year Over the past we have seen the growth of Internet retailing increase in North America by leaps and bounds. Buying habits are changing, as people get more comfortable with Internet shopping. The result is a fundamental shift in the way we buy, research and interact as consumers.
Back in May at the annual gathering in Toronto of the Canadian retail industry organized by the Retail Council of Canada, it was clear from the speeches that a fundamental shift was going on in the way people shopped and the internet was facilitating this change.
Because of this shift in shopping habits many distributors and manufacturers are looking seriously at setting up an online e-commerce presence beyond just the web site that promotes their company. Making the move from distributor and manufacturer to being an Internet retailer is a fundamental shift for many businesses. Below are five common mistakes.
1. Having a vague or undefined idea of what you want to accomplish with your e-commerce web site. Is it a way to get rid of old and discontinued stock? Is it to provide a parallel avenue to sell product that retailers won’t pick up? Is it all of the above? Knowing what you want to accomplish is key when it comes to tying the web presence into your backend systems and selecting the right platform to go with.
2. Build the e-commerce site yourself. This seems to be an approach that is common with companies that have not spent the time to research the available platforms. They are often convinced of this approach by their ERP software vendor who provides a one-stop shop. Today with the wide range of commercial e-commerce sites that are available there is really no need to build a site from the ground up. You need to be able to customize the site but not build the links to PayPal, for credit card validation or to your FedEx or UPS Ship Manager. So the cost to build your own and the ongoing maintenance of the code of that platform will over the long term be more expensive than if you choose the right commercial platform and control the content. The majority of these commercially available platforms also typically have an API which then allows you to integrate the e-commerce site to your backend systems as well as your shipping systems. Having a well-documented API is key to ensuring that your web store is not an island of technology.
3. Integrating to a piece of paper. The web store becomes an island of technology where orders are printed to paper or received by email and then manually entered into the accounting system. Tying the data flow in and out through an API is no different than an EDI data flow and ensures levels of efficiency that cannot be achieved by manual data entry. I often hear, well I don’t get enough orders to justify the expense. The issue is customer service. The research shows that Internet buyers are much less tolerant of slow data updates and will not return to a site if information is not refreshed in a timely manner. Integrating allows you to refresh and provide a higher-level customer experience.
4. Only integrating one of the e-commerce site’s data flows. If you think about the process that goes on when someone shops online there are many different touch points for data. The order is the most obvious one and the one that gets integrated. There are others. Once the order is confirmed it has to be shipped. Why not integrate the shipping data to the software provided by the courier company? Customer nurturing. If you use a CRM package why not integrate the data to your CRM to build repeat visits or to promote sales and build loyalty? Shipment information and status updates. Why not tie the “where the order is now” data back up to the e-commerce platform? Every interaction with a customer or potential customer can be automated to enhance the customer experience.
5. Looking at the webstore data flow as a singular island. In an earlier blog article I asked why buy just an EDI system? The same can be said for a web store. Why customize or build a single point integration for your web store when you may want to use the data for other things. Middleware software allows multiple data flows to be consolidated into a single platform and the data can then be used in many different ways not just to bring orders into the order entry system. Look at all the areas where you use the data in a repetitive manner.
Virtual Logistics has integrated a variety of web stores to different backend systems that can be found on our website.