Microsoft BizSpark One startup helps businesses adapt in a volatile economic landscape.
REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 7, 2012 — E-commerce sales are expected to top $1.25 trillion by 2013 globally.* However, according to the CEO of Commerce Guys, e-commerce is still in its infancy.
There is a growing opportunity for retailers and merchants using e-commerce, but meeting the needs of a global marketplace presents many challenges. Commerce Guys is working to make it easy with a platform that is flexible and scalable to meet the needs of a variety of customers.
“Until very recently, the focus in e-commerce was on catalogs and checkout functionality,” says Frédéric Plais, CEO of Commerce Guys. “But the rise of social media, explosion of mobile devices and globalization of commerce all are driving the need for a better set of tools to help merchants adapt to the marketplace. E-commerce needs to evolve.”
Within a year of launching its Drupal Commerce framework, Commerce Guys counted more than 17,000 merchants worldwide using the software. The company, with European headquarters in Paris and U.S. headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., generates revenues by offering support, training and troubleshooting services for users of its free products.
“Drupal is the best social publishing tool in the world, providing the back-end system for websites ranging from personal blogs to the online presence for global enterprises and government entities,” Plais says. “Our Drupal Commerce platform gives retailers the flexibility to meet fast-changing trends and grow their online businesses successfully.”
Microsoft, Open Source and the Cloud
“We believe that the future of software is in the cloud, and we know that enterprises love Microsoft,” Plais says. “So it seemed obvious to use the Windows Azure platform when we were ready to take Drupal Commerce to the cloud.”
Some people were skeptical about marrying Microsoft and open source, but Plais was not one of them.
“It’s important that our solution be ideally suited for enterprise customers, so from the beginning we wanted our open-source, Drupal-based software to be enabled on Microsoft technology,” he says. “We have been impressed that Microsoft has so many people who really understand open source, and they were also interested in our technical expertise in Drupal. From the outset, Commerce Guys and Microsoft have formed a strong relationship based on serving common interests.”
Commerce Guys and Microsoft teams began working together in early 2011 to unite Drupal and Windows Azure technologies. They also worked on a full integration of Drupal Commerce with Microsoft SQL Server and have enabled Drupal to consume Windows Azure platform services, such as Windows Azure Storage Service and SQL Server database.
During these technology collaborations, Commerce Guys was invited to join the Microsoft BizSpark One program.
“It started as a close technology relationship: Microsoft really understands applications and Azure, and Commerce Guys offers innovations that appeal to high-end enterprise customers,” Plais says. “Beyond the technology ties, the BizSpark One program is an important way for us to meet people throughout the Microsoft community important to Commerce Guys’ long-term success, whether that means as customers, partners or advisers. We’re thrilled with the support we’ve received from Microsoft.”
In July 2012, Commerce Guys won the coveted Judges’ Choice Award, the top honor, at the Microsoft BizSpark European Summit. Commerce Guys was also recognized with the prestigious Summit award by a jury of renowned investors, based on the company’s performance and international reach.
“We’re getting clear feedback that we’re solving problems that lots of retailers are facing, and we’re pleased and proud to be delivering solutions that are obviously useful to, and appreciated by, our customers worldwide,” Plais says.
Toward Discovery Commerce
Plais is also excited about what’s coming next. “The future is bright, with e-commerce everywhere,” he says. “I’m particularly excited about the potential of discovery commerce, which is a nice trend emerging now.”
Discovery commerce refers to providing e-commerce customers with samples, trials or online experiences in conjunction with a real-world product. Markets such as beauty supplies, food and other consumer goods are great candidates for discovery commerce — and for building sites based on Drupal Commerce software.
“One of our Drupal Commerce customers is a French wine company with a creative discovery commerce site,” Plais says. “Customers can subscribe to a service that lets them choose three bottles of wine a month. In addition to the wines, the customers can connect via the website with one of France’s top sommeliers, a wine steward who explains all about the wines and their nuances. Customers can chat and tweet with the sommelier and ask questions. The result is that customers gain a far deeper appreciation of the wines and a much deeper level of engagement with the wine company.”
Plais says the discovery commerce trend is repeatable for many industries.
“With tens of millions of songs available for smartphones almost free, and information about books and travel sites also readily available for free, what’s not free are the recommendations about which songs or hotel rooms to choose — and that’s where retailers can build new businesses,” he says. “Drupal Commerce makes it easy to create the rich, compelling user experiences necessary for effective discovery commerce. And it’s a great example of how thinking beyond the catalog and the shopping cart is helping e-commerce evolve and creating opportunities for innovative retailers everywhere.”
The Commerce Guys have demonstrated how a startup or small business can thrive by combining the best of both worlds from Microsoft and open-source software.
* Report by the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), http://imrg.org/ImrgWebsite/User/Pages/B2C_Global_e-Commerce_Overview_2012.aspx.