In ecommerce, it’s what you don’t see that will sink your ship.
Ecommerce is here to stay. Companies of all sizes and kinds are bringing their products online for purchase by B2B and B2C customers. There are a prolific number of companies in the market who are willing to develop and launch e-stores for each of these companies. You can even build your own website using one of a plethora of templates available.
So, I bet you’re thinking, “What’s BAD about all of that?”
Before we go any further, let me go on record as saying that the mass move to ecommerce is a great thing for the companies in question, for their customers, and for their bottom lines. What troubles me is the thought epidemic out there that all you need to do is put an ecommerce site on the web and you’re set to do business. What’s worse is the idea that, “…once we go live with our ecommerce site we will be pulling in orders hand over fist and our entire business model will be transported into the 21st century!”
Um, yes and no.
Consider the Titanic. Billed as the unsinkable ship, the Titanic was beautiful and offered many amenities that its passengers weren’t expecting to find on the open sea. It was supposed to revolutionize the world of ocean travel. The ship’s designers were sure that this was the greatest ship on record. Unfortunately, they didn’t consider the reality that no matter how beautiful, big, or unsinkable the Titanic was supposed to have been, it still had to navigate the open sea–and that the sea still had a few icebergs to navigate around. We all know how that story ended.
Okay, back to ecommerce.
A successful ecommerce initiative is more than putting a website with shopping cart capability on the web. (I can almost hear the collective gasp as I write, but it’s true.) Launching an ecommerce website is merely the first step, the tip of the iceberg. Without some considerable thought about what happens after the site goes live, your ecommerce venture can be as treacherous as sailing the Titanic in iceberg-infested waters.
“But our site helps customers order our product so easily,” you say.
“And there’s no need for them to talk to customer service!”
“And we are attracting new sales! We have more sales than before!”
Fantastic! But I’ll still wager that your new-fangled ecommerce site is sailing a course directly into the largest iceberg in the ecommerce ocean: lack of integration with your back-end systems. And as more orders come in via your site, the bigger your lack of integration problem will become. What’s more, without integration, your ecommerce site isn’t much more of a revolutionary sales tool than your fax machine. (Gasp!) It’s true.
Remember when faxed orders were all the rage? Customers could order without having to talk to a sales rep and the orders just rolled in on that weird curly paper. It was a great way to capture sales orders, but the reality is that someone still had to take the paper copy, enter it into your order system, pick the order, and enter the information into the shipping system. Then accounting had to verify that the order shipped, bill for the shipment, and reconcile inventory.
Sound familiar? It should. If you are operating an ecommerce site without integration to your ERP, CRM, or other back-end systems, all of these steps are still being completed manually, only the orders come in on your website and aren’t printed on the curly paper. As your site picks up steam, these manual processes are a huge risk for your company.
Integrating your ecommerce site with the rest of your business functions will make your business run smoother. Fulfillment will be easier and faster for your staff, and automating the ordering and shipping processes will save you money. Orders will no longer need to be inputted manually into multiple systems–integration will make each system communicate seamlessly with each other. Customers will enter the order once and the rest of the process will flow from department to department until the order is complete. Sound good? I bet it does.
As you look to create your own ecommerce website or upgrade your current site to include all the industry-leading bells and whistles, make sure of one thing: Make sure that any company you work with understands that integration is really the thing that will make your ecommerce initiative successful. Any company can create a pretty website. Can yours steer you around the iceberg of ecommerce integration?
Ready to learn more about how integration can take your ecommerce business to the next level? Download the white paper Integrated Enterprise Ecommerce – The Key to Online Success for B2B and B2C.