An eCommerce platform may be the lifeblood of a company, providing consistent profit center. But your ERP is probably the heart of your company’s business solution architecture. In 2021, as everyone scrambles to get a competitive edge, eCommerce ERP integration will be more important than ever. Here’s how to get eCommerce and ERP integration right in 2021.
Think about What Data Must Be Shared Across Systems
ERP and eCommerce integration is like marriage. It isn’t to be entered into lightly and it should be considered a long-term commitment.
That means it needs careful planning and consideration before the first data is exchanged. A great place to start is identifying the data that must be shared across all systems. You want to identify one source of truth for each data element and then map how the data will flow.
Chances are, your ERP will become a hub through which data from multiple systems will flow. For example, when an order is placed on-line, it may flow through the ERP to the WMS for fulfillment and shipping, then back to the ERP to record the invoice and payment, and finally back to the eCommerce site where information such as order status and shipment tracking can be accessed by the customer.
The data flow may look like this:
This is an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) architecture where the various business applications talk to the bus, and through the bus, they talk to each other. This method of integration may be preferred when the ERP is an older legacy system that has been extensively customized, or you are looking for a solution that will easily scale to work with many applications.
An alternative approach is an architecture that puts the ERP and other applications as spokes around a middleware hub that does all the translating. This architecture looks like this:
The Hub approach works when you have just a few applications to integrate and are fairly confident that you won’t be adding solutions in the future, as the Hub doesn’t scale as well as the ESB approach.
Think About How Often Data Will Be Shared
It’s not enough to plan how the ERP eCommerce integration will work, but you must plan how often it will work. In other words, how often should the data synchronize?
You may synchronize data in batches in the morning to grab new orders and in the evening to transmit order status and tracking back for fulfilled orders.
For some integrations, it is important for the data to synchronize in real-time. For example, during periods of high demand, inventory might need to be adjusted to prevent backorders or selling stock you don’t have.
Some businesses find that a mix of real-time and batch synchronization strikes the right balance between economy (batch is less expensive and resource-intensive) and necessity.
What Reports Do You Need
eCommerce ERP integration breaks down data silos so every team member has access to the data they need to do their job effectively.
In the planning process, identify all reports that are the basis of all management decisions and actions. Once you know what data you need, you can plan to generate the right reports. This report planning process makes sure that you know where the data is accessible.
Some reports may require data from multiple applications. When you plan for these reports, generating them isn’t a problem.
Using Multiple Channels
It’s common for many B2B companies to sell through different eCommerce channels. When planning your eCommerce ERP integration, make sure you remember to include all eCommerce channels, no matter how small.
For example, a manufacturer may stand up a webstore for each individual brand they produce in addition to selling through a marketplace like Amazon or Wal-Mart. Each of these eCommerce channels must be captured in the eCommerce ERP integration process.
Now, if you are also upgrading your eCommerce platform, this is a perfect time to simplify the integration process by employing a solution that allows you to deploy multiple websites and front-end instances with a single backend. Or, you may opt to go with a headless architecture for your eCommerce to make the ERP integration process easier.
However you decide to approach it, make sure you capture all eCommerce channels in your integration plan.
Why You Should Integrate eCommerce and ERP
If you aren’t considering an eCommerce ERP integration in 2021, you should. There are opportunities to improve operations, reporting, and even the customer experience you offer.
Reduced data entry
With an eCommerce ERP integration, the customer enters the order. The order is only entered one time, eliminating one source of duplicate data entry. When the customer-entered data flows through the ERP to the warehouse, shipping is more accurate, inventory is more accurate, and billing and payment information is recorded more accurately.
Not only is duplicate data entry eliminated, but data is entered more accurately. Every opportunity for data entry is an opportunity for data entry error.
And with an eCommerce ERP integration, processing RMAs and returns is easier and you can track these instances more accurately.
Improved revenue tracking
Your eCommerce solution has a wealth of information about your sales and marketing that isn’t captured by your ERP.
For example, your eCommerce solution is integrated with analytics from Google about where sales originate, if a paid ad was involved, and even what browser is being used.
When you integrate this information along with the information in your ERP about marketing efforts company-wide you get a more accurate picture of profitability.
In addition, if pricing rules are generated on the eCommerce side, they will be reflected accurately in the ERP, and profit margins can be calculated more accurately. Just imagine, the cost of goods sold calculated accurately for every item on every invoice!
Better customer experience
Buyers in 2021 have a strong preference in a self-serve experience. As much as they may love your company and your products, they don’t want to call or email to find out about inventory levels.
An ERP eCommerce integration gives visitors to your website insight into your stock levels. They may even find out from what warehouse their order will ship, allowing them to estimate delivery times.
In addition, with the eCommerce customer portal, once logged in the customer can access prior invoices reducing their requests for year-end statements.
eCommerce and ERP integration benefit customers and companies. Start thinking about how you can integrate your solutions today.