Zoho unveils Commerce Plus as first of a series of new vertical solutions

Commerce Plus is not part of Zoho One, but is a separate offering, which sits on top of it. Zoho also indicated the identity of a forthcoming second vertical solution.

Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s Chief Evangelist, at Zoholics

AUSTIN — Cloud software suite vendor Zoho kicked off its Zoholics Austin user conference here today with a move into a different sphere with Commerce Plus, a new commerce platform that sits on top of – and leverages – their Zoho One suite of applications. It is the first of what the company says will be a series of vertical applications.

“We have built an operating system for business with Zoho One, that provides applications and tools that let you run your marketing and sales, offer customer experience, and also run an efficient back office,” said Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s Chief Evangelist, in his keynote address. “Every one has been built on the same technology stack. And all of this is available at an impossible price of a dollar a day per employee.”

Commerce Plus is a logical next step, Vegesna stated.

“Where do we go next?” he asked rhetorically. “That is going to be verticals. For the first time, we will be offering out-of-the-box solutions optimized for verticals.  The first vertical solution will be Commerce Plus. We have built a comprehensive vertical solution on top of our horizontal platform. Commerce Plus is our first out of-the-box vertical solution.”

It also addresses a perceived gap.

“One of the missing pieces has been an eCommerce platform,” Vegesna acknowledged.

He emphasized in his keynote that Commerce Plus’s strength combines its ability to leverage all the underlying functionality of Zoho One, and combine it with its own comprehensive capabilities and personalized experience for the customer.

“Commerce Plus at its heart is all about selling across channels,” Vegensa said. “It’s optimized for multiple form factors, and because it’s built on top of Zoho One, it has a built-in content management system. At the same time, the beauty of an eCommerce system is about customizing and making sure it is personalized. We support Dynamic Personalization, which is supported by Zoho PageSense.

The dynamic personalization allows understanding user behavior, through which you can personalize experience.

“You can understand user behavior on every page of your website,” he said. “You can see what items in your store they are most interested in. It’s all part of the personalization of the commerce platform. For example, you can do two versions, like adjust the size of an image, and see which performs better.”

It comes with funnel charts, where you can see things like how many visitors come, how many visit your home page, and how many go to a successful checkout. Information is available for every single product that you sell.

Both front and back end functions leverage Zoho One applications.

“Zoho Commerce Plus doesn’t have its own database,” Vegesna said. “That’s a big deal. You integrate it with Zoho Inventory – there’s no work there. There’s an integration with Zoho Books. It’s all done.”

Commerce Plus in its current form takes a few hours to set up, but once all the integrations are in place, Vegesna said it should be doable in an hour, particularly as their entire finance suite is based on a single data model.

“Ordering is the heart of ecommerce,” Vegensa indicated. “We have Zoho CheckOut, which is tightly integrated. We support multiple payment gateways, and we keep adding to that list. We also support multiple regions.”

“On the customer support side, Zoho Desk offers multi-channel support, and integrates the knowledge,” Vegensa said. “The beauty here is the system knows the size and weight of items. You can virtually organize how you want to package these items and [their AI tool] Zia previews how to best do this. It’s done in Zoho Inventory. Zia also powers fraud detection. We have taken learning from other apps and applied them to Commerce Plus.”

Any third-party system can also be integrated with Commerce Plus, through Zoho Flow. Data from the third-party systems can be imported into Zoho Analytics, and analyzed alongside data from Commerce Plus, to provide blended insights.

Zoho has very clear ideas where initial demand for Commerce Plus will come from.

“It will be mainly smaller eCommerce companies,” Vegesna said. “I don’t expect the big guys to come yet. Second, while we compete with Shopify in some areas, we also have a lot of integrations with them out of the box, and so I expect we will do well among Shopify customers. The third group is companies just getting online. We are seeing a lot of these in Mexico and India. Colombia, the Philippines, Indonesia – countries where there is a lot of retail presence but which haven’t gone through digital transformation. I don’t expect those now, but a year from now I do.”

While Commerce Plus sits on top of Zoho One, it is not a part of it, and isn’t part of the $30 per user per month fee for that. It can be licensed either as an entire platform or specifically for creating an online store. Pricing starts at $20/month to get started with e-commerce through a store. To license the entire Commerce Plus platform, it is $100/month plus $30/employee or $75/user.

Zoho also will provide a Jump Start service for a flat $1000 fee to start in a day. They say it will be done in a day – feasible because it is an integrated platform – or it’s free.

Finally, while Commerce Plus, the first vertical, is available now, Vegesna, in a Sneak Peak roadmap session, indicated the second.

“The other vertical solution we are working on is called Field Services,” he said. “It is for businesses who have people in the field offering solutions, and includes work order management, dispatch management so the central office knows where field workers are, centralized calendar management, and a mobile application with visibility into appointments for people in the field. Once you start the time, that’s where the billing ties in, and it connects into Zoho One.

“We’re taking early access for this,” Vegesna indicated.

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