Industries?

Deciding if your business is a good fit for unified commerce comes down to your specific requirements. However, unified commerce is a great fit for many types of businesses because it helps provide superior customer experience, support sales and customer services teams, reduce costs, optimize processes, and simplify technology.

For example, many B2B business have complex pricing arrangements that include MSRPs, list prices, volume pricing, discounts, promotions, and contract pricing. Ensuring your ecommerce site accurately presents the complex pricing mapped out in your ERP can be expensive and time-consuming. In SuiteCommerce, your NetSuite pricing rules are reflected online with no additional configuration required; if a customer has a specific price you've set for them, that’s the price they’ll see online.

Another example is wholesalers and manufacturers who sell to just-in-time businesses. A truly unified commerce solution provides real-time stock levels and inventory status. Before ordering, many fast-paced businesses need to know that the exact quantities of a product are available—and they might go elsewhere if they don’t have those assurances. With SuiteCommerce, suppliers can show exactly how much of each item is in stock, pulling live data directly from their inventory management system.

The principal benefits are the centralization of data and harmonization of business processes. Having an external ecommerce system inevitably complicates matters, requiring your team to manage data, business logic, and processes in two places. This added complexity can create data silos, data duplication, and desynchronization, which will require manual maintenance and additional costs that can eat into a business's ability to deliver a great experience to its customers. A unified commerce solution fits nicely, with only a minimal increase in complexity, and represents a relatively simple extension to your business suite. 

How Easy Is It to Adopt Unified Commerce?

For existing NetSuite customers, adding SuiteCommerce is a straightforward process. Since SuiteCommerce is built for NetSuite, on NetSuite, there is no need to integrate or worry about data mismatches. NetSuite offers a rapid implementation at a fixed cost, ensuring your site is up and the design, user experience, and functionality suit your customers.

As you prepare for and execute this project, the biggest things to get right are:

  • A clear structure for your products, including descriptions and taxonomy.
  • Branding assets, such as product images, banners, and static content, that accurately represent your company and what if offers.
  • A launch strategy, including announcements and alerts to your customers.
  • An understanding of how the system works, which you can get in the Web Store Administrator course through our Learning Cloud Support(opens in new tab) platform.

You should also plan for how your ecommerce site will impact your business processes—for the better. However, the great thing about running a unified commerce solution is that any data related to new orders, leads, customers, contacts, payments, invoices, and more, all goes directly into your existing NetSuite system.

Learn more about how NetSuite SuiteCommerce works and the value of unified commerce by watching this 90-second video(opens in new tab).

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.