Ecommerce Integration- 3 Techniques for Businesses
When a retailer wants to expand their customer reach and open a new sales channel, they need to make sure they can create a seamless customer experience across all platforms.
With eCommerce integration solutions, businesses can manage the data exchange between systems and gain access to real-time transactions, inventory levels, and customer information. This enables management to make data-based decisions and monitor sales efficiently.
What is eCommerce Integration?
eCommerce integration is the connection of a merchant's various sales channels and back-end systems, such as payment processors and point-of-sale (POS) software. By linking all eCommerce operations, retailers can ensure there is an open flow of information between systems, allowing management to view real-time sales data.
With eCommerce integration, businesses do not need to designate employees to gather, aggregate, and input data across multiple platforms, saving time and labor costs. Instead, the integration tool automatically shares data with every connected software whenever new information is entered.
For example, if a merchant integrates their online and physical POS systems with their inventory management software, they can track stock levels in real-time. This means that with every transaction, the POS software records the sale, triggering the integrator to update the other systems and stock quantities. This prevents retailers from selling products that are sold out to avoid backorders.
There are various signs that a business is in need of eCommerce integration, including-
- Multiple teams are needed to manually share data between software.
- Increased human errors due to manual processes, such as duplications, mistypes, and empty fields.
- Lagging processes that disrupt or delay sequential systems.
- Unhappy customers due to stockouts, delivery errors, and miscommunication across sales channels.
Benefits of Integration
Overall, eCommerce integration improves a company's operational efficiency. However, there are several other benefits of eCommerce integration, such as-
- Eliminate manual data entries, including cycle counts, stock levels, customer information, shipping details, and item orders.
- Reduce human errors and save time accessing real-time data.
- Consolidate transactions and inventory order quantities to access accurate stock levels, avoiding overselling products.
- Automatically alert customers when their orders have shipped and provide tracking details.
- Seamlessly update system information, such as price changes and product descriptions, through one interface.
- Easily add additional sales channels without limiting operational efficiency.
- Stay ready to facilitate an influx of orders without having to increase resource storage.
Aside from improving business performance, eCommerce integration also enhances the customer experience by-
- Displaying consistent product data on all sales channels.
- Providing accurate stock quantities to alert consumers if a product is out of stock and when it will become available.
- Allowing customers to track their order deliveries.
- Assuring customers that their products will arrive when expected.
- Handling returns, refunds, and exchanges efficiently.
Techniques for eCommerce Integration
While the benefits of eCommerce integration are appealing, it is a complex project that needs to be thoroughly planned out before implementation. Whether integrating systems for the first time or updating a legacy solution, businesses should first determine the integration approach that is best for their operations.
The three primary types of integrators include-
1. Custom-Built Integration
Many retailers tend to look to eCommerce agencies who can custom build a system integrator from scratch. However, this approach presents a unique set of risks and disadvantages.
First off, businesses need to determine who is responsible for the integration project. A team has a bit more flexibility than a sole manager who has limited labor and resources at their expense. Plus, if there is only one developer, the entire system relies entirely on one person. This means development has to stop with every sick day, distraction, and vacation time.
Most vendors also write custom codes for each system, rather than utilizing preprogrammed connections. This method can expend an unnecessary amount of time, labor, and resources, costing up to $300,000. However, custom-build integrators guarantee seamless connection and data flow between all processes.
If management isn't careful, their custom integrators will not be able to scale with business growth. Project managers need to plan for expansion so developers can implement robust functionality. Otherwise, the business will need to invest in new integration tools once they've outgrown the management system.
2. Software Add-Ons
Software add-ons are a more economical approach, costing anywhere from $100-$200 a month. Add-ons typically link eCommerce platforms with back-end systems using point-to-point integration, which is the simplest type of connection.
However, point-to-point integration is limited in how many systems it can link and how much data it can share. Therefore, add-ons are ideal for small businesses with one to two sales channels and smaller order volumes.
The biggest concern with software add-ons is their inability to grow with a company. The more systems that are added require additional links, which can quickly bog down an integrator that uses point-to-point connections.
3. Middleware Integration
Middleware integration solutions do not rely on single connection points, but instead, create a hub that resides between the various integrated platforms. This centralized processor facilitates data exchange between systems using pre-built connectors.
These solutions are offered by vendors, meaning they are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. They can also handle much larger volumes and more systems than point-to-point integration methods, making them ideal for medium-sized businesses.
However, there are several middleware integration solutions on the market, making it challenging to choose which one best fits a modern company's needs. Advanced integrators should give users access to real-time data, connect multiple stores and sales channels, and offer some type of automation.
Middleware integrators often have features that monitor inputs and alert users if there is an error or missing data field. Some even automatically fill in default information on documents to streamline repetitive tasks, such as financial reports.
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