Ecommerce and ERP Integration Strategies and Benefits

The most successful digital transformations put the customer front and center. Companies like Brinks are using technology to provide more value and increase retention. For B2Bs leveraging eCommerce to grow their brand and increase sales, B2B ERP integration is crucial. This integration should keep the focus on the customer and not the technology. Integrated technology is just how you provide the data and tools necessary for the best customer experience while empowering employees with the data and tools they need to support existing customers, create new products, and develop even more effective marketing strategies. There are two main approaches to ERP and eCommerce integration and two ways to approach the synchronization of data.

ERP Integration and Synchronization Approaches

Top 2 Benefits of ERP and eCommerce Integration

An integrated backend improves the frontend as well. Both customers and the organization reap the benefits of integration in many ways.

1. Improved Customer Experience

If transformations have the customer at the center, it only makes sense that the result would be an improved customer experience. And eCommerce and B2B ERP integration does just that.

Because the eCommerce site serves as the customer portal, this is where the customer goes to find information about their orders. This includes order status, tracking information, invoicing and payment information, as well as access to customer service.

When data flows from the ERP to the eCommerce platform, it becomes available to customers in an easy-to-use and easy-to-access form. ERPs by their very nature are complex solutions and their interfaces aren’t generally intuitive or simple. But these are the areas where eCommerce platforms excel.

From a business point of view, the integration allows for improved data management and optimization. It literally destroys any data silos that exist between the two applications.

2. Improved Efficiency

When data flows between solutions, it only needs to be entered once. This reduces the chances of human error and improved efficiency.

In addition, digitized workflows can be easily automated. This also improves efficiency.

Just imagine a scenario where a customer enters their order into the eCommerce platform via a website, the data flows to the ERP which is used to create the sales order, pick ticket, and shipping label. The order is pulled, packed, and the sales order converted to a sales invoice. The data from the completed order flows back to the eCommerce platform which adjusts the inventory amount visible to customers and posts the order information. The customer that placed the order sees their invoice and tracking information and all other visitors see the correct amount in inventory. All through digitization of the workflows.

And that’s just one-way efficiency is improved.

Top 2 Best eCommerce and ERP Integration Strategies

So, you know your ERP and eCommerce platform must integrate. But exactly how are you going to make that happen?

There are two main approaches: point-to-point and middleware.

1. Point-to-Point

Point-to-point integrations are often the easiest way to integrate solutions. It works well when you have a small number of applications to integrate. But, as you increase integration points, you add multiple levels of complexity.

A company that only has a few applications can use point-to-point to connect the applications. While this model solves the problem of simple integrations, it quickly becomes unmanageable as the number of integration points increases.

If your company only has two or three digital solutions, then a point-to-point integration may work. Practically speaking, most companies have a host of solutions that range from CRM, ERP, WMS, 3PL, marketing, and business intelligence in addition to their eCommerce platform. That’s why a point-to-point strategy is only appropriate for a small company with no plans for growth.

2. Middleware

Just as a middleman is a conduit for commerce between a manufacturer and buyer, middleware is a conduit for data between integrated systems. Instead of each solution integrating with every other solution, the middleware approach provides a common system that so that data flows throughout the entire network. The most common middleware approaches are the enterprise service bus and the hub approach.

With the enterprise service bus (ESB), every application talks to the bus and through the bus applications share data with each other. It’s just a communications service. There’s no data transformation or routing processes that goes on with this arrangement.

eCommerce and ERP Integration Strategies

Just think of this strategy as a large router. The beauty of this strategy is it scales easily. Just add new applications and the ESB routes the data and integrates accordingly.

The other option for integrating your ERP and eCommerce platform is a hub approach to middleware.

eCommerce and ERP Synchronization Strategies

Think of this as a wheel with each application existing on a spoke that connects to the hub at the center. The hub serves as a translator and broker. As data flows in from a source, the hub transforms it into a format that’s usable by the target. This is a bit better than the point-to-point strategy, but as you can see if the number of applications is large, the integration becomes complex.

Top 3 Best eCommerce and ERP Synchronization Strategies

Once you’ve decided on an integration model, you’ve got to determine how often the data will be exchanged. As with the integration itself, there are a couple of approaches.

1. Real-Time

This is the best possible situation in the world, but not one that’s implemented frequently. With this approach, both systems are always in synch and data flows as soon as it is created or changed. The source system is continually monitored for changes. When new data is added or existing data is changed, it flows immediately. This synchronization strategy is best suited for applications where real-time data is crucial. Think ATMs. While it provides the most up-to-date information, it provides it at great cost.

It is a complex strategy, as data must be carefully mapped so that only unique data is transferred. Otherwise, you are wasting valuable resources constantly transmitting duplicate data.

2. Batch Processing

The other alternative is batch processing. With this synchronization strategy, the source and target are periodically compared, and any changed data is transmitted.

The batch can be processed once an hour or once a day. How often you synchronize by processing a batch is determined by the time-sensitive nature of the information. For example, new orders should be processed promptly, so those batches may be processed several times a day. On the other hand, tracking information may only need to be transmitted once a day after all orders have been processed.

3. Planning is Key

No matter what strategy you choose for your B2B ERP integration and eCommerce integration, it’s important to plan wisely.

Map all processes and identify the target and source and establish the source of truth for the integration. In most instances, this will be the ERP.

Keep in mind the ability to accommodate future growth to determine the strategy that will scale best. And balance the need for speed with the cost to determine your synchronization strategy. All the while, keeping the needs of the customer center to all decisions.

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TechGlobeX: Ecommerce and ERP Integration Strategies and Benefits
Ecommerce and ERP Integration Strategies and Benefits
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