Should your E-commerce system be integrated? The answer is,more than likely, but what exactly does that phrase mean? In a blog post before Christmas we talked about Amazon’s staggering 35 orders a second from its UK website. Can you imagine what a nightmare that would be during the Christmas or summer shopping season if Amazon were not integrated? So that got me to thinking…what are the most important things to think when looking at E-commerce integration? I came up with 4 considerations or ‘pointers’ that our team here at VL always seem to be asking both current and potential customers in order to make sure that their E-commerce integration is a success.
1) Do you have a data usage and integration strategy? When you are looking at your data and integration strategy it is important to answer 3 of the basic W questions that we all learned back in grade school:
- What: There is a ton of data out there so it is really important to know exactly what data you need to integrate and from how many different sources? When you are looking at what data it could mean anything including orders, product creation, product updates and inventory updates.
- Where: Once you’ve decided what data, you need you need to look at where it needs to go. Does it have to go from your web store to an ERP or WMS or does it have to go to a 3PL? These are very simple examples, it can and does get much more complex.
- How: How is the data going to get from the web store or EDI or non-EDI source to where it needs to go?
Even once you have your strategy nailed down things can start to get about as clear as mud. The second consideration brings us back to the ever popular and still raging debate of build vs. buy:
2) Will you build your own custom integration or purchase an off the shelf system? This one comes with some considerations of its own. Have you looked at the value that a custom-built integration will bring to your company vs. an off the shelf platform? Value is a big word and encompasses everything from costs to efficiency of data movement to time required for someone to build the platform and for someone to maintain it. It’s not so cut and dry as ‘I have a programmer on staff who can build it so I’ll just get them to do it. ’
So let’s just say for the sake of argument that that you have chosen an off the shelf platform. Good choice by the way! This leads me to the next major consideration which is
3) Choose a system that is right for your company, not one that is right for your trading partner Any or all of your trading partners or even your accountants and consultant will have a platform that they prefer to use. While I firmly believe that you should consider their suggestions it is important that at the end of the day you choose the platform that works best with your data strategy and long-term company objectives. The system that you choose should be one that grows with your company, one that can be modified and changed with your changing priorities and changes in technology and business.
Changes in technology bring me to the fourth consideration which is all the rage these days: Social Media.
4) Choose a system that will allow you to integrate all your company’s social media elements. This sounds absurd but the reality is rearing its head in many organizations. We all know, social media is playing a huge role in today’s business ecosystem. It gives companies immediate client feedback, helps qualify and FIND new leads, and allows them to create amazing content that has the potential to reach an infinite number of people. But, social media management takes TIME. You will save time, and in turn money if your integration allows you to automate your social media campaigns plus receive metrics and analysis so you can make changes quickly and see results. The ability to automate your social media campaigns proves that integration is only becoming more complex and that it isn’t just about orders, and business documents anymore. We will discuss marketing automation a bit further in an upcoming blog.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to keep in mind is the key to integration success is a COMPLETE system.