When approaching the start of an enterprise B2B ecommerce initiative, the question always arises: Which is better for our organization? Custom ecommerce site design or our ERP vendor’s ecommerce module? There are PROs and CONs associated with both options–here are my thoughts about both.
When most people think of ecommerce site design, what they are actually thinking of is custom site design. With strong emphasis on the site’s appearance and functionality, custom site design is generally attractive, easy to use and focused on the user. Here are the PROs and CONs as I see them:
- Allows for rich content. Custom e-commerce site design hinges on the presentation of rich content in the form of images and user-focused and media-rich interactive tools.
- Focuses on customer experience. The hallmark of a custom designed ecommerce site, customer experience and intuitiveness leverage rich content and interactive tools to engage the user.
- Merchandising and promotional opportunities. Custom site design allows you to employ all of the merchandising and promotional tactics you wish.
- Integration issues. With a focus on what the eye sees and the user experiences, integration can often get left until the end of the custom site design process—if addressed at all. This can lead to issues with synching your ecommerce site with the rest of your back-end business systems.
- Business process enablement. The focus in custom ecommerce design is definitely on the user—sometimes at the expense of the work flows and business processes of the organization.
- Developer dependent. Custom ecommerce design relies on a constant stream of developer time, which can be quite expensive if the developer is not on your payroll.
Buying your ERP’s ecommerce module eliminates most back-end integration issues, although ERP modules lack the ability to provide a truly branded and user-centric shopping experience. Here are the PROs and CONs as I see them:
- Integration with ERP system. Right off the bat, buying your ERP ecommerce module will allow you to seamlessly integrate with your ERP and most of your back-end systems.
- Single vendor to work with. Purchasing your ERP’s ecommerce module limits the number of software vendors that you have to work with during implementation and integration.
- Could be a lower cost. Depending on the ERP you use, an ecommerce module purchased from your ERP vendor could be cheaper than designing your own site or purchasing a non-ERP ecommerce solution.
- Lack of comprehensive design options. A quick tour of your ERP’s ecommerce module will reveal that what the module offers in integration, it lacks in design flexibility and branding options. Chances are good that if you use an ERP ecommerce module, your site will look strikingly similar to other sites using the same module—even if you use your organization’s branding and color scheme.
- Site flexibility. ERP ecommerce modules are not known for their flexibility of page layout or site taxonomy. You will need to make your site fit within these constraints.
- Merchandising. Like custom design, merchandising and promotional capabilities in ERP ecommerce modules is often lacking, if not completely absent.
In light of the PROs and the CONs of each option, what’s the best solution? Neither. Instead of choosing one set of capabilities at the expense of the other, find an ecommerce vendor that offers total integration to your ERP system and that understands your business rules and workflows as well as a dynamic, rich site design.
To learn more about how to maximize the success of your B2B ecommerce initiative, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.