Month: February 2010

CMS trend: Commerce, Content, & Community Convergence

Have you noticed this trend? The worlds of eCommerce, Content, and Community are coming together. At Optaros we call these “the 3 C’s” and we’ve had so much interest in the convergence of the 3 C’s, we created a cloud-hosted SaaS offering around it called OCentric that combines Drupal, Magento, Solr, and other open source components into a single platform for ecommerce, WCM, community/social, and integrated search. But I don’t want to give you a product pitch. The reason why I bring this up at all is because I came across an interesting post at CMSWire today. It seems that open source WCM vendor dotCMS and ecommerce player KonaKart will be offering an integrated product later this year. I don’t know any of the specifics, but at a high level it seems to be aimed at providing functionality around the 3 C’s.

It makes sense to me that these areas are converging. “Community” as a feature of online retail experience is evolving beyond user reviews and blogs. As Facebook and Twitter use continues to grow, consumers expect those experiences to be incorporated into their online shopping in some way. As my colleague, John Eckman, put it, “People want the online equivalent of ‘Will these jeans make my ass look fat?'”. Until now, online shopping has been largely a solitary experience but community features can make online shopping more social.

Content is also becoming more important in the world of commerce, at least for certain types of retailers. I recently looked at about a dozen electronics retailers here in the US to understand how (and surprisingly, if) they were using content on their ecommerce sites. I figured electronics had the potential to be a category leader as it tends to be a heavily researched purchase. What I found was that the degree to which content was being leveraged depended heavily on the type of reailer: online presence tended to mirror offline presence. Crutchfield, a retailer that prides themselves on providing top-notch research and customer service, led the pack with their content efforts. Here are a couple of things that stuck out:

  • They’ve got tons of quality content that’s fully integrated with the shopping experience. If you’re reading an educational piece on Blu-Ray players, the content includes links to specific products. Conversely, if I’m looking at a specific Blue-Ray player I’m offered multiple links to specific pieces of research on Blu-Ray and Home Theater topics.
  • Search covers both products and content. On many sites, if they have search at all, it is one or the other, but not both. Beyond site-wide search, Crutchfield actually changes the format of the search results based on what I’m search for. Keywords that look like specific products give me a set of results that features product catalog entries while more “research-ish” looking terms (“Home Theater”) actually prioritize learning resources ahead of product catalog entries.

Can Your Commerce/WCM/Community Vendor Do That?

Traditionally, each of the 3 C’s has been addressed by a single vendor. Sure, maybe your WCM vendor has an integration with a shopping cart, but it won’t natively understand how to act like a product catalog. And your ecommerce vendor might offer some light content management for non-product catalog content, but it’s unlikely to provide much robustness around presentation templates, custom metadata, or workflow, and certainly won’t offer as much innovative community or social functionality as a full-fledged community platform.

Companies may decide to take a best-of-bread approach and integrate at the UI layer. It’s a lot of work to make the experience seamless. If you’ve got one tab for “shopping”, one for “research”, and one for “community”, but once you drill down into those, everything is silo’d, you aren’t there yet, in my opinion. And focusing on the presentation completely ignores the job of the web site producers and merchandisers who want to be able to cross reference tweets, blogs, and articles with specific SKU’s (and vice versa).

How will this convergence take shape?

So it seems to me like this is a very natural and valuable convergence. What do you think? Will commerce, content, and community become one? Open source players will continue to innovate along these lines but what about the stalwarts–do you expect to see many 3 C related acquisitions this year?