To integrate or not to integrate–that is the question that plagues many B2B and B2C companies in the ecommerce space.
Quite frankly, there are a number of ways that a B2B or B2C company can go about handling the idea of ecommerce integration. From no integration at all to complete integration from the start, there are four key ecommerce integration strategies you should consider:
Strategy 1: No integration with no intention of adding it.
The first option is no integration at all. (Just say no.) While it is not a strategy that I would recommend, it is an option. If you choose to launch your enterprise ecommerce business without integration, please know that doing so is not for the faint of heart. Data from each ecommerce order will have to be manually entered into each of your ERP, CRM, accounting, shipping and other back-end systems. This leaves a lot of room for error and increases the cost associated with each order due to duplicating data entry from system to system. The more orders you take in via ecommerce, the scarier this option will become. Proceed at your own risk.
Strategy 2: No integration with a “wait and see” approach.
Sometimes companies aren’t sure how fast ecommerce will take off in their industry and so they opt to take a “wait and see” approach. The downside to this option is the same as for strategy #1 (see above) and leaves a lot of your ecommerce success to chance. Here’s the way I see it–if you are going to spend the money and build an enterprise ecommerce website, build the integration in at the outset. It’s likely to be cheaper than popping the hood on your ecommerce machine a second time at a later date and ensures that you are set up for ecommerce success from the beginning. It will be worth the extra effort because eventually, as your site gains traction, you’re going to need that integration to make ecommerce run smoothly.
Strategy 3: Integrate only key systems.
At first blush this seems like a feasible option, but take a closer look and you will see that this option isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. First of all, how do you decide which business systems are important enough to integrate with your ecommerce system and which are not? And if you choose to integrate the “important” systems, what happens to the “unimportant” ones? (Then there’s the more philosophical question of why you are operating “unimportant” business sytems in the first place, but I digress.) The bottom line: If you are going to pay for integration to some of your business systems, do yourself a favor and integrate to ALL of your business systems at the same time. It will save you time, money, and a big headache in the long run.
Strategy 4: Fully integrate ecommerce with all back-end systems from the outset.
If I could choose an ecommerce integration strategy for your company, this is the one I would choose. It sets your ecommerce initiative up for immediate success. You never have to manually enter order data from system to system since the integration process makes each system automatically share information with the other systems. If your integration is implemented well, you probably won’t even touch an order until someone picks the product and puts it in the shipping box. It will cost a little more to include integration right away, but the efficiency and cost savings gained will quickly cover the additional expense.
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