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Announcement: Aconcagua, SuiteCommerce, Theme Customizer and Extensions

We are pleased to announce the release of Aconcagua, the latest update to SuiteCommerce Advanced. You can read the full release notes here.

This releases contains a number of new features, enhancements, fixes to the SCA code, as well as some improvements to the tools that help you build delightful sites.

We are also pleased to announce SuiteCommerce, the theme customizer, and extensions.

SuiteCommerce

At SuiteWorld 2017, we shared our vision for what we think the next generation of commerce on NetSuite is going to look like.

One of the greatest strengths of SuiteCommerce Advanced is it's flexibility at the code level: experienced developers can make large-scale changes to their site by extending Backbone objects, adding in SuiteScript, manipulating JavaScript and so on. However, not everyone is an experienced developer; not everyone has the time, energy and resources to devote to getting stuck into the nitty gritty of building a site at code-level.

This is where SuiteCommerce — formerly known as SuiteCommerce Standard — comes in.

While retaining the richness and codebase of SuiteCommerce Advanced, SuiteCommerce offers a number of features that will appeal to those people:

  1. Managed bundle updates — let us migrate you to the newer releases so that you can get updated core functionality without having to update code yourself
  2. Theme customizer — a new WYSIWYG editor in the site management tools lets you customize the look and feel of site in moments, without having to modify Sass or template files
  3. Customization through extensions — we've been working on the extensibility API for a while and its fruition are the extensions that can be added to a site to add in new customizations

All in all, this is a comprehensive solution to some of the woes site administrators haved shared with us. You can still have a featureful and attractive site, but you trade some of the depth of control for peace of mind.

Themes and Theme Customizer

This release formally reconceptualizes themes. While we've talked before about creating a theme for your site, the SuiteCommerce approach is very different.

You should think of these ones as more like self-contained modules that can be transferred from site to site, much like you would a normal functionality module. Developers work on them locally, and then upload them to a site. They are then enabled onto a site using a new menu in the UI tool. Called Extension Management, it's where you can select and enable any extensions available to your site.

After a theme has been enabled on a site, it can be customized using a new feature of the site management tools. Site administrators can make a number of changes to the site's theme, ranging from wholesale 'skin' changes (ie a complete makeover within the context of the theme) to small, individual changes to colors, fonts, spacing, etc.

There are a number of themes premade and ready to go and we expect more to made available over the coming months.

Extensibility and Extensions

The extensibility API is something we've been building up within SuiteCommerce code, and you got a first taste of it in Elbrus. Essentially, it makes adding new code into SuiteCommerce modules a lot easier by providing a simple, standard and stable interface for developers.

The API is split up into components — such as the product detail page or the shopping cart — and then a number of methods are made available on them. You can do all kinds of things, such as increase the quantity of the item on a product detail page to add a new child view to an existing one. You can do all of these things, avoiding the usual ways of adding customizations, such as wrapping a function or extending SuiteCommerce objects.

So, what's new then?

Firstly, it's now a lot more mature with new objects and methods for you to use: this coverage is extensive and covers most common areas of the site.

Secondonly, given this maturity, we've added a new mechanism in the backend to handle what we call extensions.

An extension is a self-contained site customization that's usually one module, but can be more. They're there to add small bits of functionality to any site that has the extensibility API. Crucially, as SuiteCommerce sites are upgraded automatically by us, and these extensions are built on a smooth and stable API, the extensions should continue to work after an upgrade. No technical worries!

Installation and management is also non-technical. Through NetSuite you can find, select and install extensions for your site. This same mechanism is what allows you to switch themes.

This functionality is what bridges the functionality gap between SuiteCommerce and Advanced. Extensions are bits of functionality that go beyond what is available via configuration or the site management tools; it's about saying that we are confident that a happy migration path to newer releases can be maintained while a site is customized with third-party functionality. By ensuring that extensions use the extensibility API — which we, NetSuite, will keep stable — we can be reasonably sure that the customizations don't break the site when it is migrated.

There is also versioning. When a developer updates a theme or extension, they can change the version number in the metadata for it; upon doing so, the system will automatically create a new copy of the module and store it separately. At any point in the extension manager, a user can switch between them. For developers, this means that you can save your work at a stable state and then work on newer versions without worrying about overwriting something you know works.

We'll cover themes and extensions more in future posts, so stay tuned!

Aconcagua

While aspects of theming and extensibility are also applicable to Aconcagua, there's also additional functionality that was released in the latest version of SuiteCommerce Advanced.

Free Gift Promotions

In Elbrus, we released an upgraded promotions engine called SuitePromotions. Since then, we've been making small improvements to it. We initially offered features like best offer and stackability, and then added auto-apply in Kilimanjaro. Now, we have another new feature: free gifts.

This was one of our most frequently requested features for SuitePromotions and we're pleased to say it's now available.

Available as a new promotion type, you can set up a promotion so that when a shopper meets your specified criteria, an item is offered to them at no cost. The shopper can then accept or reject it.

The trigger for it could be manual — via a promotion code — or automatically based on some rules that you have specified, just like any other promotion.

Make sure you check out its known limitations before use.

Commerce Categories Export and Import

Another highly requested feature: you can now export a CSV of a commerce category, and then import it into another instance.

We introduced commerce categories in Vinson, allowing site administrators to quickly make artificial groups of items on their site. These groups have a landing page, a custom URL, a banner, and can also appear in the site's navigation. They're a great way to make ad hoc groups, for example for sale items, to manage your site's categories without having to get into the ERP sides of things.

So popular were they, that we found that users were using their sandbox accounts to set up and prepare for sales or launches, and then ran into difficulty because there was no easy way to replicate the categories in production. This made those go-lives and flash sales particularly time-consuming as they had to be set up twice.

In Aconcagua, all this data is controllable through files of comma-separated values. Therefore, as long as the data on your sandbox and production environments is the same, it should be a lot easier to move the data between two instances.

Date Effective Content and Landing Pages

On the subject of the site management tools, we have also another improvement that people have been asking for: content scheduling.

Previously, when you wanted to prepare and publish content — like a sales page — you had to be there, at the time you wanted it to go live, to push the button yourself. With this new feature, you can set a time and step away. No more getting up at 3am to launch a sale!

Cross-Subsidiary Fulfillment

Now onto some ERP features that you may useful.

For some larger businesses, there were issues around stock locations. Specifically, if you segmented your business into different subsidiaries, you were unable to fulfill orders from stores or locations that were under different subisidiaries.

Changes in Aconcagua and 18.1 mean that it's now possible to fulfill orders for both shipping and store pickup orders.

Minimum and Maximum Item Quantity

A configurable option on item records has been added so that administrators can set quantity rules on particular items.

Administrators can a set minimum or maximum amount — or both — on the number of items allowed in a shopper's cart at once.

Final Thoughts

As always, there are a number of other small changes in the release as well, so it's worth looking at the release notes.

If you want to take advantage of the release, SuiteCommerce Advanced customers will have to migrate to the new release; SuiteCommerce customers will have their site automatically migrated.

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Congrats to all the Commere team for another succesful (and huge!) release. At awaLabs we are really looking forward to work with the Extensibility APIs and Extension/Theme tools.

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