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Announcement: Elbrus Release

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

Note that at the time of writing, it has not yet been released. It is due in a couple of weeks.

Elbrus contains numerous items of new functionality, improvements to existing functionality, new customization options, improved extensibility, and even some wholesale refactoring. I think this release has a bit of something for everyone, so let's take a look at just some of the things I think you'll like.

New Features

The new stuff that'll add functionality to the site.

Pickup In Store

Also known as 'click and collect', this lets shoppers buy something online and, enschewing shipping and delivery, pick it up at a store instead. This has numerous benefits for both shopper and seller:

  • Time saving — the shopper no longer has to wait for the warehouse to process, package and ship the order, nor do they have to wait for their chosen courier to deliver it
  • Money saving — the shopper (or the seller) no longer has to pay the charges for shipping
  • Re-engagement — the shopper must come to one of your retail locations to pick up the item, this gets more people into your store (and gives you a chance to re-engage with them)

Technically speaking, this functionality designates retail locations as fulfilment centers. In other words, rather than relying on the stock in your warehouses (fulfilment centers), you use stock at your retail (satellite) locations.

Personally, I consider this a remarkable development for SuiteCommerce Advanced and the NetSuite platform: it's now possible for shoppers to access real-time data about your inventory at specific locations.

For shoppers, they can get that instant gratification of finding what they want online and then heading down to your store and getting it the same day. It can also prevent abortive visits where a shopper visits a store to see if something is in stock, only to leave empty handed. The customer buys online and knows it'll be there when they get there.

One final thing about this, which is cool, is that it's available throughout the entire shopper journey: from PDP to finalizing the order. The fact that a shopper can choose shipping on the PDP and then change their mind any time up to placing the order is pretty remarkable.

Quantity Pricing

One for the B2B folk, this.

You'll likely offer a discount to customers who buy large quantities of a particular item from you. You'll also likely offer banded prices, incentivizing greater quantities with the implicit mantra of "the more you buy, the more you save".

Now, with Elbrus, you can offer these discounts on the frontend automatically.

After configuring your site and products for this feature, a chart can be shown with the banded prices. However, the information isn't simply static: a neat UX feature included in this is the dynamic feedback. As the shopper increases the quantity, the displayed price visually decreases.

I like this small touch: it gives live information about the shopper's choice.

The whole thing — from the chart to the live price information — is powered by JSON from the search API so the data is clear and easy to manipulate. It's also available throughout the the site: quick view, cart, re-order items and others.

Secure Shopping Domain

As you know, we use security certificates to encrypt the shopper's connection to NetSuite when they use the account and checkout domains: this is important as they're sending confidential information and we need to keep it that way. Now, in Elbrus, we've added the same levels of protection to the shopping application.

So you may be thinking why it's necessary to do this for the shopping domain. Well, the truth is that it isn't; you don't have to do this. But one of the side-effects of offering conspicuous security is customer confidence: shoppers like to see that you take it seriously, and offering it throughout the entire site is a way to build that confidence. Seeing the familiar padlock as soon as they visit your site can reassure shoppers, encouraging them to stay a while.

A secondary benefit to a secure shopping site is SEO. A few years ago, Google said that they would start using HTTPS as a ranking signal — if your site's secure, then they're going to give a (small) boost to your ranking. Now I know how much some of you care about your SEO, so this alone might be a good enough reason for y'all to get on this.

SuitePromotions

This is a platform feature, but it's worth mentioning here because Elbrus is the first SCA release to support it.

One crucial improvement has been to enable you, the merchandiser, to decide what promotions can be 'stacked' with each other. It's not uncommon for retailers to offer multiple promotions on their sites, nor is it uncommon for them to overlap. Some savvy shoppers go out of their ways to find the best promotions to get the biggest discount they can. Now you have complete control over this.

Created an exclusive promotion that heavily discounts an item, one so generous that you don't want any more discounts made to it? Set it up to be non-stackable. Have a number of smaller promotions, maybe related to discounted shipping? Allow them to be applied on the same order and let your shoppers enjoy the discounts. With SuitePromotions you can control this.

Another cool thing about it is that when multiple promotions have been applied, but some are exclusive, the ones that offer the most discount is automatically preferred. Now there'll be no frustration from your customers when they try to get the discounts they're entitled to.

Improvements and Re-Architectures

Not everything is entirely new — sometimes we take what we've got and make it better.

Custom Field Support

You'll know by now that one of the things we're most proud about in SCA is its extensibility. We want you to have the flexibility to introduce your own changes quickly and easily. This is one of those improvements that will aid you in doing that.

In terms of SCA, custom fields are extra chunks of data that you can attach to items and transactions. What we've done is added in some functionality so that when you add a custom field in the backend, it is automatically pulled in when the record it's attached to is called. Then, all you need to do is modify the template to display it. You don't need to modify the view.

This works in specific circumstances related to items and transactional fields on product detail, checkout and account page. So say, for example, you need to capture a customization request from a shopper regarding an item they're buying. You add the field to the item record in the backend, and then all you need to do is modify the templates to include the associated labels and inputs. They carry standardized names so they're easy to implement.

As a side note, we've also added a new custom Handlebars helper called ifEquals that enables you to do an equality check on a value. For a custom field value, it'll look like this:

{{#ifEquals model.options.custbody_my_transaction_body_field_2 'T'}}
  This is true
{{else}}
  This is false
{{/ifEquals}}

Now, I know what you're thinking: "But Steve, it's meant to be logicless templating". Yes, we know. You don't have to use it, and we're not going to start rewriting all of our templates to use it. Instead, we added it to accommodate this functionality. I can't say for sure but I don't think this is a slide down a slippery slope towards logicful (?) templating. It's just handy little helper.

Product Details Page Re-Architecture

I don't know about you, but I always had trouble getting PDPs right. To be fair, there's a lot of stuff that goes into making a PDP and I think that's some our commerce team appreciated and wanted to make easier. Accordingly, Elbrus features a re-engineered PDP or, perhaps more specifically, we have re-engineered the underlying modules that make up the PDP.

Our release notes list the improvements, and we also have a special page set up describing the new architecture, which are worth looking at for learning about the big changes.

Let me, however, show you a couple of small things we've done that I really like.

Firstly, we've improved the perceived performance of the page. One thing that always annoyed me about the PDP was flickering when you'd swap images on matrix items, now it's a smoother transition while we wait for the new image to load.

The second one I like is that we use persistent thumbnails throughout the checkout journey. Let's say I add one orange shirt and one blue shirt to my cart. In the past, the minicart, cart and any checkout pages would show whatever the default image is. Now, in Elbrus, the image relevant for the selection is shown; that is, the orange thumbnail is shown for the orange shirt and the blue thumbnail is shown for the blue shirt.

I like small little delights and hopefully your customers do too.

Increased Image Option IDs

After speaking about the improved way we serve product imagery, I would be remiss if I didn't now tell you that we've changed the way you can associate images with image options.

Previously the association was always a 1:1 link between a primary attribute (usually color) and an image. So that orange shirt you selected? That changes color when you make another color selection.

Now we've enhanced this so that you can add in as many combinations as you like. Perhaps you don't sell clothes. Perhaps your business is all about awesome furniture. Perhaps in addition to the material type, you also offer differences in height or width: now you can add in extra images for those configurations.

All Views are now Composite Views

Composite views have come up a few times in tutorials that I've written on this site. And, in each of them, we've had to go through the process of adapting a view so that it supports child views. In Elbrus, that's all changed as we've now made them all composite views (even their children).

This should make things easier and quicker when developing new modules and extending old ones.

Notice: IE8 is No Longer Supported

Finally, just a note (a reminder) that with Elbrus, we are no longer supporting Internet Explorer 8. I first mentioned this in an article on browser testing and support.

Sites won't suddenly break on IE8, this just means that we are no longer using libraries that are compatible with it; therefore, IE8 users will experience unexpected behaviours and may experience difficulty placing orders. If your site isn't built using Elbrus source code, then it won't be affected.

Dropping support for older browsers becomes necessary as we modernize the underlying code and choose to adopt libraries and coding standards that will significantly benefit users of newer browsers. While we make efforts to bring older browser users along with us, there inevitably comes a point where this is no longer feasible.

Final Thoughts

The things I have mentioned here are my highlights from the release: I emplore you to take a look at the release notes and the supporting documentation: all major new features and changes have additional docs, going into more details about them.

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