Web store integration and shopping cart integration. Those very words conjur up many meanings depending on who you are speaking with. To some its a horribly complex proposition to others well its run of the mill. Depending in which camp you sit determines your reaction.
VL recently exhibited at the Internet Retailer Show IRCE 2012 at McCormick Place in Chicago. McCormick Place is a mammoth facility, there were close to 600 exhibitors, and close to 10,000 attendees to the conference and trade show. The show was a snap shot of Internet Retailing in the most competitive market on the planet.
So what did we take away ? Well that depends on how you approach the online shopping experience. If you are a consumer your online shopping experience is going to get a whole lot more personal. Reatilers are tracking, slicing and dicing the inforamtion you leave behind as you surf and are going to be tailoring the online experience to your wants and desires. It is going to be about you the consumer. But that’s not why we went to the show.
If you are a company that is selling online or contemplating we have some insights for you.
1. Shopping cart systems – there are hunderds of them. Some are really complex, some are really simple. Some are good, some are bad. Bottom line here, know your needs and don’t just jump at the first one or what people recommend. Moving to a new platform once you are setup is a big expensive job and it will impact your bottom line.
2. Shipping Systems – there are lots of them. Some platforms will ship for you, some will help you ship, some will drop ship and still others will provide white glove service. My head was spinning with all the options here. Bottom line make sure you understand your cost structure very well. Free shipping seems to be the norm so make sure you have the numbers nailed down. Choosing the wrong provider will cost you both in the pocket book but also from a customer service perspective.
3. Payment gateways – everyone wants a piece of your action including the guys who collect the money. Of course they are all doing it to help you. Payment gateways seemed to be all fee based and the more you pay the more services you get. Integration to your web store platform is key. Again don’t jump at the first one, do your homework, having a properly setup payment gateway is going to protect you from fraud, cheats and other scammers.
And that leads me to the last and most important one;
4. Integration – I was amazed at how many companies in the internet retailing space paid lip service to integration. So you have your order and you need to ship it and make sure the goods get to your customer. Sounds simple. If you are doing less than 20 orders a day you can probably handle things manually. Get above 20 orders and it’s a whole other ball game. You probably can not keep up.
What struck me was most 3PL and fullfilment houses I spoke to could do integration but in most cases it was a subject they didn’t like to talk about. That told me didn’t do it very well. Most webstore platform people I spoke to mentioned their API and some said well you can code it PHP. The ones with the interface (API) have it right. Finally there were the agencies the guys and gals who build the look and feel. For some integration was ya we can do it and for others it was well why do I need that. Like everything it was all over the map.
So here are some questions to ask any of the providers as it relates to integration;
1. Does the web store platform have an API or a mechanism to import and export data that does not require custom programming ? If there is no API then your integration costs will be higher. If you have to custom code then it will be more expensive because you will have to find a programmer to build the integration.
2. Does the 3PL or fulfillment house handle the integration between their platform and your web store ? Do they have an API or some other mechanism to import and export data to their back endplatorms. Are you on your own to find some one who can do the integration or do they recommend a professional who can do it ?
3. Finally, ask the hard questions around cost, time to implement, can they handle your data splitting requirements. Don’t just assume that the 3PL or Fulfillment House can meet your time lines, needs and expectations.
Interested in knowing more ? Take a look at our ebooks on data integration and take a look at the episodes of Integration TV.