5 Reasons to Integrate Your ERP System with Your eCommerce Platform
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Shoppers now expect – and demand – the “Amazon experience” whenever they’re shopping online. It doesn’t matter if they’re consumers buying from a retailer or a B2B buyer placing an order from a commercial site. They expect a seamless experience with as little friction as possible.
Buyers expect speed and transparency in every interaction with you. They expect personalization, instant access, and accurate information. If they don’t have that experience, it’s too easy to go somewhere else to purchase.
As B2B buyers have shifted to more online purchasing, the same information your sales reps or support team had now needs to be integrated with your eCommerce platforms. Integrating your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software with your eCommerce platforms allows you to provide the seamless experience customers crave.
What Is ERP?
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is software that ties sales, operations, accounting, and fulfillment together. It can manage your inventory and supply chain and keep things in sync across various sales channels, customer databases, and your entire operation. From the time you buy a product, scan it into inventory, stock it on a shelf, and sell it, your ERP can track it. It will also manage the pick, pack, and ship process and then create replenishment orders.
If you’re selling online, your ERP will house all the data your eCommerce systems need to run properly. It keeps everything synced in real-time. You will be able to drill down to any SKU in your inventory and see how many items are in stock, where the stock is located, what you paid for it, where you purchased it, and the lead time needed for replenishment.
All the data that you need to manage your B2B sales are at your fingertips.
Yet, many companies are still doing things manually or not taking advantage of the benefits of integrating their ERP system with their eCommerce channels. We call it the “great data disconnect.”
The Great Data Disconnect
Most small and many mid-sized companies have a disconnect between their ERP or inventory management system and their eCommerce channel. Here are just a few of the problems that arise from that disconnect.
- PROCESS: Orders that come in thru eCommerce are often hand-entered into the ERP system by staff.
RESULT: Potential data entry errors and inaccurate information.
- PROCESS: Stock levels on the eCommerce system must be manually updated.
RESULT: Inventory levels are not always accurate.
- PROCESS: When the order ships, tracking information must be manually entered into the eCommerce system so that the customer can be notified
RESULT: Potential data entry errors and delayed customer notifications
- PROCESS: Customers that buy from you via multiple channels don’t have insight into all their orders on your eCommerce system.
RESULT: Creates a poor customer experience
- PROCESS: New items you add to inventory have to be manually added to your eCommerce platform.
RESULT: Delay in updating inventory can cause you to miss sales opportunities
- PROCESS: New customers that come in thru eCommerce have to be manually added to your ERP system.
RESULT: Delay in getting information and potential for errors during data entry
Fortunately, there’s a solution to this. Integrating your ERP system with your eCommerce platform automates much of the manual work. This ensures accuracy across sales channels and frees up your staff from tedious work that’s unnecessary in today’s environment.
5 Reasons to Integrate Your ERP System with Your eCommerce Platforms
Still not convinced? Here are five more reasons you should integrate your ERP system with your eCommerce platforms for more efficient operations.
Improved the B2B Customer Experience
Companies today are competing as much on customer experience as they are on price.
When your eCommerce system has access to customer data, you can reduce the calls you get to support teams. Customers can check past purchases across channels, track shipments, and review inventory levels. It’s also what B2B customers expect now. When asked to rank the importance of self-service on company websites on a scale of 1 to 5, buyers gave it an average score of 4.41 – higher than knowledgeable sales reps.
Business-to-Business sellers often offer different prices to customers based on sales volumes and negotiated contracts. An eCommerce platform that is integrated with your ERP can accommodate contract pricing online automatically. This simplifies transactions and reduces the possibility of errors when data is entered manually.
Tax compliance can get complex quickly with different jurisdictions setting different rates. It’s easy to make errors and can be expensive to fix.
Your ERP system track sales tax rates per jurisdiction where you have reporting and collection responsibilities. Integrating your ERP with your eCommerce site allows you to ensure you’re collecting the correct tax on items based on shipping destinations. Since your ERP automatically updates with the latest rates, it becomes the true source of data across your sales channels.
One recent survey reported that nearly three-quarters of B2B buyers would change vendors if they offered better purchasing options. That’s significant. It’s important to have multiple choices for payment and consistency across channels.
Consistency Across Channels
Many B2B customers have contracts with differing term sheets. Some may buy using purchase orders while others use checks, ACH, credit cards, or other electronic payment options. Integrating your ERP system allows online customers to use any of the contracted payment methods without having to reach out for support.
Single Payment Processing
If your eCommerce platform is not integrated with your ERP, you probably have to process credit card payments online thru a different vendor or gateway than orders through traditional sales channels. This adds work for the accounting staff. eCommerce systems that are integrated can use a single payment processor and ease the workload.
When there are errors at any stage of your sell-through process, it’s a problem. Reducing manual errors and inventory errors is a key goal for every seller.
Reduce Manual Entry Errors
When ERP and eCommerce systems don’t communicate, it’s up to your employees to keep data in sync. This means the manual entry of customers, contact, addresses, and orders into the ERP. Errors are common. Yet, they’re avoidable with an integrated system.
Reduce Inventory Errors
In a multi-channel eCommerce environment, keeping an accurate inventory count get be complex. Mistakes here can be costly. When you inadvertently sell a product that’s out of stock, you risk upsetting your customers and missing out on a sale. It can work the other way, too. Your eCommerce site shows no stock available even though it’s sitting in your warehouse.
Having your inventory data synched between the ERP and eCommerce improves inventory accuracy across the enterprise. Reducing stock-outs and overstocks has been shown to lower overall inventory costs by as much as 10%.
Make Your eCommerce Operations More Efficient
Integrating your ERP system with your eCommerce systems will make everything run more smoothly. You’ll have fewer errors, more accurate inventory, smoother operation, and happier customers. It’s a win for everyone.
About the author
Bill Hogsett started his first digital agency in 1996 in Raleigh, NC. Internet technology was in its infancy when his company built Revlon’s first data-driven intranet for the Almay brand. His companies have consulted to The PGA of America, The PGA Tour, Alcon Labs, and two Berkshire Hathaway owned electronic companies and a number of Fortune 100 Brands. He has extensive experience with ERP software and was a principal at Hencie/AltMark, the largest Oracle integrator in the SW at the time it went Public in 2000.
Currently, Mr. Hogsett is the CEO of Seota Digital Marketing, a growing digital agency based in Dallas, TX.