March 16th, 2021
Today, e-commerce isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a reality. Saying that the e-commerce market is booming is an understatement. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the growth of e-commerce has accelerated like never before. McKinsey reports that in just the first half of 2020 we’ve seen an increase equivalent to the past 10 years.
This escalation doesn’t seem to be just a passing trend or craze but more of a turning point. E-commerce has now become the new normal and is here to stay. There’s no sign of its growth slowing down anytime soon.
In the past, most businesses viewed e-commerce as a choice to offer an alternative to the traditional in-store experience. Today, jumping on the e-commerce bandwagon is no longer an option. It’s necessary to stay afloat.
But is setting up an e-commerce website or partnering with an online marketplace all it takes for a business to succeed in today’s e-commerce landscape? Not really. That’s just half the equation. The other half is integrating your e-commerce system with your back-end systems — enterprise resource planning (ERP), order management system (OMS), warehouse management system (WMS), or customer relationship management (CRM), to name a few.
So, why is e-commerce integration essential for a successful e-commerce supply chain strategy? Keep reading, as we’re just about to dive in.
Meeting Consumer Expectations
When modern consumers like us shop online, we’re on a quest. We compare products on different e-commerce websites, searching for the best price, immediate availability, and the fastest (possibly free) delivery option. Spoiled by Amazon’s two-day shipping and free-return-no-questions-asked model, consumers get easily frustrated when a product is not delivered as promised. Especially if they must pay to return it.
More importantly, modern consumers demand transparency. We want to know the status of our order at all times, from the moment it leaves the warehouse until it reaches our doorstep. It only takes one bad experience for a customer to never come back, or worse, to damage your brand’s reputation.
COVID-19 has made the stakes even higher for companies that want to take part in the e-commerce game. With higher order volumes and demanding consumers, there’s no room for errors. Companies that aren’t able to process and fulfill their orders quickly and accurately will risk losing business to their competition.
An integrated approach will help to increase visibility and collaboration among all parties involved in the e-commerce supply chain. It does so by providing the seamless buying experience that the modern consumer expects: the right product, at the right time, to the right place, with timely updates throughout the process.
Eliminating Manual and Duplicate Data Entry
It’s probably good to take a step back here and look at how e-commerce integration works.
When systems aren’t connected, a customer places an order on the business’s e-commerce website. Then, someone needs to manually add that order to their ERP system. When there are many orders to process, this manual work takes time—and time is money. The longer it takes to process an order, the higher the costs.
Under the pressure to respond to consumers’ fast delivery expectations, today’s businesses don’t really have the luxury to fulfill orders at their own pace. When systems are integrated, data will automatically flow via EDI or API directly from one system to the other in real time and in both directions—from your e-commerce application to the ERP and from the ERP to the e-commerce application. This eliminates the need to manually enter the same information twice in different systems.
Eliminating Data Backlogs and Errors
When you have an e-commerce business, you’re expected to run 24/7. Especially in times like Black Friday, the holidays, or even a pandemic, it can be overwhelming to manually process the high volume of orders that come in. Not to mention, it’s hard not to run into errors when you have such a large number of documents to key in from one system to another. And, if not caught in time, those errors will most likely lead to costly delays and penalties further down the line.
E-commerce integration will kill two birds with one stone. Data will automatically flow in real time from your e-commerce system to your ERP and vice versa. This eliminates the backlog that can pile up outside of business hours or during peak times. In an integrated scenario, those costly data entry errors can be caught and corrected before it’s too late.
With e-commerce growing at such a fast pace, there’s no room for backlogs or errors to keep up with consumer expectations and your competition.
Scaling Your E-Commerce Supply Chain Strategy
Today, there are thousands of marketplaces to choose from—Amazon, Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento—and many successful businesses decide to sell their products on multiple platforms. That makes sense, because you want your products to be available on any platform that your customers might be shopping on.
Selling through multiple marketplaces could be a great opportunity from a business growth perspective. Trying to keep track of all the orders coming in from many different partners, however, could be a nightmare on the supply chain management side. That is, if you don’t have a good integration strategy in place.
When choosing your e-commerce integration solution, it’s important to choose a partner that offers a direct integration between the marketplace of your choice and your ERP system. Equally important, your integration partner should provide the opportunity for you to quickly scale your e-commerce strategy and easily integrate with new marketplaces or systems.
On a side note, if you’ve already set up an EDI integration with your ERP, this is a great opportunity to leverage your current ERP investment and achieve faster implementation.
Keeping Inventory Up-to-Date
As we’ve seen, many things can go wrong when e-commerce integration isn’t in place. Inaccurate inventory is just one example. This holds especially true when selling through multiple channels—e-commerce, in-store, marketplaces, social media, or over the phone. It’s crucial to have real-time visibility on inventory levels, else risk selling a product that’s not in stock anymore and cannot be fulfilled.
The reality is that e-commerce has never been more competitive. E-commerce integration can be a real game changer.