Invariably, when designing a B2B eCommerce roadmap, it is critical to plan for various obstacles along the way. It’s crucial to keep some leeway in the event something unexpected pops up. Why is this important? Well, it ensures that your B2B eCommerce ERP integration does not stop haphazardly. As a result, you can ensure you achieve the following benefits of more accurate and automated order processes while reducing time-consuming, redundant, and manual tasks.
(Most related: B2B marketing strategies)
How does your ERP help with eCommerce?
Invariably, your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system may serve as the foundation for your organization’s IT infrastructure. It manages orders, accounting, the customer database, manufacturing schedules and more. As a result, it’s essential for your eCommerce platform to integrate seamlessly with your ERP platform to optimize the output of both solutions.
Consider data variety and volume
Much of your historical data is housed in your ERP system. Further, this is vital since historical data helps with analysis and forecasting. However, the more data fields it has, the more complex the integration. Thus, it’s crucial to start planning now concerning which ERP data fields you want to integrate with your eCommerce platform. Which ones are most relevant for your eCommerce business? Listed below are some of the most common fields:
Remember, each platform will share data. Further, determine the size of your database. For instance, if your ERP houses data on millions of SKUs, you should integrate with an eCommerce platform that can handle that amount and scale with your business.
(Also read: Effective marketing strategies)
Is legacy tech an issue?
ERP systems don’t evolve at the same rapid clip as other technologies. In fact, many company ERP systems are between 10 and 20 years old. Still, outdated technologies make eCommerce ERP integration quite complex and sometimes impossible. Your in-house IT team may have spent years creating workarounds that no longer facilitate newer platforms. So, this leads us to our next significant point about challenges you can face with eCommerce ERP integration.
(Suggested blog: IoT Applications in eCommerce)
Undoubtedly, every business is unique. Whether you use SAGE or SAP, it’s likely your ERP implementation is customized from top to bottom with processes unique to your organization’s needs. Overcoming this challenge requires a customized eCommerce integration, as well. In this case, decide which platform will act as your master data hub--your ERP or eCommerce system?
Since ERP has more far-reaching capabilities and can integrate with multiple systems, it is often the master data source. Planning for this possible obstacle can save on additional time, resources, and costs moving forward. Other challenges you may face, include:
Inventory visibility: Skyrocketing demand and out-of-stock products may drive unreliable information on your eCommerce site. With a solid ERP integration, you can ensure your product availability is updated in real-time.
Unexpected costs: If your ERP data does not sync with your eCommerce system, you can expect inaccurate projections and compounded inefficiencies.
Customer experience: Today, consumers expect omnichannel experiences and self-service options. An ERP integration helps with sending accurate data on order status, personalization, order history, and shipping data.
(Related reading: What is affiliate marketing?)
Map your data flows
How and when does your data flow with your current ERP system? How would you like it to flow? These are some important questions to answer and will help you map out your preferences:
How are new customers managed?
How do you handle offline customers who place online orders?
How will you link offline and online accounts?
Work with your integration partner or visually mapping your eCommerce and ERP business processes.
Use one of these ERP models
Plan extensively before you integrate your ERP system with your B2B eCommerce platform. Remember these vital steps:
Understand how you want your data to flow
Create a migration plan
Design a synchronization strategy
Make room for contingencies
Point-to-Point (P2P) integration model
A P2P integration model works best for simpler migrations or when you only have a few applications to connect. However, it can become complex rather quickly if you increase the number of integration points.
Middleware integration model
For this model, middleware uses a standardized method for connecting platforms to the entire network. Some technology examples include Mulesoft, Apache Camel, SAP PO (Process Orchestration), SAP HANA Cloud Integration, and Microsoft Azure Logic Apps. There are various ways to configure middleware integration such as using the HUB or the Enterprise Service Bus models.
(Suggested blog: Basics of Product Positioning)
Choose the right synchronization and processing strategy
Typically, you will need two plans to execute a successful integration. Further, each plan needs a processing strategy. For example, your first plan focuses on initial data migration to ensure SKUs and customer IDs are standardized across both platforms. Ensure you have adequate time built-in for QA and testing your data migration before going live. Don’t test it on actual customers.
The second plan involves ongoing synchronization. How will data flow between both platforms on a consistent basis? Would you like real-time data migration? Can you synchronize data in batches instead? Perhaps a hybrid model of real-time and batch migration will work best for your eCommerce business? The choice is yours.
What is real-time integration?
Using real-time B2B eCommerce ERP integrations means every transaction is added as soon as it occurs. This is the best type of synchronization model if you deal with time-sensitive data sets. In addition, it helps when you have large numbers of transactions as they will take longer to process using the batch model.
Nonetheless, real-time synchronization does have its set of shortcomings. To illustrate, it requires extensive expertise and development skills to create complex integration maps and to maintain those maps. To ensure efficiency, only integrate data you need to synchronize. Overwhelming the system with unnecessary data revokes the time-saving benefits.
Remember to understand the source and the target…
Depending on the information you need, your ERP and eCommerce platform can serve as both the source and the target. For instance, when an order is processed, the data flows from the source (your eCommerce platform) to the target (your ERP). When data flows in both directions, each platform can take on both roles. Still, it’s another reason why visually mapping your data flow is critical.
What is batch integration?
The other synchronization option is batch integration. Batch processing synchronizes only data that matches specific criteria. It is not necessarily time-sensitive either. If you have fewer processes, then batch integration may be the right option. With data flowing both ways, between systems, you could use batch integration to process invoicing and shipping data at the end of each business day. Thus, it’s crucial to plan execution thoroughly. Will you need further customizations? Will data flow both ways, simultaneously?
(Referred blog: All about Holistic Marketing)
Plan to scale
Any business that isn’t growing, is dying. With growth comes more customers, more products, more data, and more processing. It also means your business should deploy automated systems. According to Accenture, 86% of manufacturing companies agree that technology will increase “at an unprecedented rate” between 2017 and 2020. Wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors must evolve to meet customer expectations for an omnichannel experience.
If you plan to scale, then you need a flexible platform that will grow with your business and mitigate bottlenecks, data silos, and time-consuming manual processes by automating many of your rules-based tasks. With these tips in mind, you are well on your way towards selecting a scalable, secure, and agile ERP-integrated eCommerce solution.
(Also read: B2C marketing strategies)
Don’t forget to choose your eCommerce vendor thoughtfully. The right partner will determine their success based on yours. In addition, find a partner that is supported by a wide-ranging community of third-party applications. You want to have as many options on the table as possible to ensure your business has all the features you need.
Certainly, you also want to be comfortable with your vendor. The OroCommerce B2B eCommerce platform offers all of the attributes mentioned above, and we have had successful integrations with:
OroCommerce also includes a built-in CRM to manage the omnichannel experience and provide a 360° view of each customer. Our robust software can scale to handle catalogs with over 60 million SKUs. Right out of the box, it is agile and dynamic providing an API and workflow engine that helps maintain integration as you scale.
Ready to learn more? We are ready to partner with your team to ensure ERP and eCommerce integration success. Schedule a free demo with OroCommerce today.