Many brands and corporations today suffer from “two site” syndrome. The ‘.com’ site (often owned by brand/corporate marketing) serves to offer up a glossy magazine experience — designed to romance the customer with brand and product stories, while the ‘store.’ is owned by the eBusiness team and is designed around structured product content to optimize conversion and revenue goals. The result is often fragmented and poorly integrated digital experiences that confuse the customer, introduce unnecessary complexity, and ultimately fail to deliver on the broader digital strategy of the brand.

In the age of the customer, brands today seek a unified experience between the four stages of the customer life cycle (discover, explore, buy, and engage). For eBusiness professionals, this means tighter collaboration with their corporate marketing and brand counterparts to find ways to embed commerce (the buy phase) into the heart of the .com experience rather than building segregated eCommerce sites. However, this is easier said than done. The problem is that many brand and manufacturing organizations leverage web content management (WCM) platforms to create, manage, and measure targeted, personalized, and interactive brand experiences. However, these WCM platforms lack the robust commerce capabilities that organizations need to manage large, complex product catalogs and develop sophisticated merchandising strategies to sell online.

Over the past 12 months, Forrester has seen a surge in inquiries from brands and manufacturers that face this dilemma. They already own (or plan to acquire) both WCM and eCommerce technology but struggle with how to integrate these traditionally standalone platforms to deliver an integrated online experience. In our latest report “Commerce And Content: The Perfect Couple Or A Tumultuous Affair?” Stephen Powers and I interviewed over a dozen firms that have been at the forefront of the convergence of commerce and content. The research looked at the circumstances under which an organization should decide to use commerce and content platforms together and identified 10 key evaluation criteria that firms commonly use in this decision-making process.

Furthermore, we looked at the pros and cons of the three common integration architectures (side-by-side, WCM-led, and eCommerce-led) that system integration firms, vendors, and end clients have been using to amalgamate these solutions. Our research also uncovered the extent to which the vendor and system integration community are: a) developing strategic partnerships, b) extending their existing capabilities, or c) making acquisitions to ensure that, respectively, they have a strategy to serve their clients with commerce-enabled digital experiences. Last week’s announcement by Sitecore that it is acquiring, the former Microsoft commerce platform, is just the latest in a string of tie-ups between the WCM and eCommerce vendors that follows previous announcements by Oracle, Adobe, and others.

If your organization is embarking on a commerce/content platform integration strategy, Stephen and I would love to hear from you.