Integrating the Commerce Experience: Salesforce to Acquire Demandware

There’s a lot of good analysis coming out on Salesforce’s announcement last week  on the intent to acquire Demandware and move into the commerce platform business. If you’re looking for some good reads, try this post by Paul Greenberg or this post from Ray Wang. I don’t intend to rehash what my colleagues have already said quite eloquently, but I do want to dig into Demandforce and the eCommerce platform category a bit more using some G2 Crowd data.

Before I get into that though, there is a small amount of history that we need to understand, even though it is well covered in both the post I reference above. To understand the competitive landscape in the hotly contested eCommerce platform category (or what I personally prefer to call digital commerce, since we’re not really just talking about isolated online store transactions anymore, but integrated interactions across any buying opportunity), a little bit of refresh is necessary. The commerce platform market is crowded, has consolidated to some extent already, and is increasingly tied to a company’s customer experience strategy, which means that it is essential for it to integrate into CRM sales, marketing and service, as well as finance and logistics. In the world of CRM, the market, at least for upper-mid market through large enterprise, is dominated by Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and to some extent Adobe as it relates to digital marketing and customer experience. IBM competes in the commerce platform market and the digital marketing market as well. Consolidation between CRM vendors and commerce platforms started a few years ago, with SAP’s acquisition of Hybris and Oracle’s acquisition of ATG, so it’s natural that Salesforce and Adobe would be looking to pick up a major platform for themselves. With Hybris and ATG off the table Demandware was a logical target (since it’s the only one of the 3 that is cloud native you might argue that it would be the best fit anyway) and rumor has it that both Adobe and Salesforce were at the table. With that background take a look at the G2 Crowd eCommerce Platform Grid. The link is to the live version, which, in case this is new to you, changes in real time based on the incoming reviews. For the sake of discussion, I’ve done a snapshot of the Grid as of 6/6/2016.G2CommerceGrid_6_6_16

On the Grid graphic the X axis is based on user satisfaction and the Y axis is based on “market presence” (MP) of the product, see this page for more detailed explanation. Satisfaction is a fairly simple calculation that takes 7 specific satisfaction metrics from the user reviews, calculates the average and then normalizes the scores. The only tricky part is that as reviews age less weight is put on older reviews so as long as a product continues to get reviews it isn’t a big impact, but if for some reason the flow of reviews drops off, eventually the satisfaction score would be impacted. Market presence is a bit more complex as it is based on a calculation using an algorithm that uses a set of factors ranging from number of employees to product momentum.

The 2 axes work together to provide a picture of the different products in a category. Satisfaction is a good indication of product quality and user experience. Market presence is an indication of impact in a market and is influenced by the size, age, growth, social impact, and employee satisfaction of the vendor and product. A well established product would likely be higher in MP, but a smaller company with explosive growth, high employee morale, and a product that is seen as an innovator in a market could also be higher in the rating. The examples in the Grid are obvious, Oracle, SAP Hybris, and IBM have strong MP but so does Shopify, Infusionsoft and Magento CE which are relatively smaller but have very good momentum.

To compare the platforms from SAP, Oracle and Demandware then, you can see on the Grid the relative positions. While SAP Hybris and Oracle have a higher MP score, which shouldn’t be surprising, Demandware, the smaller company by itself, has higher satisfaction overall. If you compare the 3 products in the “compare” view you can see the overall star rating and the 7 satisfaction metrics like this:


This is only a partial view of the page, there are also some reviews highlighted for “Most Helpful” Favorable and Critical reviews of each product determined by the crowd. As you can see in this comparison the areas where the vendors being compared are rated higher are colored green, so Demandware outscored the other in 5 of the 7 metrics; meets requirements, usability, maintenance, support, and ease of doing business. SAP Hybris was higher in setup and product direction. The comparison also breaks the reviews out into 3 company size bands and highlights the top 5 industries represented by the reviewers. Both these numbers are a reasonable proxy for the product’s customer base, obviously increasing in accuracy with a larger sample size.

Market presence is directly impacted when a company is acquired. We don’t make any changes until the acquisition closes of course, but when a much larger company buys a smaller company, it’s very likely that the MP score will move up some. It’s very hard to predict how much, but it consistently happens.

As my colleagues have pointed out commerce is the transactional core of the experience a customer has with any business that sells something to them. It is also an extension of the business process and as such needs to be integrated with the customer and product data, across the rest of the enterprise from CRM to Finance to logistics. The customer’s are looking for a simple, integrated experience and do not see what a company might call different “channels”. There is only 1 channel, it just uses many different methods for the customer to interact with the brand. To provide an integrated experience for the customer a company has to have integrated people, systems, data and processes. It’s easy to see why Salesforce (and Oracle and SAP) want to purchase and integrate a commerce platform into their customer experience solution.