To Integrate or Not to integrate
In today's fast-moving eCommerce space, there are a few giants that are capturing mindshare, but not much else. The likes of Magento, Shopify and Big Commerce are clearly elephants in the room in nearly every conversation a company has about implementing eCommerce. The first question that the eCommerce selection team often asks is “Should we use Magento, Shopify or Big Commerce?” However, the really important first question is “What eCommerce platforms integrate into our accounting system?” Having a big-name eCommerce platform is slightly better than useless if there is no integration or if the integration is simply band-aided together. So, if Magento, Shopify or Big Commerce have captured some of your staff’s mindshare but can’t capture orders, customer pricing, contract pricing or stock availability maybe it is time expand your search.
One question I always ask is “How much money would you save if your customers did your order entry for you?” The number can be huge. One client told me the savings were $52.00 per order on 1,200 orders per month. That is a saving of a staggering $748,800 per year. Another client told me they saved $109,500 in year one but, they said that the most important difference was how it changed the relationship between them and their customers. In the past, with their non-integrated web store, customers would place an order, and while staff were re-keying it into the accounting system, they would inevitably make a mistake. This would cause the customer to call up and share their displeasure (and not in a shy way) with the staff. After much name calling and appropriate apologies, the right product would be ordered. Our client then had to pay for shipping the correct product to their customer and pay for shipping the incorrect product back. Enter the integrated eCommerce solution. Now, the customer places the order, which is more likely to be correct. However, even customers make mistakes. However, now when there is a mistake on the order, rather than calling up and yelling at your staff and questioning their ability to walk and chew gum simultaneously, they say; “Hi, I made a mistake on my order last night. Would you mind helping me fix it?” Of course, your staff greets this call much more pleasantly. Moreover, you save shipping on the new product.
Integration is easy, right? So, I’ll buy one of the big boys and just integrate it into my accounting system. Not so fast! You need to understand the database structure of the shopping carts you are looking at to ensure that they are A) compatible with your ERP's data structure or B) flexible enough that they can be made compatible. Therefore, when someone says, “We can do that, and it will only cost about $65,000.” You need to start asking for references from happy clients that have used this technology stack. Sadly, there are too many clients that went down the, “We can integrate into that” path only to find that two years later and as many hundreds of thousands of dollars…They can’t integrate into your accounting system. Now, you start all over with most of your eCommerce implementation budget shot.
What you need is either a purpose-built integrated eCommerce solution, which there are certainly a few available, or a reliable and tested integration tool. You will want a tool where, when you change a price in the accounting system or change a customer’s discount level or do any number of things, your web store will be updated with the new information. With this kind of deep integration, the web store knows everything about your customer, their currency, their discount level, their taxes, the items they are allowed to buy, their contract price, their preferred warehouse etc. When a customer places an order at the web store, it is written into the accounting system without rekeying. You will want your customer’s transaction history displayed at the web store. All of it…not just web orders. Can they see debit notes, credit notes, payments, paid and open invoices, quotes and orders. Can they pay open invoices online with an integrated credit card payment module.
Therefore, as a business owner looking at eCommerce for your business; You need to decide how important integration is to your future business success and what level of integration is acceptable.
I have helped well over 400 Sage 300 users setup and implement integrated eCommerce sites.