E-commerce sales channels proliferating? Relax, it's just a display issue: NetSuite

Has NetSuite found the sweet spot for expanding Australian e-commerce? Softly-sold SuiteCommerce may well deliver their omni-platform vision without scaring the locals.
Written by Stilgherrian , Contributor

We face explosions of machine-to-machine commerce, where cars and even toothbrushes are sales channels, but NetSuite boss Zach Nelson has quietly dismissed this looming complexity as a mere "display issue." Such modesty should serve his company well in Australia.

Nelson was in Sydney yesterday for the Australian launch of SuiteCommerce, NetSuite's commerce as a service (CaaS) platform that combines e-commerce and m-commerce, and whatever else may come along, into what is sometimes called "omni-channel commerce".

Zach Nelson

An evolution of multi-channel commerce, omni-channel supposedly provides a seamless customer experience across all the available channels, from printed catalogues and bricks-and-mortar stores, to smartphones, tablets and beyond.

Yes, it seems there'll be even more channels beyond omni. More channels than is humanly possible, in fact.

"I think the next series of channels are going to be machine-to-machine channels," Nelson said.

"Your electric toothbrush may be a channel some day, you know. It's going to be embedded with a network device and a sensor that says you need to change your bristles. 'You haven't changed your bristles in two months, let me order it'."

Similarly, your car's windshield wipers might be fitted with sensors to detect wear, with new rubber ordered when needed.

"My belief, actually, is that there's so many channels [that] there are no channels. Everything's a channel," Nelson said.

So how do you support all these rapidly-emerging customer contact points, without building new infrastructure and a new user interface for each and every device and screen format?

You don't.

"When you see this explosion of different customer touch points, different devices, the thought of maintaining a separate experience for each of these devices is impossible. For most companies, the economics of that is completely unrealistic," said Andy Lloyd, NetSuite's general manager of commerce products.

The answer, said Nelson, is to maintain a single integrated view of the customer across the entire business.

"Once you have all your data in one place, e-commerce is a display issue," Nelson said.

"Customers who are in a B2B environment, now expect a B2C experience when they're interacting with [a] company," he said. An experience just as slick, but with, maybe, different credit terms and a bit more business process under the hood.

Obviously, NetSuite's product pitch is that SuiteCommerce does exactly what's needed in this environment.

NetSuite has also already lined up Australian partners; including OnlineOne for shipping, Bazaarvoice for integrating social conversations, Acquia for social customer relationship management (CRM), Retail Anywhere for point of sale (POS), SecurePay for online payments, and digital agency BlueArc for interactive sizzle.

Last year, Australia was "one of the fastest-growing parts" of NetSuite's fastest-growing region, Asia Pacific. They're clearly expecting further strong growth, and a survey conducted by the Australian Financial Review and Frost & Sullivan last month shows the potential.

Slightly over 50 percent of the 140 Australian organisations surveyed, now place orders online, up from 46 percent in 2009. Yet only 28 percent of them allow their own customers to place orders online.

Most of those who do take orders online are focused on the domestic market. Only 5 percent sold primarily to overseas customers, and only 27 percent sold to overseas customers at all.

The same research project estimated the total value of Australia's current B2B and B2C e-commerce transactions in 2012 as more than $180 billion.

NetSuite isn't the only player, of course, but the company's style seems to be a good fit for Australian business culture.

SAP and Oracle are too big for most Australian businesses, and some might say too old. Microsoft's product range seems less well-integrated.

Salesforce.com is the clearest competitor, but they're on a mission. Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff and his "beware of the false cloud" sermons are just a bit too preachy for Australian tastes. The evangelical push for a "social business" transformation is still slightly too bleeding-edge for our conservative, mid-level boardrooms. Slightly.

NetSuite's products, on the other hand, claim to deliver the integrated e-commerce vision, while still looking like familiar business software interfaces. And Nelson, citing practical farming imagery from his Nebraska upbringing, speaks the way we speak in this wide brown land. Quietly. And modestly.

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