Integrations for Enterprise eCommerce
Integrating back-office systems, which usually consist of ERP software, SaaS implementations, third-party connections and other accounting software, offers many business and marketing benefits that include better interconnectivity among departments, easier reporting, faster order fulfillment, enhanced security, automated workflow processes and improved customer service.
B2B eCommerce ERP Integration Generates Countless Business Gains
The business benefits of integrating ERP systems into B2B platforms include providing better access to real-time information for staff, customers, decision-makers and other key stakeholders. Authorized users can retrieve inventory levels, supply chain details, shipping information, ordering history, payment status, returns, special pricing and external business intelligence, but ERP software can only work as well as the data it collects. That’s why integrating the software is so vital in today’s B2B marketplaces. Three of the most important ERP eCommerce integrations for B2B platforms include these three processes:
1. Streamlining Operations and Business Processes
An integrated ERP system eliminates repetitive processes and reduces the need to enter information manually. Websites--regardless of their sophistication--don't have built-in workflow engines to process data automatically, generate reports, disseminate information and assign work tasks, but ERP software does. This is why ERP software proves so essential and powerful in today's complex and multi-channeled B2B platforms. However, software runs on data, and unless the ERP system captures lots of actionable data, it won't prove very useful. One respected study shows that 41 percent of companies fail to realize half of their expected ERP benefits. Integration maximizes the benefits of ERP software in streamlining business operations. In fact, a fully integrated eCommerce website offers the following business efficiencies:
- Optimizing important processes such as invoicing, approving expenses, and processing and fulfilling orders
- Providing timely customer information to reduce customer churn
- Monitoring staff to ensure that each person is doing his or her job
- Managing competing claims for inventory between sales staff and distributors
- Eliminating disconnects between siloed applications
- Cutting paperwork costs by fostering paperless operations
- Verifying authority to purchase products for given customers
- Expediting returns
- Alerting customers to special circumstances such as their accounts being on hold, etc.
2. Automating Price Calculations
Automating price calculations offers B2B platforms--and their customers--faster order fulfillment even when a company uses complex pricing tiers, discounts for quantity orders, store-within-store pricing, special incentives and price quotes for customized products. Customers can log in and automatically specify which account they want to access such as a VIP customer, wholesale account, reseller, etc. The system then automatically consults the right pricing tier for the account, calculates any special pricing options and adds applicable taxes, insurance, freight charges, shipping costs, customs, duties and other surcharges that make up the full, or landed, costs that customers pay.
Some companies earn large enough profit margins to place orders with only ballpark estimates of their final costs, but companies with thin profit margins can live or die based on small cost fluctuations. Providing instant and accurate landed costs for orders with complex shipping logistics, international sales, currency conversions and multijurisdictional tax rates provides a tremendous benefit to these customers.
Another pricing benefit of eCommerce ERP integration lies in the ability to segregate products into multiple categories with quantity price breaks that can be set in the ERP system at different levels. Products can also be sorted into a cart for immediate purchases, one for products that nee price quote and one to provide an easy-to-access cart of samples.
3. Generating More Useful Reports
Most sales platforms for medium-sized B2B companies already have built-in reporting tools, but these tend to focus on management reports instead of incorporating business intelligence from multiple contact points. Integration allows each department to customize reports based on its own needs and imperatives, which saves time and speeds decision-making. Platform users can also run their own reports depending on their levels of access to company information. The benefits of generating custom reports for B2B platforms include:
- Connecting with the CRM system to assign leads
- Analyzing external BI to determine optimal markets, buying trends, sales forecasts by region, etc.
- Consolidating financial information from multiple sources to price products, provide custom quotes, etc.
- Researching topics such as marketing, competitors and new technologies
- Integrating data from multiple sources in a single report
- Choosing design details for reports that are disseminated to different company stakeholders
- Emailing reports automatically
- Automating lead assignments, SEO reporting and action triggers for marketing campaigns
- Empowering staff at all levels to access the data they need in real-time in the most convenient form
Fostering Architectural Flexibility for Scalable Productivity
Businesses often evolve haphazardly and adopt new systems over time that result in big inefficiencies, duplications, poor visibility and disconnects among retail operations, B2B sales, brick-and-mortar sales, sales through distributorships and affiliates, marketplace website sales, external sales efforts and supply chain touch points. Tangled webs of back-office systems slow data processing, generate suboptimal architectural configurations and open the platform to greater risks of hacking and other security threats. These bottlenecks can seriously compromise growth and produce glitches when trying to keep inventory updated, but integrating ERP for eCommerce ensures that everything gets updated in real-time. During the integration process, platform architecture is typically reconfigured for optimal performance based on the equipment and contact points, so security, speed and performance reach their maximum potential.
Perhaps the most powerful benefit of ERP integration for forward-looking companies lies in scalability. Integrated systems are almost infinitely scalable through the platform's API layer. Adding SaaS services, third-party connections, upgrades and new iterations of software becomes a much smoother process. About 22 percent of companies report that they bought the first ERP system they investigated, and 21 percent repent their actions when implementations of the software fail to deliver the real-world business benefits that were expected. Integration ensures that the ERP system gets plenty of data and uses it to the fullest. About 21 percent of investment decisions for midsized companies involve expanding into the global market. An optimized eCommerce ERP system simplifies and automates expansion by making currency conversions, scaling the business to multiple locations and providing real-time updates.
Solution for Fitting Square Pegs into Round Holes--Adjustable Holes
Integrating ERP eCommerce implementations--or any software--relies on a dynamic and flexible API layer that adjusts to new implementations with minimal downtime and short learning curves. Full integration means that your ERP software adjusts to your business instead of generating headaches, implementation problems and the need for jury-rugged solutions. Failures are common when companies try to force their operations to adjust to out-of-the-box software instead of fully integrating ERP functions into their operations. The long-term outlook for integrating your software includes ongoing cost savings, operating efficiencies, expanded services for customers and easier scalability to reach emerging markets quickly and efficiently. You can empower your customer service and sales staffs to make faster decisions, generate custom reports and streamline back-office processes so that everyone can spend more time generating revenue.
1] Enterpriseirregulars.com: ERP failure: New research and statistics
 Zdnet.com: ERP failure: New research and statistics
 Blog.e2benterprise.com: Compelling ERP Statistics: Why Midsized Companies must Upgrade to a Modern ERP System