At the SuiteWorld conference in San Francisco this morning, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson has announced the launch of a new cloud commerce service that will let its business customers manage transactions and interactions easily across all devices and platforms.

Nelson says the new platform, called SuiteCommerce, represents the next evolution of commerce. A website alone is no longer enough to manage transactions, he says, because people today want to use multiple touchpoints – such as smartphones, social media sites, and in-store devices – to interact with businesses. “You can’t really anticipate the channels anymore,” he says.

NetSuite, a leader in cloud-based service software for business management, has spent the last 18 months developing the service, which has involved decoupling frontend and backend technology so interfaces work seamlessly and consistently regardless of how they’re accessed. It is likely to bring NetSuite’s core market of medium-sized businesses quickly up to speed with an era in which multiple devices and platforms are proliferating and adding complexity to ecommerce.

Nelson says SuiteCommerce is at the heart of a shift from focusing on how NetSuite’s customers operate their businesses internally to how businesses operate with other businesses and customers through “Commerce as a Service.”

SuiteCommerce lets businesses manage their various digital presences through an integrated content management system, and its open-API nature allows developers and partners to create new applications on the platform. Square, Stripe, Acquia, GoDataFeed, MyBuys, Shortfarm, Velaro, and Bazaarvoice have all announced new product offerings for SuiteCommerce.

Square, for example, will let NetSuite customers pair its iPad application Register with SuiteCommerce, allowing businesses to manage payments, financial data, and customer relationship management via the cloud. Meanwhile, Girl Scouts of the USA is using SuiteCommerce for its newly launched ecommerce website.

Nelson also announced an alliance of creative digital agencies called the NetSuite Agency Program, which will help businesses take advantage of SuiteCommerce from a design perspective. Charter members include Fluid, LiveAreaLabs, Pod1, and Sweden Unlimited.

Forrester analyst Brian Walker says SuiteCommerce is a significant strategic move and investment for NetSuite to allow its customers increased flexibility and agility in ecommerce. “This is not necessarily going to be differentiating over the long term,” Walker says, “but NetSuite is among the first movers in moving their solutions in this direction.”

Competitors such as Demandware, Hybris, Shop Visible, and Elastic Path are making similar moves, Walker says, but NetSuite is a frontrunner in its competitive set. On the other hand, the $3 billion company is playing catch-up in the wider ecommerce market. As a commerce platform, Walker says, NetSuite has lagged behind more nimble competitors, including smaller players such as Shopify and Magento.

“This is a trend that we’ll continue to see other offerings move toward, and whether they call it Commerce as a Service or whether they’re enabling APIs, we’ll continue to see this trend moving forward,” says Walker.