NetSuite gives small business an 'Amazon-like' customer interface

NetSuite has expanded its combined CRM and ERP application suite so that small companies can provide their customers with a rich e-commerce experience

Small companies can now automatically provide customers with rich online sales information that was previously only viable for large enterprises, according to application service provider NetSuite.

The ASP updated its combined CRM and ERP application suite on Thursday with an additional service called NetCommerce. NetCommerce integrates Web store functionality with companies' financials, warehouse management, sales and customer-support systems. This gives small businesses a real-time view of their customers through a dashboard and generates data that can be fed into a Web site for customers to access over the Internet, said Zach Nelson, chief executive of NetSuite.

"That is what NetCommerce is all about -- the ability to generate Web sites automatically based on your transactional data and the customer data to deliver an experience. Once you get the data in one place, the Web site just becomes a user-interface issue," Nelson said.

Phil Carnelley, software research director at Ovum, said that because most companies would like to provide a rich e-commerce experience to their customers, NetCommerce could be an attractive option, but only for existing NetSuite customers or smaller companies that are looking to upgrade their whole system.

"If you already have Sage or something like that for your accounts, then the argument for using NetCommerce isn't as strong; but if you are in the market for an integrated system or need to upgrade for another reason, it makes things easy if you can tie all your systems together," Carnelley said.

Like rival ASP, which went public this week, Netsuite's founder Nelson is ex-Oracle. The company still has close ties to Oracle, with its largest shareholder being chief executive Larry Ellison. The company differentiates its offering from Salesforce by offering an integrated suite of applications that include financials, rather than a stand-alone CRM solution.