Many sellers don’t realize that operating with disconnected systems can hold your online growth back. You invest in an ERP like Sage and in eCommerce platform like Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento, but are you getting the most out of your systems?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you operating as efficiently as you can?
- How much time do you waste manually moving data between your systems?
- Do you focus more on fixing your data mistakes or creating better customer experiences?
If you don’t’ have satisfactory answers to all those questions, then you’re ready to integrate your Sage ERP system and eCommerce platform. Learn why you need to integrate Sage and how to pick the best integration solution for your business.
Why You Should Integrate Sage ERP and eCommerce Platform
Integrating your Sage ERP with your online storefront pays off for both your customers and operations!
First, what do we mean by integrating your retail systems? Integration maps data flows between your Sage ERP and eCommerce platform so you can automate critical processes like order fulfillment, inventory synchronization, pricing updates, financial reporting, and more. Without integration, you’re stuck with manually entering data from one system to the next.
For example, you might be hand-keying online orders into you ERP to complete fulfillment like creating an invoice, pick, pack & ship, decimate inventory, and more. Once fulfilled, most sellers than hand-key the shipping/tracking info for the online order back into their eCommerce platform.
For just one, critical process, merchants rely on manual processes to move data between their systems. Hand-keying data is slow and prone to errors like entering a shipping address wrong, which can lead to big mistakes like shipments showing up late or never at all!
It’s easy to see that faulty backend processes can cause disastrous customer experiences that erode your brand. Online shoppers want to know inventory levels, delivery dates, and accurate shipping time. By providing these experiences, you can earn the trust of your shoppers and turn them into loyal customers.
Integration of your vital systems is key to smooth processes that lead to better customer experiences. You can avoid overselling online, delivering late, and guarantee shipping times.
How to Choose a Sage ERP to eCommerce Integration Approach
The challenge is that integrating an ERP system to eCommerce platform is tough work. Your Sage ERP wasn’t built to natively integrate to an eCommerce platform whether it’s a popular system like Shopify or a niche B2B platform. For example, how an ERP typically uses product data is fundamentally different than how an eCommerce platform uses it. Each system stores data in different fields and formats and might use data in different ways.
While integration helps overcome the differences, by mapping data flows between systems, it’s not always an easy project. Your integration solution must understand how each system is set up and then automate data movement according to your business requirements.
When done correctly, integration projects have a large impact on your business. You can save money and time, while improving how customers interact with your brand. So, it’s important to pick an integration solution that works well for your needs.
When comparing integration providers, consider the following:
- API availability – Do the systems you need to connect have open API’s or are they on-premise software? This affects how easy it is connect your systems and limitations of your integration. In general, it’s easier to connect systems with open and well-documented APIs.
- Data volume – What’s the volume of data do you need to sync? Do you need to sync a few orders or a product catalog with thousands of items?
- Customer type – Do you sell B2C, B2B, B2G (business to government) or all three? Your customer type can affect the complexity of your integration. B2B sellers tend to have more complex needs.
- Customizations – Do you have proprietary (unique to you) requirements that will require custom solutions?
- Technical Resources – Do you have internal or external technical resources to help with the project like an IT person, Sage implementer or web agency? If you’re on your own, you’ll have to rely more on your integration provider throughout the project.
- Budget – What can you invest in this project at this time?
- Vendor experience – Does the vendor have experience integrating your systems? If so, they might be familiar with “gotchas” or system limitations that can make integration projects challenging.
No two businesses are the same, neither are integration solutions. Consider upfront all the unique requirements you have. It’s always easier (and less expensive) to invest in the right solution now instead of fixing the wrong one later.
How to Integrate Sage ERP with an eCommerce Platform
We’ll compare two main ways to connect your Sage ERP with your eCommerce platform:
- Custom-built or hardcoded integration
- Pre-built (or iPaaS) integration solutions
Custom-built ERP to eCommerce Integration Solutions
In some cases, merchants or their partners (like an ERP vendor or web agency) opt to build a custom integration between Sage and an eCommerce platform. Custom integrations leverage APIs available for the system or use SFTP flat-file (CSV, XML, etc) integration to connect the systems. In this case, ‘custom’ means that you’re writing a one-off custom code solution that ties your systems directly together. The solution only works for your systems and your requirements.
Custom integration takes serious technical knowledge of both Sage and your eCommerce platform to understand how each system sends and reads data. It’s not something you want a in-house resource or partner learning on the job.
There are few scenarios where custom integration projects make sense. For example, if you’ve added custom or proprietary (unique to you) changes to Sage to help with SKU management or order fulfillment logic, it could require custom code to access these data fields or processes.
However, most sellers don’t have truly unique requirements to justify the cost and maintenance of custom integration projects. Instead, custom integration solutions can introduce more risk to your balance.
For example, a single person is usually responsible for building and maintaining the code for your integration. What happens when that person goes on vacation and you have no idea why your online orders aren’t syncing correctly to your ERP? How accountable is that single person to stay up to date on any system updates that could break your integration?
Overall, custom integration projects can also vary in price tags. On one hand, the solution could be affordable because the solution only covers the basics. On the other hand, a vendor could quote you $20,000 to $30,000 because they’re building everything from scratch.
The bottom line is that there are cases where custom integration makes sense due to proprietary requirements. However, most of the time, custom integration isn’t warranted and will box you into a solution you can quickly outgrow.
Pre-built (or iPaaS) ERP to eCommerce Integration Solutions
A more modern way to connect your Sage ERP and eCommerce systems is to turn to a pre-built integration solution from an iPaaS (integration platform as a service) vendor. iPaaS vendors offer cloud-based platforms with pre-built connectors for your Sage ERP and eCommerce system. These pre-built connectors are often written without code so sellers aren’t taking the risk of hardcoded, or custom written integration.
Pre-built connectors leverage out-of-the-box functionality for faster implementations. Connectors are also configurable, meaning they can be customized or changed to accommodate your business needs. Sellers can define business rules for how data should move between their systems.
For example, merchants can define rules of how to fulfill a single order using different fulfillment locations for each line item on the order based on cost or warehouse location. Processes like these happen automatically as you process orders.
Another main advantage of iPaaS, or pre-built solutions is that the vendor hosts and maintains your integrations over time. You can rely on them to continue to update their software so your integration continues to work over time.
Lastly, iPaaS vendor’s core competency is integration. Most software vendors have in-depth experience with connecting Sage ERP systems with eCommerce platforms. They’ll have extensive knowledge on best practices to ensure your data runs smoothly between your systems.
Pricing for these platforms usually entails a monthly subscription (for web access to the software) and a one-time onboarding (or implementation) fee to cover set up costs of your pre-built connectors. Monthly subscription rates can vary from $100 to $1,500 / month depending on the robustness of the connectors and the complexity of your integration project.
What Sage ERP Integration Approach We Recommend
What integration is better? It comes down to what your business needs are and what provides the best experience for your customers. Unless you have truly unique requirements, then an iPaaS vendor should be the best way to connect your Sage ERP with an eCommerce platform. You’ll be able to leverage pre-built connectors to save you time implementing and money in the long-run.
If you think you’re ready, check out our pre-built Sage ERP connector and how we can connect your ERP to your needed eCommerce platform.