In this edition of our Charting Series we look at where EDI and eCommerce integration is today and the key things happening in the EDI and e-commerce integration field. We decided to go a different route this time and share an infographic produced by the Irish-based company CueCommerce. Now, some would say they are a competitor. CueCommerce is actually a digital marketing agency that builds e-commerce sites and happens to do integration. Their Twitter handle describes them as, an eCommerce Development, Integration and Marketing Agency which specialises in building eCommerce websites. I suspect they custom code their integrations, unlike us, but that doesn’t make their infographic any less useful.
So lets look at the top four e-commerce integration issues; ERP (Accounts), POS, WMS and finally loyalty.
ERP (Accounts) Integration
For any etailer having a proper ERP package eventually becomes a necessity and no longer a nice to have. An ERP system allows the the online retailer to manage accounting, products, inventory, payables and all the other functions of running a proper business. I am amazed by the latest trend to try and make the shopping cart system an ERP. I understand the POS extension but not the ERP. Out growing a basic accounting system and having little or no integration eventually chokes a business and hinders its scalability. A good plan is critical.
For an etailer that has a bricks and mortar location POS integration, not only to the ERP but also to the warehouse ensures that product is available. The extension of a POS system off a shopping cart platform makes perfect sense, in a small bricks and mortar web store world, but the danger again is the shopping cart platform tries to be more than it is. It tries to become an ERP.
This is where things get tricky. A business can have its own warehouse or it can use a 3PL/Fulfillment house. The addition of the warehouse means managing inventory nows becomes paramount. Not having a proper WMS system whether its in house or at the 3PL becomes a serious issue. Lets say for sake of argument your product takes off and one of the majors notices. They want your product. Now all of sudden you need to comply to their vendor compliance requirements. Often this will include EDI, a pick and pack process with barcode labeling. If you don’t have the systems you will lose your shirt in chargebacks and compliance charges. Once again you need a plan.
In the ever rapidly evolving world of e-commerce, client retention is becoming key. You want people to come back again and again. Not having a loyalty programme long term makes no sense. The key here is to ensure that you have the ability to integrate your customer and order flow to and from the loyalty platform. In an ideal world this should come into and from the ERP. The larger your client base and the more you expand your loyalty programme the financial implications will need to be managed. Again an ERP-centric plan is critical for growth.
Finally you will at some point have to do EDI, if your product is cool and one of the majors likes it. This is where a properly laid out data flow with the key systems identified is key. I can not tell you the number of companies we speak to who are unable to scale because they have not planned out how they are going to manage data flow or even how they are going to manage data integration throughout their organization and with the partners they work with.
So do you find all this overwhelming ? Its really not. The fastest way to getting a handle on things is to map out your data flows. Visualize how data should move vs how it currently moves. Once you understand the data flow in your company then getting the right pieces and hooking them all together becomes the easy part. At VL we have connectors for many ERP, WMS, 3PL and POS platforms. We will be launching connectors for two loyalty platforms; Sweet Tooth Rewards as well Giftcertificates.com , in the next few days.
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