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Saturday, December 28, 2019

E commerce integration with business applications


Ecommerce, ERP Integration
Introduction

Hello world, as we reach close to the year-end, I would signoff 2019 with this article. For 2020, I am planning for a more frequent writeups, which am very positive, that this would not end like any other new year resolutions 😊. Though this is not a continuation of my previously published blogs, this informative note is very much related to e-commerce. To give the context, I recently saw one of my clients encountering challenges in making seamless sales across its marketplaces, more precisely when operating in different geographies. Well, this is not a novel problem for large business; however, the point that interests me is why paying a hefty amount for a mediocre solution? Don’t they have any alternate ones? (there should be one). I have thought thru and took inspiration in putting this draft to the brands, facing this challenge. 

Need for integration solution

With deep penetration of the internet in the last few decades, the commerce activities on this platform evolved greatly. Consumer purchase decisions have forced business to introduce and sell products in new channels. For few businesses, selling online is the only option. With the e-commerce platform becoming central to the business, the connection of other applications effectively to this platform becomes paramount for effective operations. For instance, routing leads generated through digital marketing efforts to the CRM software would reduce lead times in reaching to the prospect customers. Such integrations are easier said than done. To a specific extent, software solution packages alleviate the problem by providing a global network of developers. However, the problem of effective integration remains unattended at large, and businesses are always in search of such solutions. In a recent survey conducted by Digital commerce 360

"29% of the respondents opined that there are too many old systems to integrate as the main challenge in e-commerce technology." 

Understanding the benefits of using integration solution:

Cost of implementation and possible disruption to the current business could be the potential reasons for management to delay the decision of integration. On the flip side, the more dealy the integration is, the more complex it is for the operations team to function effectively. For an effective functioning of the e-commerce operations, the information in the areas of order, inventory, shipping, and customer should synergistically coordinate and deliver.  Lack of automated efforts result in incorrect manual entries and untimely updating of business records.   

In one sentence, the need for eCommerce ERP integration is postponed because of cost or the business disruption caused by having to change existing systems. But, the costs become worth it when you see the impact on your operations and customer experience. 

Following are the critical benefits to the business in integrating the E-commerce application with ERP.
  • Optimize lead times: Reduce manual intervention in collating information related to merchandise, inventory, and customer communication, which leads to minimizing errors and use time effectively on other pressing areas of the business

  • Inventory Synchronization: Obtaining accurate inventory from the marketplace is often challenging, and the inability to account the same can potentially lead to poor forecasting and cost overruns. Moreover, this synching also helps manage product change and price

  • Operational efficiency: Integrating E-commerce platform would streamline issues related to day-to-day operations. As a result, the business would come to lean in the approach, i.e., reduce costs and become productive

  • Communication: Effective communication between the stakeholders results in the integration of systems, especially  with regards to interaction between business functions and customers
Proposed Framework for E-Commerce Integration: 

Though at this moment I have a draft framework for integration between platforms, the solution that various lead agencies provide is roughly based on the following 

a. Multi-directional interface: This solution enables to synchronize multiple systems and maintains a consistent real-time data between applications. Typically, when there are multiple channels for maintaining the digital operations, such type of arrangement comes handy in collating and transmitting information. Functions like orders, product information, inventory, and campaigns talk and understand the sales process. As a result, the output of the process remains in synergy with the overall operations 



b. Output Aggregation: Similar to the above solution approach, output aggregator collates all the outputs from the ERPs and stores the information in a repository. Subsequently, the business can make informed decisions by accessing and analyzing real-time data between the applications. This approach will also eliminate the need to migrate very often, thereby eliminating the chance of manual errors and data accuracy. Moreover, the result fits into multiple datasets without the need to verify the APIs in every transaction




Referring to the business problem state in the introduction, marketing promotions, merchandising, orders, and customer reviews would transfer data during the transaction. Like, when the customer directs to commerce site through digital campaigns, there is a record created in CMS. Subsequently, based on the cart selection by the potential customer, there is inventory check happens automatically on the availability of the product. Upon purchasing, all shipping, tracking, communication, and reviews would be sharing data in real-time, reducing the scope of errors, delays, and other disadvantages discussed previously.

To add up, despite the presence of a few appropriate integration solutions in the market, companies lack enthusiasm to embrace such solutions for various reasons. That said, most of the current offerings in the market are misappropriate in terms of value and money. Hence, this space is e-commerce has a potential scope as more businesses find it relevant to have an online store. With collaborations, I am putting some efforts to build an MVP to address this gap, and I hope I would succeed in bringing some value for the cost. Also, I am happy to partner with technology enthusiasts in this space that can contribute to the solution. 

I wish readers, partners, and friends a happy new year!!

Welcome, 2020!!





Phani Kumar is a solution architect for E-Commerce entities. He is currently providing technology consulting to homegrown e-commerce brands of Australia. He resides in Melbourne and has a great appetite for new technologies and start-up companies. He is open to discuss business ideas, technology updates, and networking. He can be reached at phanikumar_rentachintala@live.com

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