B2B eCommerce with ERP Integration Reduces Costs — Here’s How to Pull it Off
Business today rely on many technology solutions. You depend on your ERP for accounting and finance, manufacturing, shipping, customer, and vendor data. And these days, you’ve got to have eCommerce to be relevant and sell in the new normal.
For management and decision-making purposes, B2B ERP integration with your eCommerce platform is essential. This integration reduces costs, so it increases profits. But cost savings and integration are often easier said than done. Here’s how to execute on both.
Save on Duplicate Order Entry
Almost no other business process has the ability to drain resources like manual data entry.:
- It’s time consuming.
- It requires human intervention.
- It’s fraught with chances for error.
The only thing that could possibly be worse than manual data entry is duplicate manual data entry. But when you integrate your eCommerce platform with your ERP, orders flow naturally without human intervention. The manual entry for an order is done by the customer when they place the order. Your staff doesn’t need to do anything. To make the job even easier for your customer, use an eCommerce platform that can be configured to accept the upload of CSV files, accept EDI, and integrate with punchout catalogs. Now even the customer isn’t entering the data manually!
Not only does having the customer enter the order reduce data entry errors, it frees your staff to concentrate on other value-adding tasks.
And when your ERP and eCommerce platform integrate for two-way data flow, the customer can use the website as a self-serve portal to review order history, obtain order status, and request a return.
Everyone is happier.
Improved Insight for Inventory Control
When you integrate ERP and eCommerce, you’ll be able to detect buying patterns much easier. Since your eCommerce backend can handle multiple channels, all sales channels flow through the website back end and then to the ERP. Once orders are processed, the data flows back for use by customers.
Not only do you reduce costs through better inventory control and higher turns, but you also provide a better customer experience, and this fuels higher sales. Customers want insight into your supply chain when they make a purchase. They want to see what inventory is on hand and how quickly it can ship. And they don’t want to call or email to find this out.
Streamlined Backend processes
Not only does ERP integration with eCommerce save on data entry, but it also streamlines the backend processes as a whole. No matter what department you are in, everybody works more efficiently.
That two-way data flow allows shipping information to be populated automatically to the order on the website. So, shipping doesn’t need to enter tracking information and customer service doesn’t need to field those all too common emails or phone calls asking, “where is my order”.
At the same time, during checkout, the eCommerce platform can gather shipping data and transmit it to the ERP to determine the best warehouse location for shipping. When this data flows back to the eCommerce website, the customer can even get an estimated time in transit.
Integration also helps keep product catalog information consistent across technology solutions. With integrations, changing the product information in one space can populate other spaces.
As you can see, integrating your eCommerce with your ERP is important, but it isn’t always easy. Here’s a few tips on successful integration.
Determine What Data Will Be Shared
It’s not necessary for all data to be shared across both platforms. For instance, there’s no reason for the eCommerce platform to contain a vendor’s phone number or shipping address. However, this data is crucial if you use your ERP to cut purchase orders.
The eCommerce platform doesn’t need to know the unit cost, as the cost of goods calculation and profitability calculation are made in the ERP.
So, start by identifying what data must be shared so that the data can conform in configuration.
Determine the Master Source
“There can only be one” may be the tagline for Highlander but it’s also true for any integration. There must be a master source of truth. With most integrations, it will be the ERP. That’s because the typical ERP can be up to 20 years old and has been extensively customized over the years. Chances are, it’s also the one solution that probably already integrates to some degree with your other applications.
In most instances, the master source will be the ERP. But that doesn’t mean it is always the master source. Look at your current architecture and determine if the ERP makes sense or the eCommerce platform makes sense. Don’t ever go into integration with preconceived notions, it’s dangerous and you may overlook the best approach because its unconventional.
Decide the Best Synchronization
With any integration, there’s two ways to approach synchronization: real time or batch.
Synchronization refers to how often data is transferred across the applications. With real time synchronization as soon as new data is discovered it migrates. With batch processing, data migrates back and forth at set intervals. These batches can be run once a day or several times a day.
Both approaches have their pros and cons. Real time provides the most up-to-date information, but usually requires extensive programming so it is expensive. Batch processing costs less but may not give customers an accurate view of your inventory.
Pick an eCommerce Platform that Integrates Easily
Since your eCommerce platform will be the one adapting to your ERP, you need to make sure to select a solution that works and plays well with other applications. So be sure to look at the APIs and ecosystem associated with the eCommerce platform.
Ideally, your eCommerce platform slips into your existing architecture like a chameleon. It takes on the characteristics of your existing solutions and blends in seamlessly.
When it comes to adaptability, you’ll find open source solutions integrate more easily than SaaS solutions. A SaaS eCommerce platform that’s part of a suite of products may integrate well within the family, but poorly with ERPs outside the circle of trust.
Open source solutions are supported by a rich community of users and chances are some of them are already integrating with your ERP of choice. While your ERP may be custom, there are still opportunities to build on the work of others.
Digital Transformation Drives Integration
No matter where you are in the process of your digital transformation, it makes sense to look at your integrations.
When you integrate your ERP and B2B eCommerce platform, you achieve efficiencies that reduce costs and improve customer experience.
Just map your integrations, determine how you need to synchronize and select your eCommerce platform carefully.
Originally published at Trending Us.