There’s no doubt that the popularity of eCommerce is on the rise. In fact, a recent report from Forrester Research predicts that business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce sales in theU.S. will grow from $780 billion in 2015 to $1.13 trillion by 2020.
As companies prepare themselves to take advantage of this trend, many focus on choosing the right platform for their eCommerce storefronts. Look no further than this recent article that points out “More eBay Merchants Migrating to Amazon in Search of Revenue Growth” as evidence that those companies are focused on grabbing a bigger piece of that growing revenue pie.
But the reality is that there are other equally important decisions to be made that go beyond choosing eBay or Amazon. The real trick to ensuring that you can both attract and satisfy customers is to integrate your eCommerce storefront with your ERP system so that the increase in sales is actually profitable for you – rather than a drain on resources and margins.
The Efficiency of Integration
When you’re just starting out, you might only receive a handful of website orders each day. When that’s the case, it’s a relatively simple (albeit tedious) matter to manually re-enter the online orders into your ERP system. Fewer orders and lower volume typically mean fewer opportunities for errors.
But when your online order volume starts growing, that molehill can become a mountain very quickly.
Integrating your eCommerce storefront with your ERP system creates cost efficiencies that go straight to your bottom line by eliminating the time-consuming and error prone process of manually re-entering all your orders into your ERP system.
Entering and maintaining duplicate data is wasteful and provides no business benefit to you or your customers. Not only does this tie up resources that could be better used on more strategic initiatives, it’s very likely to introduce errors into your system (duplicate customer records, inaccurate inventory, wrong shipping address) that have far-reaching ramifications.
Transposing digits during order entry could result in orders for the wrong item, the wrong quantity or even the wrong address. Customers have little patience for this, especially if they have an urgent need for the product.
Integrate for Your Customers’ Sake
Beyond operational inefficiency, disconnected ERP and eCommerce systems can frustrate your customers when they don’t get immediate feedback on whether the items they selected are in stock, or when they can expect delivery. This is something most customers have come to expect based on their experiences purchasing from other companies or your competitors.
With the right integration, the communication between your eCommerce and ERP systems is bi-directional. So not only do your online orders get transferred to your ERP software without any manual intervention or re-keying, but things like stock levels, shipment tracking, and account details are pushed back to the eCommerce platform and synchronized in both systems.
Without integration, you potentially run the risk that customers will have a bad experience and negative impression of your company which can be very difficult to overcome.
It Makes Good Business “Cents”
Contrast the scenario above with the picture of your competitor who has integrated their storefront and ERP systems. Customers can see whether the items they want are in stock right when they’re placing the order.
The orders then flow seamlessly to ERP, where they can be picked, packed and shipped quickly and without having to re-enter any of the order information. This company’s order cycle time is fast and efficient, and customers receive the correct items to the right location on time and in full. That’s a company that will enjoy the benefits of customer loyalty and repeat orders.
Integration between ERP and eCommerce is not an expensive or complex undertaking for an experienced team of technology professionals who specialize in integrating disconnected systems. The benefits to your business include streamlined business processes, fewer errors, lower order processing costs, fewer returns and complaints, and more repeat orders.
If a customer is looking for your product, they don’t care what platform your eCommerce solution runs on - but they do care about the service they receive. If you are serious about growing your business, you should consider integration of your eCommerce and ERP systems to be a key part of your growth strategy. An increase in sales is great – but an increase in profitable sales, operational efficiency, and happy customers is even better!
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