Ecommerce and Integration

Integration.

A lot of words seem to come from the same root: integrity, integral, and even integer.  The root word connotes something whole and unified.

So what does integration have to do with your ecommerce site?

If you’re interested in the whole process of ecommerce, you must be concerned with integration.  Integration is the unsung hero of successful enterprise implementations.  When a site is not integrated, oftentimes it lacks the fluidity and performance needed for a compelling web-based solution.

Integration and Ecommerce

There are lots of places where both the user experience and the site’s management are enhanced through integration.  Other site functionalities rely on seamless integration. Integration matters for simple things such as how inventory is presented on the site to more complex issues such as capturing funds at the front end or charging the card at the back-end and handling backorders.  Complex structures such as pricing also come into play.  Simply put: integration matters.

Examples of how integration enhances a site’s user experience include third-party applications like Facebook Connect, Power Reviews, and Google Maps. These web-based services are integrations that use application programming interfaces, or APIs, to allow a site to communicate with external sites or functionality to do such as “like” something on a page and post it to your Facebook wall.  A pinned map showing the location of your stores could be integrated with Google Maps.  Site performance statistics often come from integration with external analytics software.  These types of integrations make the site more dynamic and relevant to the user.

One of the most complicated, and frankly, over sold and under delivered ecommerce integrations is integrating the ecommerce site with the ERP. This integration pulls product, customer, pricing, inventory, and shipping information from the back-end systems and pushes orders and payment information back to the ERP.  This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. If the ERP offers web services or APIs, they would be the preferred way to integrate.  Sometimes, for performance reasons or just because there is no other way, direct database calls or batch files must be employed to complete the circuit. While this integration is transparent to the user, a lack of integration with the ERP will make the purchase process slower for the customer and more cumbersome for your team.

The Takeaway

When you are looking at an ecommerce solution, make sure that your vendor really understands enterprise integration.  You’ll often hear, “Oh sure.  We’ve done that lots of times.”

Check it out.

Really.

“The devil is in the details” quickly comes into play when having to define specific data and map out how it works in each of the back-end systems.  The goal of your integrations is to enhance the user experience, increase sales and minimize the manual effort to accept, fulfill and collect on the orders you receive.  Integration is a key part of the solution.

Happy selling…

Ready to learn more about integrated B2B and B2C ecommerce? Watch our on-demand webinar, Ecommerce Website Best Practices.

Tom Frishberg, CIOTom Frishberg is Chief Information Officer at Insite Software. He can be reached at tfrishberg@insitesoft.com.