Impressions of uCommerce with Sitecore
I was recently invited to the Sitecore UK headquarters in London to attend a uCommerce for Sitecore deep dive course. This was a chance to take a look at the first version of uCommerce built specifically for Sitecore, here’s some of the key details from the event and what I’ve learnt.
What is uCommerce?
uCommerce is an eCommerce plugin/platform which has been available for Umbraco for some time now, and is one of the most widely used and mature eCommerce platforms in the Umbraco ecosystem. This has now been made available to support the Sitecore platform.
Why does it make sense for Sitecore?
Sitecore is an enterprise CMS and it does its job very well, but it’s always been lacking in the eCommerce department. It’s had eCommerce plugins for a while and includes a framework ‘Sitecore Ecommerce Services’ (SES), but they were always difficult to implement and felt like they were fighting against Sitecore rather than working with it. So, Sitecore approached the team at uCommerce and asked them to develop and integrate with Sitecore to bring its offering on board and provide an enterprise eCommerce solution, until Sitecore brings out its newly-acquired Commerce Server integration.
This really is the top end of the market in terms of eCommerce for Sitecore. Sitecore already has market-leading CMS and Marketing capabilities, but it does feel like it has been held back in recent times by the lack of good eCommerce software, so this addition really does make a difference.
The way uCommerce is integrated with Sitecore is a thing of beauty, the uCommerce code itself uses Inversion of Control (IoC) and dependency injection which enables it to use pipelines that are very reminiscent of Sitecore’s own pipeline architecture. The whole plugin is extensible and customisable because of the pipelines, you can add a new step into the checkout process to report orders to a fulfilment house for instance, and you can override existing steps in the pipeline if you need your own custom logic.
The uCommerce team have paid particular attention to integrating the shop management features into the Sitecore Content Editor and they have gone to a lot of effort to use the Sitecore data-provider framework to allow them to show all of their custom data as items in the Sitecore page editor.
This all helps to make it feel like uCommerce is a part of Sitecore in familiar interfaces and is the add-on that Sitecore has been missing. For the brief time I had to look at uCommerce with Sitecore, I got the feeling that everything just works in harmony with Sitecore rather than some of the eCommerce plugins that feel like they want to do things their own way, with Sitecore just having to make do or adapt to them.
To actually set up a uCommerce site with Sitecore, you first need a clean install of Sitecore 7.2, then you need to get the latest version of uCommerce from their site. This contains a Sitecore package file that you install in the normal way using the package install wizard in the Sitecore shell, and following the instructions. If this is your first time using uCommerce then I would also suggest installing the demo store to give you an example of how to build a site.
If everything went smoothly you should now be able to navigate to the demo store which looks like this:
Then in the Sitecore back-end, you should find a new uCommerce node in the Content Editor which contains all of the information about your store and your products:
Also included in the install is a uCommerce app which is custom built to allow you to edit your products more easily:
The app seems well thought-out and intuitive so it should make managing large catalogues a breeze, it also contains an orders section and a marketing section which allows you to do promotions on products, along with an Analytics section. uCommerce also integrates with many of the main payment gateways out of the box but you can easily add your own if you need to.
uCommerce for Sitecore is an exciting prospect and I really hope I get to use it in a project in the near future. I really like the possibility of using the Sitecore DMS features such as personalisation in conjunction with an eCommerce site, tailoring all the main call to actions to the user based on the types of products they have been looking at and being able to use DMS data to send targeted emails to users for cross sell / upsell.