The Omnicommerce Insight Series

KEY QUEstioNs to INCLUDE iN AN E-CoMMERCE PLAtFoRM RFP

. and which questions truly help companies select e-commerce platforms that meet and exceed present and future requirements.reach final decision in less time A comprehensive RFP that thoroughly covers all the critical points can assist companies in reducing costs and producing better ROI. Over that time. an additional month of revenue may be added to the bottom line from the e-commerce channel. hybris has responded to hundreds of RFPs and RFIs for e-commerce systems. This could translate into hundreds of thousands of additional revenue dollars. For each of the RFP questions recommended below. Page 2 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP Since 1997. hybris consultants have evaluated and observed which questions are most critical. faster. a well-crafted RFP can ensure that a company doesn’t pay a premium for features it won’t need for the foreseeable future. and an explanation of why that question is a valuable part of the selection process. potential follow-up questions are provided along with appropriate answers. And. If an RFP helps a management team reach a final decision in 12 weeks rather than 16 weeks.

WHY tHis is iMportaNt No matter whether the buyer operates in the B2C or the B2B world. Have Order Shipped from Wherever It is Available Buy Online. Some e-commerce platforms also offer multichannel-friendly capabilities. customers are disappointed when they can’t: Buy Online. These customers’ expectations have been set by companies such as Best Buy and Apple that were early adopters of a omni-channel strategy. their customers expect to interact with the company across all buying channels (online. The best platforms will integrate with a long list of third party applications and provide a robust API for integrating with other in-house systems. such as PIM and OMS as add-on modules. physical store fronts and telephone) in a seamless and integrated fashion. These capabilities will allow the ecommerce platform to serve as a foundation for omni-channel commerce.Q1 Does the platform provide a foundation for multi-channel commerce? Does it integrate with other systems (in-house and third party) to facilitate omni-channel commerce? ANsWerS to Look for Companies should look for e-commerce platforms that come pre-integrated with a wide selection of third party solutions. product information management systems (PIM) and enterprise resource planning systems (ERP). sales reps. Pick Up in a Store Buy In a Store. Return to a Store Page 3 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . Consequently. Key system integrations to look for include order management systems (OMS).

one has to consider the specific long-term limitations of the new platform. this looks like a question with a simple answer that can easily be compared across different e-commerce vendors. Second. the company must determine whether they can recoup the investment in the new platform in a reasonable period of time.000 on one that must be replaced after three years. Or.000 in an e-commerce platform that remains in service for five years. and perhaps more importantly. the lifespan of the new e-commerce platform is pivotal. this forces the buyer to consider the ripple effect of implementing a new e-commerce platform. This is especially true when the platform extends beyond e-commerce capabilities and can be used to meet omni-channel needs. Since much of the cost of the platform is front-loaded. First. it may decrease or increase staffing needs in other departments. It may streamline a company’s IT infrastructure by obviating the need for other systems. make sure to include the above listed. It may be more cost efficient to invest $500. than spending $400. it is a bit more complex than it appears. It’s important to consider total cost of ownership for a variety of reasons. In fact. RESulTANT COST SAVINGS FROM ThE NEW E-COMMERCE PlATFORM Q2 What’s the total cost of ownership of the platform over five years? Is the e-commerce vendor willing to guarantee future upgrade costs? (ie how much hardware is required to support the platform?) INTEGRATIONS AND CuSTOMIZATIONS EXPENSES YEARly MAINTENANCE FEES UP-FRONT LICENSING FEES In calculating the total cost of ownership.WHY tHis is iMportaNT ANsWers to Look for On the surface. (eg other systems that are no longer needed) IMPlEMENTATIONS COSTS HARDWARE FOOTPRINT (for major and minor releases) UPGRADE COSTS Page 4 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . A follow-up question that is much harder to answer is the following: When (if ever) will the buyer have to replace the e-commerce platform with a new one? In order to get at this question.

because it’s hard for platform buyers to verify the answer. and users should not have to pay extra to build out basic multiregion functionality through “maintenance fees. and then tacked on new functionality to support other new regions. A good probing question for this is. This can lead to the proliferation of time-consuming and potentially expensive “upgrades” that should have been standard features from the start. and in the future. and requires no customization or exceptional development effort to support new markets. Companies should consider solutions that natively support multi-language. It’s easy for e-commerce solutions vendors to bend the truth a little when answering this question. Platforms with retrofitted multi-region capabilities might eventually get the job done. multi-currency and multi-byte operations. companies need to consider how their e-commerce platform handles different currencies. These attributes vary by country and region to meet the needs of local markets for different products and different price positioning. “What were the multi-regional capabilities of the very first version of your e-commerce platform?” WHY tHis is iMportaNt Many e-commerce software vendors started delivering products for one specific geographic region. platforms that were singularly focused on a specific region are often developed solely through the filters of how that region conducts business. or was it designed for a specific market/region and internationalized at a later point in time? ANsWers to Look for When thinking about internationalization. . Page 5 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP These capabilities should have been present from the start. And. grew organically.” that should instead be fueling product advancement and innovation. Companies should expect and demand that their e-commerce platform is globalready from the start. languages and localized product catalog needs.Q3 Was the platform architected from the very first version to be global-ready. This kind of bias can permeate the entire architecture and functionality of the platform. Platforms should be architected from their inception to handle the shopping requirements of all the geographic regions an organization plans to target immediately. but users may discover they require costly customization as the organization grows and expands into new international markets.

Page 6 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP Q4 What deployment methods are available – on premises. and on-demand (SaaS)? Is it easy to migrate between these methods? . hosted (managed services).

an on-demand or SaaS model may be more profitable. an on-premise implementation may become more advantageous. It should be easy and inexpensive to migrate from one deployment method to another. as this channel produces a greater percentage of sales and customization needs arise. hosted and on-demand. Companies should avoid situations where they don’t have the ability to move easily between deployment methods. Some e-commerce software vendors will allow their customers to apply a portion of their on-demand platform fees towards a license of the on-premises version at a later date. Page 7 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . WHY tHis is iMportaNt Companies tend to have very aggressive demands for how quickly a new commerce platform can be implemented. However. using an on-demand version. Companies should demand that all three deployment models are available. the company making the purchase can enjoy the best of all worlds. In many cases. An interim. but an on-premises deployment of the e-commerce platform can always be done later as a second phase. but also requires more IT resources and appropriate domain expertise. describe how the vendor was able to preserve that customer’s software configuration between deployments. it’s vital for an e-commerce vendor to provide all three deployment options to accommodate changing business conditions. and in the early phase. and to allow for flexibility in the deployment method. For example. This limitation results in sub-optimal capital utilization. and disclose how much development time and implementation costs the transition consumed. The e-commerce industry is growing rapidly. and provide recent successful references to prove their competence. ondemand implementation might not have all of the functionality that the company ultimately wants. a new platform can be launched in as few as 90 days. that each provides flexible pricing to optimize the economics of the e-commerce channel. and a deployment method that is suitable today might be outdated in a few years. Therefore. or are forced into a hybrid deployment model. An on-demand implementation might not be suitable or cost-proportionate for a developing e-commerce channel that represents a low percentage of overall sales. and may require replacing the vendor within two or three years and re-implementing the entire e-commerce system.ANsWers to Look for The ideal scenario here is for e-commerce vendors to offer all three of those options: on-premises. Some vendors will attempt to “spin” their answer to say that their software can be implemented by any of those three methods. and that the vendor provides reference customers that are successfully using and transitioning between these models. An important follow-up question is to ask that vendor to provide examples of customers running on each deployment method. an on-premises implementation enables more refined control and customization. If an e-commerce platform supports multiple deployment methods.

industry-specific. This implementation option is best suited for companies that have difficult back-end integrations. language. It will also lead to a more cost effective implementation. including: Vendor Implementation This is where the software developer who has built the e-commerce platform leads the implementation.Q5 Who typically implements the e-commerce platform? ANsWERs to Look FoR The best platform vendors will support multiple implementation options. vertical solutions and regional expertise. This implementation option makes the most sense when the buyer needs localized or industry specific expertise and can’t complete the implementation alone. with wide variety of price points. If four third-party firms and the developer are all bidding for an implementation project. Third Party Implementation A third-party consulting company leads the implementation. timing or culturally appropriate. WHY tHis is iMpoRtANt Multiple implementation options will help ensure the company has enough flexibility to find a partner that meets their needs – whether geographic. A French maker of high-end LED televisions who has chosen an e-commerce platform developed by a US company would be well served if they chose a French implementation partner that has particular expertise with consumer electronics. This implementation option is especially useful when the buyer requires significant customization. Internal Implementation The buyer implements the platforms themselves. this level of competition will likely result in the buyer securing a better deal. and especially when those integrations are with homegrown systems. Page 8 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP .

How rapidly did the vendor support these touch points when they were first emerging? Did they offer iPhone integration in 2009 or much later in 2011? What additional devices does the vendor already have built into their release plan? Is their platform future-ready to include new touch points that may not be on the market yet? Does the platform support new touch points one by one (an iPhone module. A more thorough answer would include several additional points. iPads. Select a platform that provides flexibility and agility to easily adapt to industry and technology advances. and successful companies need to make sure that their ecommerce vendors keep pace with this rapidly changing landscape. did not exist until April 2010. New customer touch points can emerge overnight. The single device with the largest share of mobile commerce. Page 9 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . Tablets and smartphones now account for more than 17% of all visits to online commerce sites and more than 13% of sales. the iPad. etc.Q6 How does the e-commerce platform ensure integration with new customer touch points such as smartphones and tablets? Does it provide agility for compatibility with future devices? ANsWers to Look for Determine whether the e-commerce vendor offers endcustomers a good experience on the devices that matter most today – iPhones. Android devices. This is more than double the level of a year ago and eight times what it was two years ago. an Android module. etc.)? Do they offer an API with enough flexibility to support a variety of current or future touch points? WHY tHis is iMportaNt Researching emerging devices and touch points can be overwhelming.

Q7 What features are available to empower business users to configure and update the e-commerce platform without help from IT? Page 10 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP .

IT resources are scarce. will save time on user training and platform adoption. and execute a multi-channel strategy. A finance user might need to customize several types of sales reports while a category manager would need the ability to add products or edit inventory items within different categories. and track those tasks through a sophisticated. and while leveraging all current advances in technology and design thinking. easily customizable. edit and customize the information most relevant to them without complicating the interface with data that is not pertinent to their role. In an economy where rapid time-to-market is critical. Another critical back-end feature is how the e-commerce platform handles workflow and staging of content. Companies should demand that an e-commerce platform removes as much complexity as possible from the user interface. When end-users are dependent on IT. create promotions. workflow engine. the process of updating an e-commerce site becomes much less efficient and far more prone to errors. bottlenecks can develop that slow down the company’s response to competitors and changing market dynamics. When adding a new product line. The key here is to enable users to view. WHY tHis is iMportaNt In most e-commerce companies. copy is routed to a translator and then to a product manager for final approval. without requiring expensive customizations. yet easy-to-use. Imagine how convenient it would be if the e-commerce platform would help create. and then an art director approves the visual layout. Page 11 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . and focused on specific tasks. manage.ANsWers to Look for Almost every platform vendor will provide an administrative control panel that enables business users to add or edit products. business users need to make quick changes and update websites to stay ahead of the competition. The best platforms allow for different types of users to have distinctly different views of the control panel. When platforms can’t manage content workflow and staging. a finance manager first approves product pricing. personalize a site experience. In parallel. complete other tasks necessary to run the day-to-day operations of an online store. generate reports. Back-end interfaces that are well designed. It is essential for an e-commerce platform to provide functions that allow different types of business users to interact with the system without continual support from IT.

Ongoing maintenance fees are a major component in the total cost of ownership equation. 3. this may call into question the rationale for maintenance fees as high as 28 percent of the initial software license costs.Q8 What is the frequency of versions and point releases? When were the last two major versions of the platform released? When were the last three point releases? ANsWERs to Look FoR E-commerce developers providing the greatest value in exchange for ongoing maintenance fees and those with the best-managed research and development teams usually offer quarterly point-level releases (3. buyers should look for both frequency and consistency in the release schedule. If a software vendor is unwilling to commit to a predictable schedule of upgrades.1 in Q1. and an ongoing stream of innovation and functionality improvements in the form of regular upgrades. WHY tHis is iMpoRtANt A consistent release schedule can help ensure the platform developer is addressing critical bugs and needed enhancements. Page 12 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP .2 in Q2. When evaluating answers to this question.) and a major version release every 12 to 18 months. etc. A predictable consistency of releases allows users to better manage their budgets and resource planning. and delivering innovation that keeps up with market demand to maintain competitive advantage. The most reliable vendors will use maintenance fees as a way to fund a continual support mechanism for their customers.

if this single code base is an open standard. WHY tHis is iMportaNt Problems can arise when one buys a solution from a vendor who has developed an e-commerce product line through acquisitions rather than in-house development. such as product content information management (PIM) software and an order management system (OMS). lower cost. then it is easier and more cost effective to find resources to customize the solution. more scalable and more easily implemented. The integrations between modules written on differing code bases create complexity and cost when it’s time to upgrade to new software versions. A patchwork quilt approach can result in time delays and extra costs for integrating modules built by different teams in different development centers.Q9 Which features and modules of the e-commerce platform are written on a single code base (homogeneous stack). is the open standard an industry standard (or likely to become one)? ANsWers to Look for E-Commerce companies are advised to make sure that all software modules involved in powering their multichannel or e-commerce businesses are written on a single code base. security reporting social commerce mobile platform print order management system promotion Page 13 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP product content information management . since different modules in the solution may be sold by different. competing sales teams within the same vendor organization. Further. or an industry standard such as Java. It can also lengthen the selection process. and which are not? Is this single code base built on an open standard? And. They also create less risk. This includes the commerce front-end software and any supporting systems bundled in the platform. and provide a quicker return on investment. Platforms built on a single code base are typically more flexible.

in multiple languages? If a platform includes an integrated product information management (PIM). web. so that all channels and regions can draw on the central repository for productrelated content. and unstructured product information and content (video. It should also be consistent across those channels. field representative devices. Page 14 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . etc. pictures).Q10 Does the e-commerce system include an integrated module and centralized repository for managing both structured data (text. To manage this complexity. reviews. call centers. considering the variety of content types and channels through which content is consumed by customers. Vendors who offer solutions that attempt to address these issues often provide them as separate. structured information such as pricing and product descriptions. pricing information). pictures. text. multiregional strategies. non-integrated modules that are not purpose-built for the complex needs of multi-channel. mobile. how does that compare with conventional PIM software and similar capabilities available from ERP systems? ANsWers to Look for E-Commerce platform providers should offer solutions for ensuring that all content and information related to products (video. Managing this variety of structured and unstructured information is made more difficult by the need to ensure it is displayed consistently across various channels – mobile. store. and print – in physical stores and in the hands of field sales representatives using tablets. WHY tHis is iMportaNt Product information management has become very challenging. and video – all available in multiple languages. web. and is easily available to other channels (print. This approach reduces the cost and complexity of managing product content. physical locations).) is easily and centrally managed in multiple languages. it is best to have one repository where all content resides. and reduces discrepancies among channels. reviews. The content pieces associated with one product can include text. While ERP systems and traditional PIM systems are capable of managing basic. they are typically incapable of supporting rich content types such as videos or photos. pictures.

Decision makers are encouraged to think about both short term and long term needs. After receiving RFP responses. If so. the RFP should reflect that. and social channels to deliver more cumulative value (1+1+1+1=5). Carefully consider all other systems needed within the e-commerce infrastructure and focus on vendors who provide complete solutions with a minimal amount of added integration expense.SUMMARY oF KEY RECoMMENDAtioNs A well-designed RFP with all the right questions and decision criteria can be instrumental in driving the success of an e-commerce implementation to produce the best ROI and fulfill all critical business needs for years to come. Page 15 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . keeping in mind that they might dictate different solutions. Develop a short list of two or three vendors who offer the most flexibility. solutions-oriented discussions prior to issuing an RFP. in terms of deployment options and pre-built integrations. it may be possible to capture potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue. companies may want to ask their top two or three vendor choices to develop a rough prototype or proof of concept especially for custom features needed within the platform. When a selection committee can make a quicker decision so that a new solution can be rolled out a few weeks early. and conduct focused. mobile channels. Think about how e-commerce can be combined with offline channels.

channel management and anyone else that will interact with or be directly affected by the new platform. but if they don’t have robust omnichannel support or strong data content management capabilities (PIM). Not Asking Questions that Can Be Easily Compared – Consider phrasing questions in such a way that the answers can easily be compared across vendors: “Is the platform written on a single code base that is an open industry standard – one. Ignoring the People Aspects – Buyers must not underestimate the importance of the people they will be working with to structure the deal. or four?” One is no. Not Doing Sufficient Due Diligence – Companies should consider speaking to analysts or consultants to determine which vendors might best fit their needs. IT. then they should be ruled out. Two and three are in-between.THE 10 Most CoMMoN E-CoMMERCE PLAtFoRM RFP MistAkEs Wording Questions in a Way that Enables the Vendor to “Spin” or Obfuscate the Truth – Be as specific as possible with your initial round of questions and be prepared to engage in a follow-up dialogue to probe for more in-depth answers. Inviting Too Many Vendors to Bid – Sending an RFP to a laundry list of vendors can result in confusion and a slow selection process. three. two. companies should be sure to identify those attributes that are make or break considerations for the new platform. Not Involving All of the Stakeholders – The RFP should answer questions from all of the stakeholders including the business owner. more agile vendor? Will they want to talk to Project Manager and Solution Engineers or also have access to and participation of C level executives. Due diligence should be completed upfront before two or three appropriate bidders are invited to respond. implement the solution or arrange for customizations. it should first complete a high level RFI or engage an industry analyst. Pre-RFP discussions are critical to producing a well-rounded RFP that meets long-term needs. This might involve some soul searching. it is advisable to allow the vendors to explain their answer in a more free form fashion. When comparing the answers to dozens or hundreds of questions across vendors. Leaving the RFP Process to the Procurement Department – If the information exchange related to the RFP is the exclusive domain of the procurement group. Trying to Be Too Impartial – Some companies refuse to conduct in-depth discussions with vendors prior to issuing an RFP. Not Having a Budget Before Issuing an RFP – If a company does not have a budget. which may not be possible with a large company? Page 16 // Key Questions to Include in an E-Commerce Platform RFP . Once they have been forced to provide a comparable answer. companies will miss many opportunities for valuable dialogues with industry experts able to provide insight into the future technology needs that companies have not yet anticipated. Taking the Short View – Companies should look four to seven years into the future when considering their next e-commerce platform. four is yes. operations. Vendor A might score the highest. since it requires companies to think about priorities that are fundamental but hard to quantify. marketing. Will a company’s internal implementation team have an easier time working with Fortune 500 vendor or a smaller.

Nikon. channel and device.com | sales@hybris. hybris is the future of commerce™. Over 500 companies have chosen hybris. General Electric.hybris. that is agile to support limitless innovation. hybris’ omni-channel software is built on a single platform. based on open standards. including global B2B sites W. and scalable and extensible to be the last commerce platform companies will ever need. hybris delivers OmniCommerce™: state-of-the-art master data management for commerce and unified commerce processes that give a business a single view of its customers. The same software is available on-premise. Levi’s. Migros. an SAP Company hybris helps businesses around the globe sell more goods. Metro. Galeries Lafayette. giving merchants of all sizes maximum flexibility.About hybris. Bridgestone. Thomson Reuters and 3M as well as consumer brands Toys“R”Us. Rexel. on-demand and managed hosted. www. products and orders. Other brand names are trademarks and registered trademarks of the respective companies. Nespresso and Lufthansa. and its customers a single view of the business.Grainger.com Version: October 2013 Subject to change without prior notice © hybris hybris is a trademark of the hybris Group. efficient to drive the best TCO. services and digital content through everytouchpoint. Both principal industry analyst firms rank hybris as a “leader” and list its commerce platform among the top two or three in the market. .W.