By Brian K. Walker
Earlier this week, Demandware announced their new Link program. This program enables Demandware to make it relatively easy to add many SaaS-based point solutions to their clients’ sites in a pre-integrated fashion. The list includes Cybersource, Bazaarvoice, Baynote, PayPal, among many others. In today’s eCommerce technology environment it is extremely common to integrate various third-party technologies with the eCommerce platform for a variety of reasons – from payments to search to recommendations to content – and increasingly these third party applications are being delivered through services which must be integrated first to receive data to use on behalf of their client or to deliver their service. This integration may not be overly burdensome or complex, but it takes away from other resource needs and may limit a company’s experimentation with various tools and capabilities.  The Link program gets at the heart of what SaaS platforms have promised for some time, and it is a great to see a platform provider move forward by investing in this. By implementing what we could consider in some ways an “app store for the enterprise eCommerce business” Demandware has certainly innovated here.
Why Link matters:

  • For Demandware customers it offers lower costs and complexity. This program should significantly reduce the costs and time to integrate third party eCommerce technology solutions. Another benefit can be that Demandware clients can trial these third-party solutions at low effort and cost. For Demandware clients considering multiple solutions, a potential solution that is Link certified will certainly have a leg up over its competitors.
  • Link partners will benefit by being able to acquire new clients with fewer roadblocks. Partners can offer Demandware customers low-cost trials and not have to worry that the integration will be an issue. By not having to jump through the hurdle of getting a project (albeit an often small one) approved, funded, and prioritized with a client and then resourced by a service provider partners will reduce much of the pain and complexity of getting their SaaS product or service implemented and used. If the work to date is any indication the Link program integration effort is relatively easy to execute and so many SaaS solutions will fund and be proactive in joining this program.
  • For Demandware competitors this poses a threat to their planned roadmaps. With the Link program Demandware may have just leapfrogged the product roadmaps of many of their competitors. In many ways this changes the feature creep arms-race we have seen for many years in the platform landscape and  instead focuses it on core webservices and the ability to integrate and play-nice in the third-party SaaS ecosystem.
  • For Demandware it serves as a proof point on the SaaS value proposition. SaaS is not for everyone, and while many eBusiness leaders are very interested in SaaS-based solutions today for their business there are pro’s and con’s to both the model and to Demandware’s offering in general. Yet, this program is something that on-premise and hosted-managed application providers will have a difficult time matching.

As this program has just launched it is premature to declare it a success. Proof will appear in the pudding once there is a stable track record for the services’ up-time, integration stability, performance, total-cost-of-ownership, and the addition of new partners to the program. But just as open source has stimulated eCommerce platform providers to focus on the community around their products, the Link program will require eCommerce, ERP, mobile commerce, and Order Management solution providers to rethink their strategic partnership programs and integration capabilities alike.
I encourage Forrester clients to reach out via the inquiry process to discuss their eCommerce technology strategy and vendor choices.
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