Launching in 2000 as a provider of e-commerce software, Elastic Path emphasized a flexible platform and developed an “API-first” architecture designed to bring e-commerce to multiple types of customer-facing front ends.
“We knew we had to do web stores, and that mobile was great, but there are hundreds of different customer touch points—and we wanted to enable commerce in those areas and do it quickly,” says co-founder and CEO Harry Chemko. For example, he adds, Elastic Path is using its technology—also referred to as “headless commerce”—to help companies involved in business-to-business as well as retail e-commerce better take advantage of internet-of-things technology to extend digital commerce beyond typical websites and mobile sites and apps.
Under a headless, API-driven system, technology experts say, an online seller can extend e-commerce to new customer-facing applications beyond the typical website while reusing without modification basic things like the back-end content management system or the online shopping cart.
Such e-commerce applications can extend to industrial machinery embedded with IoT sensors and provided to customers on a subscription basis, letting a customer pay only for a machine’s usage rather than purchasing it as a capital expense, Chemko says. Other increasingly popular applications are in voice-activated ordering devices, social media chatbots and internet-connected vending machines. Manufacturers and distributors can place vending machines at customer locations; as customers take such products as drill bits or work gloves, the vending machines record the purchases as e-commerce transactions.
Launching a cloud option
This week, Elastic Path launched Commerce Cloud, a software-as-a-service version of its B2B and B2C e-commerce software. The SaaS version, accessible via a web browser, frees an Elastic Path customer from setting up the software and managing it on its own data servers or on third-party cloud-based servers.
Commerce Cloud is designed primarily for companies with annual digital commerce sales ranging from $50 million to billions of dollars, Chemko says. Deploying Commerce Cloud takes three months or more, with costs starting in the “low hundreds of thousands,” Chemko. Clients also pay ongoing subscription fees that vary based on the size and complexity of their e-commerce operation.
The B2B version of Commerce Cloud includes such features as:
- Organization structures that let a buyer’s administrative staff manage their own purchasing accounts, including setting spending limits and adding authorized buyers;
- Multiple pricing models, including subscriptions and usage pricing;
- Multiple payment methods, plus the ability to set up promotions with discount periods tailored to individual customers;
- Catalog management that includes consolidation of suppliers’ catalogs, product configuration and the ability to bundle products from multiple suppliers;
- Commerce-enabled IoT projects, which can set up devices or equipment to self-monitor their condition, order their own replacement parts and schedule their service calls.
Elastic Path’s B2B clients include such companies as Johnstone Supply Co., a distributor of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning products, and Wurth Louis and Co., a distributor of woodworking products and services. B2B companies make up about one third of Elastic Path’s some 200 customers and represent a fast-growing market, Chemko says.
Earlier this year, Elastic Path received $43 million venture capital to build out its staff and further develop its technology. Last month, it hired John Bruno, a former senior analyst for B2B e-commerce at Forrester Research Inc., as its vice president of product management.
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