It doesn’t matter which came first the chicken (your web store) or the egg (your Amazon Seller account) but you need them to work together. Managing them separately is enough to sap all of your time and to drain your profits.
Why You Need an Amazon / Magento Connector
When you sell through multiple channels, the amount of work it takes to execute each aspect of the sales process seems to multiply more than expected. You may think that uploading items to two online sales channels wouldnt be much work or that maintaining inventory counts between the two systems would be easy until you do it.
I like to break down the tasks involved with managing multiple channels into three parts:
1. Setting-up items
To get started, you must upload items to Magento and Amazon. Each has specific rules surrounding how you do that and what information should be included. Its best to have a master list of your items in either a third party application (like a point-of-sale (POS), ERP or accounting system) or to master your items in Magento itself. Item information should be managed out of that single location and then pushed to your online sales channels as necessary. This saves you from making changes in one channel but not another, resulting in inconsistent item information. And trust me there will be shoppers who will call you out on mistakes like that causing you to lose credibility and potential customers.
2. Managing inventory
Once you have items up in all of your stores, its critical that you maintain current inventory levels in each system to avoid stock outs and irate customers. Theres nothing that annoys customers more than finding a product online, only to learn that you are out of stock. Or, worse, placing an order and then receiving an email saying its on backorder. The only way to avoid that disappointment is through constant communication between all of your systems so that each channel has updated inventory levels. It also gives you the intelligence to know that if stock is running low, you can remove a product from your stores until it is replenished.
3. Processing ongoing sales transactions
Once the orders start rolling in, you need to be able to process them without too much manual effort. Ive known companies that have one full-time staff member do nothing but grab orders off the web and re-enter them into their ERP system all day long. Not only is that a waste of that persons talent, its also expensive and unproductive. In fact, due to the high rate of errors associated with data entry, it could cost you even more resources to respond to customer inquiries and correct errors than it would to automate the process. More importantly, errors could result in lost sales and fewer repeat buyers. And dont forget the rest of the order-to-cash process orders are only the tip of the transaction iceberg you also have to manage acknowledgments, payments, invoicing, shipping information, etc.
Key Features of a Good Amazon / Magento Integration Solution
The only way to manage the workload I just described is through integration. When selecting a connector or integration platform to manage the data flow between Amazon and Magneto, its important to recognize that there are vast differences between the solutions available in the marketplace. The most basic connectors will integrate item data and process orders between the two systems, but thats all. These low-cost solutions are extremely limited and often short-term solutions. They are typically ripped out and replaced as business models change or companies grow.
If you want a solution that will provide efficiency, value and the ability to evolve alongside your company, look for these three capabilities.
1. Integration into back-end systems
To avoid manual processes, integration into back-end systems is a must and that capability shouldnt be limited to one solution alone. Support for several popular ERP, POS and accounting systems (like Quickbooks, Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamic RMS) ensures that the integration platform you choose will remain with you even if you add or change back-end systems in the future. With this model, you can keep the connections to all of your sales channels intact which preserves your previous integration efforts and your investment.
Be sure that your integration solution also supports each of the processes described above. Some may limit the types of transactions they support, which it turn limits the benefits you can achieve.
In addition to integration, a management console or portal is a great addition to an integration solution. It acts as your control panel where you can manage all of your channels and consolidate all of your sales data into a single location, regardless of where orders originate.
With the visibility the portal provides, you can view all transactions for each customer in one place to quickly and accurately respond to inquiries. It also allows you to centralize and analyze customer data to enable more targeted marketing programs.
3. Support for multiple channels
Instead of choosing a point-to-point or one-to-one connector, a better option is a many-to-many integration platform. What that means is that you can integrate multiple channels with multiple back-end systems. So, for example, if you have Quickbooks and want to process item, inventory and order information with Magento, Amazon, and eBay, you can do so from one integration platform. Not only does this simplify your IT environment but it also allows you to scale your sales efforts up and down based on your success within each channel. And if new opportunities arise in the future, you are poised to take advantage of them as well.
The Benefits of Integrating Amazon and Magento
Integration is a big word and can be intimidating to many online sellers, but it doesnt have to be difficult. By choosing the right solution, like nChannels multi-channel management platform, you can lower operational costs, increase efficiency and improve customer service with a relatively small investment, especially if you choose a subscription-based solution. Be sure to verify that your provider also offers services to help with the set-up and U.S-based 24/7 support. From that point, ongoing management is pretty straight-forward.