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New features for RBS Change 3.5

In our white paper on Open Source e-commerce solutions, we explained how RBS Change can be a real asset combining CMS and e-commerce. On 15 July, the Strasbourg based vendor released version 3.5 of its solution, which merits our close attention.

Click here to visit the RBS Change website.

After a version 3.0 that focused primarily on enhancing its e-commerce modules, the new 3.5 takes another step forward, not only on the e-commerce side but also in terms of new CMS functionalities which are, it must be said, mostly available for a price (marked with a ‘p’), but whose low cost is easily offset by the resulting added value.

  • Catalogue

Merchants offer products that often have a variety of characteristics: they may come in different sizes or colours or with different options, etc. – a real headache when trying to establish a listing for these variations.

To give a concrete example: a merchant sells 1000 handbags and 20 models of trousers with 5 colour options per trousers. The merchant then wants to present all the handbags in its product lists and, to balance the listings, the 100 trouser possibilities (20x5), while leaving the user the possibility of selecting another available colour from within the trouser information sheet. RBS Change covers this scenario by making it possible to display one or more product dimensions as the product information sheet, in this example, the ‘colour’ dimension. If the merchant decides to only display the 20 trousers, the colour dimension will not be displayed.

  • Returns management (p)

This functionality allows the client to issue return requests from the front office, specify the reason for the return and track request processing and, in the back office, to issue credit memos (valid on the site / portfolio) and to close out a credit (through a refund to the debit card or by cheque, for example). The processing workflow is configurable and very wide-ranging:

- NATA (not at this address) returns may, for example, lead to BO re-entry of an address, payment of additional shipping fees for redispatch, etc.;

- another common return reason, ‘changed my mind’, can lead to product return, BO verification and reimbursement of the goods but not of the shipping and/or return costs.

  • Multi-shop & private sales (p)

This is not a new feature, but we would like to highlight the fact that RBS Change can handle multiple shops, such as mini-sites for specific events and separate shops by country. Private sales are included in the new version 3.5, with a leading brand already using the module: the ‘VIP sales’ website Achat VIP.

Mini-sites for private sales enjoy a tree structure for each sale and special terms of sale (product pricing, shopping carts, etc.). Thus a product from the permanent catalogue can be offered alongside a private sale item.

Access to these sales can be limited based on user group, user or be by invitation only. The system can even handle reminder e-mailshots announcing the imminent start of a sale.

  • Stock (p)

Ahead of the curve compared with other open source products, RBS Change can manage multi-depot stock: stock reservations, assignment of stock to a shop (for example to limit private sales to a specific stock) and even stock picking rules, moves and reporting. This provides a functional level similar to that of an ERP.

  • Flash sales (p)

These offers are different from private sales: they are open to all web users. The creation of this type of sale is simplified by establishing rules for targeting products, automatically applying a discount to them (% or € value) and defining start and end dates and times.

  • Shipping fees

Defining a strategy for calculating these fees in the back office provides the possibility of easily setting price thresholds based on a number of order parameters: weight, size, gift wrap, etc.

  • Customer support (p)

The spearhead of e-commerce, customer relations requires easy to use, effective support. RBS Change understands this and so offers a ‘call centre’ in the form of a separate, dedicated extranet.

Users can submit a support ticket from their account page, which will then be assigned to a customer service representative. The CSR will see the tickets and tasks assigned to him/her at log-on and can then access the customer’s technical information (browser, cookies configuration, javascript, etc.) to easily resolve any technical problems. Both sides of the discussion are then archived. This basic workflow is completely adaptable (escalation of tickets at N+1 if no response within 24 hours, etc.). The quality of customer service is measured using indicators such as the number of tickets opened/closed, average handling time, etc., all of which are measured by RBS Change in the back office.

  • CMS

By applying e-commerce concepts (such as cross-selling) to CMS content, the promotion of certain content can be automated based on defined ‘criteria’. The lack of multiple positioning of CMS publications is a shortcoming that has now been overcome: the same content can be published on different sites, making it possible in particular to develop mobile sites that incorporate a portion of the main site’s content.

  • Web services

Web services are improved, namely with regard to access rights, which can now be configured by module. WSDL and JSon standards have been implemented and can even be tested directly from a back office interface.
And RBS Change has no intention of stopping there. The roadmap is dense and, in our opinion, completely in alignment with current e-commerce practices:

- multi-channel capability: integration of a directory of physical shops, possibility of in-shop collection, interaction with the shops via the site’s content and assignment of customers to a shop;
- mobile applications;
- testing: additional work on unit (PHPUnit) and functional (Selenium) test cover;
- user documentation, and a complete overhaul of the technical documentation.

The solution’s functional and technical depth has not however propelled RBS Change to the number one spot for open source e-commerce applications: the community’s size is still too modest and solely French (http://www.rbschange.fr/forums,362/) and its number of references is limited (although of high quality – http://www.rbschange.fr/showcase,32503/).

The vendor’s business model seems reasonable: a single, 100% free open source version with additional modules available for a fee, packaged at €7995 (a non-recurring cost independent of the server infrastructure, see http://www.rbschange.fr/extensions/extensions-payantes-cms-open-source/).
I would like to take advantage of this post to share Product Manager Franck Stauffer’s invitation to explore this software in greater depth at the E-commerce Tradeshow, 13-15 September 2011, at the black RBS Change stand and, of course, at the Smile stand as well.

Florent Sabourin
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