(This post was last published on on October 27th, 2017. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Many Shopify merchants don’t realize that operating with siloed software systems is holding their online business back. While having an ERP like NetSuite is an important investment in your operations, so is integrating it with Shopify and Shopify Plus. Without integration, your NetSuite implementation is likely costing you more than you realize.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you operating as efficiently as you can?
- Are you able to focus on your customer and selling instead of bookkeeping?
- How much data do you manually enter between Shopify/Shopify Plus and NetSuite?
If you don’t have a satisfactory answer to all three of those questions, it’s time to look at integrating Shopify and NetSuite.
This post discusses why you need to integrate Shopify and NetSuite and how to pick an integration approach that’s best for you.
Why You Should Integrate Shopify and NetSuite
Integration between Shopify and NetSuite payoffs for both your customers and operations.
What do we mean by integration? System integration maps data flows between Shopify and NetSuite so you can automate processes such as order fulfillment, inventory count updates, pricing updates, financial reporting and much more. Automation eliminates the need for manual data entry between your systems, which reduces data processing time and costly mistakes like entering the wrong shipping address.
When integration saves your time and money, you can focus on what really matters – your customers.
Your customers experience the difference when your backend processes run smoothly. You’ll be able to deliver a consistent customer experience online like displaying accurate inventory levels to avoid overselling, meeting guaranteed delivery dates, shipping the right products, and more. By doing these things, you’ll earn the trust of your customers.
Your customers will show their appreciation by buying from you again and again. Integration is a win-win situation for everyone. Well, everyone except for your competition who’s still trying (and suffering) from managing Netsuite and Shopfiy/Shopify Plus as separate systems within their business.
How to Choose a Shopify to NetSuite Integration Approach
System integration between Shopify and NetSuite is challenging work. It’s not an easy feat to automate data flows between two systems that aren’t meant to “talk” to each other. For example, how NetSuite uses product data is fundamentally different than how Shopify uses it. Each system stores data in different fields and format. The goal of integration is wire up a connection that overcomes those differences between systems – according to your business requirements.
You can see where integration projects can quickly turn into disasters. Poorly scoped integration projects or faulty software that doesn’t work can drain your time and money without ever turning into a solution that works.
While we made integration projects seem dire, you shouldn’t fear them! We believe that as long as you do the work to pick the right integration approach upfront, you’ll avoid problems that ruin your project.
To start, here’s what to consider when comparing Shopify to NetSuite integration approaches:
- Customizations: How complex are your integration requirements? Do you have propriety (unique to you) requirements that will require custom solutions?
- Data Volume: What’s your business’s growth forecast? Will you need a solution that scales with your growing volume of orders, customers, products, etc?
- Customers: Do you sell B2C, B2B, B2G (business to government) or all three?
- Supplier Integration: Do you work with a network of suppliers that require order splitting and complex order fulfillment workflows?
- Technical Resources: Do you have internal or external technical resources to help with the project like an IT person or a NetSuite implementer? Are you on your own?
- Budget:What can you afford relative to what your investment will return?
No two businesses are exactly the same. Consider upfront all the unique needs you have. It’s always easier (and less expensive) to invest the time to buy the right solution now than to fix the wrong one later.
How to Integrate Shopify and Netsuite
There are three options for integrating Shopify and NetSuite:
- Point-to-point integration
- Custom-built integration
- SaaS-based middleware integration platform
Some vendors (like most of those found in the Shopify App Store) offer point-to-point solutions. For this type of solution, your Shopify and NetSuite systems are “pointed” at each other to synchronize data like inventory, orders, products, and customers.
With point-to-point integration, there’s no operational hub between your systems. Sellers must choose which system to “master” or manage each data type in. Data is sent “as is” between systems. You’ll get a true “out of the box” solution that limits functionality to the basics like only sending orders back and forth between your systems. Beware these solutions are usually syncing data in batches, meaning every hour or even once or twice a day.
These very affordable solutions are best for small retailers with a small budget like $100/month or less and don’t have large data volumes. They’ll get you off the ground and automate some key processes to alleviate some of your operational pain points.
For growing retailers though, this solution has some major shortcomings. Point-to-point integration is not as flexible when adding more sales channels or management systems as your business evolves. Each additional system requires you to add multiple new connectors because point-to-point integration only allows for 1:1 relationship between systems.
For example, if you integrate two systems, you only need one connection between your two systems. However, once you get up to four systems, such as an ERP, 3PL, eCommerce, and marketplace, you’ll need twelve connections! Your solution becomes messy. If one connection fails, the whole system can fail.
In this case, growing your business could mean rebuilding your operations every time you add a system, which can cost you a lot in resources.
Custom Shopify and NetSuite Integration
Some merchants feel that it’s best to build their own custom integration between Shopify and NetSuite. They work with the application programming interfaces (APIs) available for both Shopify and NetSuite to write custom code that ties your systems directly together. Custom integrations can be built either in-house or offered by your eCommerce agency, software consultant or another vendor.
Custom integration takes serious technical knowledge of both NetSuite and Shopify to understand how each system sends and reads data. It’s not something you want someone learning on the job.
There are instances where custom integration projects are the best approach. For example, if you added custom or proprietary changes to NetSuite to help with SKU management or order fulfillment logic, it might be best for someone to write a custom solution to account for these processes.
However, most sellers don’t have truly unique requirements to justify the cost and maintenance of custom integration projects. Many find that another approach is easier and more cost-effective over the long-run.
SaaS-based Middleware Integration Platform
The third way to integrate Shopify and NetSuite is to use a SaaS-based (Software as a Service) middleware integration platform. A platform like this is a cloud-based, hosted operational hub that sits between NetSuite and Shopify or Shopify Plus. These types of integration solutions are often referred to as hub-spoke models.
Ideally, the technology uses pre-built connectors for Shopify, NetSuite, and any other system you want to integrate. Pre-built integration leverages out-of-the-box functionality for faster implementations. However, unlike point-to-point, these connectors are often configurable, meaning they can be customized or changed to accommodate your business needs. Sellers can define business rules for how their data moves between systems, which gives merchants much more control over the flow of their data.
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.
This integration approach is usually more flexible. When you want to remove or add another system, you just need to add and configure another connector that integrates with the hub. You can also update and change your data flows as your business evolves too. This way your solution grows with you.
These solutions are usually pricier than a one-off point-to-point solution because of added functionality and capabilities. You can expect to pay both a monthly subscription rate for access to the software and an implementation fee that covers the configuration of the connectors to your needs.
While more expensive than point-to-point, SaaS integration platforms are far less expensive than building and maintain a custom integration. As a SaaS platform, your integration provider takes care of setting up and any ongoing maintenance of your integration for you.
What Approach We Recommend
Shopify to NetSuite integration is nChannel’s bread and butter. That’s why we know and care so much about companies choosing the right integration approach. Sellers (and their customers) deserve to get the most value out of their systems. We believe integration should be accessible and affordable to all merchants so you can compete with the likes of Amazon, Best Buy and Target.
That being said, every business has its own needs. Choosing the best solution depends on your budget, complexity of operations, and plans for growth, and ultimately, what provides the best experience for your customers.
If you think you’re ready for SaaS-based integration like nChannel, then check out how we integrate Shopify and NetSuite by clicking the button below.