Best Of Breed vs Best Of Suite - How Pimcore is used best
Two approaches and the comparison which from our point of view represents the so-called sweet spot for the digitization of medium-sized companies
Pimcore is a platform solution with the core task of managing data structures. In a layer above, functionalities are modular and bundled as applications such as PIM or DXP or offered as a development framework for e-commerce. Consequently, it can be used both in an IT architecture made up of specialized individual components (best of breed) and in a scenario in which Pimcore maps all required process activities in an integrated system (best of suite).
Which of the two strategies is ideal naturally remains an evaluation of the particular case, in which some aspects must be considered. And yet we see promising potential in the integration approach, especially for medium-sized companies. To prepare for this assessment, we use a fictitious example with requirements often found in our project practice.
Fictitious requirements profile of a shoe brand
Let's think up a producer from the fashion segment, more precisely from the shoe sector, who supplies dealers and purchasing associations on the B2B side but has also been selling directly to end customers via e-commerce for several years. Our manufacturer has divided its product range into two brands. One brand has a lifestyle focus, and a second serves the demand for work and safety shoes.
From the IT perspective, the goal should be to create a platform that combines e-commerce and CMS. The marketing department has the requirement to enhance the shopping experience with appropriate content and storytelling around it. One speaks of content commerce when the content leads the user - an example could be narrative elements of a campaign for a particular shoe trend in urban areas with the purchasing functionality embedded in it.
Our fictional company operates internationally. Thus, in addition to multilingualism, we need country-specific sub shops with individual prices, availability, and local content. Two warehouses should be connected to both brands.
To briefly touch on the topic of expandability, we would like to test future business models in our case. The provider is thinking of a subscription model for shoes or a form of leasing in B2B sales.
So far, the description of the initial situation for other architectural decisions.
Opportunities and risks with the best of breed variant
Let's take a quick look at which systems are required. Since we are assuming an existing ERP, the components content management (CMS) and e-commerce are mandatory, and product information management (PIM) would be optional but useful. A system for handling customer data, including its segmentation, which, e.g., enables personalization within the application, would almost be a luxury in the first step.
If you select Pimcore for only one of the required individual tasks, several scenarios would be conceivable. The two most sensible models are certainly:
- Pimcore as PIM-only with shop software that also acts as CMS
- Pimcore as CMS and a headless shop, with this approach, Pimcore can also manage the product data as PIM at the same time
In any case, a clear advantage of a shop software with basic functionality is the short time-to-market. Such a system can be set up within a short period and expanded with existing plug-ins; a B2B version with corresponding functions may already exist.
If you look at the disadvantages, you quickly come across the challenges that two or more systems naturally bring. If you introduce new features, they usually have to be implemented in every software, or the exchange between the systems has to be adapted. The additional technical effort also affects the maintenance and updates of the applications used. In general, expandability is a limitation if you have opted for a finished system and not for a developer framework. The former can only be expanded by using plug-in structures and changing the core that must be enjoyed with great care. The consequence is dependencies in the update capability.
The integration of systems with global shopping carts, comprehensive search functions, and seamless merging of product content remains technically (and not least on the performance side) challenging.
For operators and especially editors, in most cases, several backends have to be handled, and finally, the aspect of multiple license costs has to be taken into account
Opportunities and risks of the best of suite approach
The main difference in this type of architecture is based on the fact that all data and assets are stored and operated centrally by the Pimcore platform concept. The functional level accesses it globally, which means there are no redundancies in data management. To illustrate this with an example, let's think back to our shoe case. If a model is revised in its design and then has a different shaft height, both this parameter and the product image are replaced in a single place of structured data. Simultaneously, all functions such as the output in the CMS, in the shop, and every other conceivable channel access the new values.
Linking product master data and content is also much easier, thanks to the platform approach. Either marketing texts are already part of the product data set in a structured form, or the data model is set up to map the product and content. There are only a few limits to the design freedom for rule-based assignment at this point.
The possibility of a high degree of customization also lies in the e-commerce part of Pimcore. In contrast to a standard shop system, the framework offers the flexibility to map almost every business transaction and not be tied to any checkout restrictions, e.g., or similar operations.
There is only one central backend for all operators in the company. To not make this unnecessarily complicated due to many components, different roles can configure separate views. In this way, only the core tasks and relevant areas of the data structures remain visible. Another pro in user-friendliness is the possibility of inline editing, i.e., editing content in the front end, preferably inner the CMS.
Finally, we highlight another advantage that is ultimately a result of the decoupled data layer. With relatively simple means, personalization can be implemented on websites, shops, and portals such as those often found in B2B. A combined order and service portal for our affiliated dealers could be a corresponding use case. Since you can react to behavior based on rules and customer data is integrated, it is easy to provide content for specific target groups - for known users and anonymous visitors. Users who browse in the women's shoes area will not be presented with a men's campaign when returning to the homepage.
Similarly, the B2B portal can show product suggestions according to our previously defined retailer segment. Such personalization and suggestion functions are usually complex to implement in third-party systems and often fall victim to the cost-benefit analysis. As a result, even simple personalization concepts are still rarely found on the web. The Pimcore integration solution can provide a relatively uncomplicated remedy here.
It would not be an honest comparison if we ignored the disadvantages of this approach. In any case, the first project phase is more complex, as out-of-the-box components can hardly be used, and lots of basic work has to be done. This applies to the data model as well as the CMS templating and e-commerce functionalities. A quick start with a shop as an MVP approach is impossible with as little effort as standard software. At the same time, however, the basis is an incomparably long-term one. Every application in the future will build on the solidly developed data structure.
Admittedly, with Best of Suite, you make yourself dependent to a large extent on a software vendor - naturally, the period to which this represents a risk depends on the partner. Those risks are irrelevant in the case of Pimcore as it's open source. Besides, the software is based on a leading technology stack. To use Pimcore, you need know-how in Symfony. Since this also represents the industry standard and the partner structure of Pimcore with certified developers is not insignificant, this aspect is also put into perspective.
As an independent agency and consultants with the promise to consider an individual business in a technology-neutral manner, we stick to our position of always examining both architectural approaches with their advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, we like the central idea of a "data platform" very much. Core requirements in many transformation projects are mostly similar, which allows our following judgment: The integration solution can become an enormous driver in digitization, especially in medium-sized companies. We see the combination of lower total costs for projects and their maintenance combined with expandability. Thus, future security is a fascinating intersection - in competitive sports, this would be called the "sweet spot."
Arrabiata, the digital agency for medium-sized companies from Munich
Arrabiata is not a pasta sauce, but indeed the possibly essential component for a successful product in the big buffet area of digitization.
As a full-service digital agency from Munich, we stand for a well-balanced combination of UX / UI solutions, technical development expertise (such as Pimcore), and a farsighted strategy for all web project kinds. Our team of 45 specialists generates and implements digital solutions both for medium-sized companies and corporate groups. Our focus is in the field of commerce, communication, and learning.
Further Pimcore content
We offer more input on the structure and use of Pimcore in our current video training on LinkedIn Learning. The online course "Pimcore: A First Look" (only available in German) provides an overview in 3 subject blocks:
- Pimcore at a glance
- Manage data with Pimcore
- Content management and e-commerce with Pimcore
Furthermore, the topics Digital Experience Platform (DXP) and data management are dealt with in more detail in two one-hour online seminars. Recordings are available on the Arrabiata website.
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