A recent eMarketer report forecasts global retail eCommerce sales to reach $4 trillion by 2020, making up 14.6% of total retail spending that year. That’s a staggering number. As consumers continue to shop online more frequently, retailers are looking to cash in on eCommerce sales.
However, as your eCommerce sales grow, it becomes harder to manage the volume. Growing merchants probably use other systems along with their eCommerce platform to manage their processes.
Are your current systems integrated? If they’re not, check out why your business may be ready for integration and how to do it.
What is eCommerce Integration?
eCommerce integration is when a merchant connects their eCommerce site to their other online sales channels and back-end systems like an ERP or POS system. Integrating your systems allows for the bidirectional flow of information, or data between these systems.
Integration eliminates the need to enter the same information into each system individually. Instead, data flows automatically into one system, allowing for data to be entered only once into the designated system.
For example, a merchant might keep track of how much inventory they have of each product in their ERP system. When they sell an item online, they must adjust the inventory count. Without integration, they must change the inventory counts in both systems to reflect the correct numbers. With integration, inventory counts would automatically change across both systems after the sale.
eCommerce integration can improve many of your business processes, but it can be hard to tell when you need it.
Signs That You Need eCommerce Integration
If any of these issues sound all too familiar, you’re most likely ready to integrate your eCommerce platform.
Are you having trouble keeping up with current sales volumes? Without integration, increased sales can be daunting for a merchant. Dealing with more orders can mean more hours hunched over a keyboard hand-keying data across your systems.
One key indicator that you’re ready for eCommerce integration is that you have whole teams spending most of their time manually moving data between systems. We’ve come across a company who referred to employees as “data ninjas” who worked solely on entering product information from their ERP into their eCommerce site.
Your team shouldn’t spend hours hand-keying the same data from one system to another, whether it be eCommerce orders, inventory counts, or product information updates.
If you rely on manually moving data, your business is probably more prone to human mistakes too. When the same data is re-entered again and again, it’s liable to mistakes. One slip can lead to wrong inventory counts, shipping addresses spelled incorrectly, and inconsistent product information.
How often does a small mistake like this cause a big problem for your company? If it happens often, it’s time to consider integration.
Also, consider that these problems do not just affect your team internally. Slow, error-prone manual process can also cause your customer experience to suffer. When inventory isn’t updated fast enough, you can oversell. Wrong shipping addresses leads to late deliveries and frustrated customers.
Your customer experience is at stake here. Luckily, eCommerce integration fixes these problems.
Benefits of eCommerce Integration
When integrating your website to your other online sales channels and back-end systems, you gain these benefits.
- Eliminate manual entry of order, inventory, item, customer, and shipping data. This saves you time and reduces human errors.
- Sync inventory levels to ensure you don’t oversell by providing accurate inventory levels across all your sales channels.
- Automatically notify customers when orders have shipped. Customers can then track the delivery of their products.
- Quickly make updates to data, such as pricing changes and product information updates in one system.
- Easily add more sales channels, such as marketplaces, without losing operational efficiency.
- Readily handle an increase in orders without needing to add more resources.
While integration improves your operational efficiencies, it’s not just your team that gains more. Your customers will also gain a better experience. Automating your business processes through integration allows you to improve these areas of your customer experience:
- Display accurate, consistent product information across online sales channels.
- Provide accurate inventory counts to notify a customer that a product is in-stock and when it can ship.
- Allow customers to track the delivery of their products.
- Customers have confidence that you can deliver their products when you say you will.
- Handle returns with ease and efficiency.
The benefits of eCommerce integration speak for themselves. But, implementing an eCommerce integration solution takes time and investment. Next, learn how to integrate your systems the right way.
How to Integrate Your eCommerce Business
Merchants sometimes overlook the need for eCommerce integration because of its cost or the fear of disrupting their business. We admit that integrating a retailer’s system is tough. Integration requires making two systems work together that weren’t built to work together.
eCommerce integration stories can often sound horrific. Projects take way too long, costs go way over, and by the end, the integration still doesn’t work like it should. Not all integration projects have to be like that though.
To avoid these type of issues, merchants needs to choose the right systems and solution to integrate them. At nChannel, that’s what we do. We integrate online sales channels with backend systems, so we have a good idea of how to ensure an eCommerce integration goes right for a business.
Choosing the Right Systems to Integration
Before you even think about integrating your eCommerce platform, you need to consider if you’re using the right systems. Some systems are better equipped for multichannel selling and integration than others. If you’re serious about improving your processes, you must evaluate your current systems first.
Learning how to evaluate and choose the right systems for your business is worthy of an entire guide on its own. So, that’s what we did. Download this guide to help you compare different eCommerce, POS, and ERP systems for multichannel integration.
Does this mean that you could have to upgrade to a new eCommerce platform? Yes, it does. Check out why you might want to, and why migration doesn’t have to be that scary.
Before integrating, you want to ensure you’re using the right endpoint systems. An integration won’t be as valuable if it’s hindered by the capabilities of your current systems.
Once you have the right systems in place, then you can focus on choosing the right eCommerce integration solution.
Choosing the Right eCommerce Integration Solution
Merchants have a wide range of technology to choose from when it comes to integration. Some of the more common integration solutions you’ll run into are “point to point”, multichannel management platforms, and custom developed solutions. Your budget, unique business needs, and plans for growth will dictate which type of solution is best for you.
Here’s a quick overview of each one:
Point-to-point solutions are commonly offered in eCommerce App Stores and are more affordable. For this type of integration, your eCommerce platform is “pointed at” your back-end systems to sync data. There’s no operational hub in the middle of your systems. Instead, you choose which of your current systems will be the central location you work out of.
These solutions can be a good place to start at, but often limit you in how big you can grow. Adding sales channels and more complex capabilities quickly makes things messy. You’ll have to configure your solution each time you change the integration.
Multichannel Management Platform
A multichannel management platform (which is what nChannel is) is usually a cloud-based platform that sits as an operational hub between your current systems. Ideally, pre-built connectors sync data back and forth between your systems. The operational hub allows you to configure your integration based on your specific needs and can make changes to your data as it is synced.
These solutions usually have a higher price tag, but can still be affordable. Just be sure to watch out for vendors who charge based on your sales volume.
Custom eCommerce Integration
It’s always an option to build your own integration between your eCommerce platform and any back-end systems. This route requires complex development and deep understanding of your current systems. It’s usually very expensive. Companies with their own IT departments and who want complete control decide to build a custom integration.
Every retail business is different. Your unique needs will determine which solution is best for you. Learn more about eCommerce integration by checking out these other articles: