Get WooCommerce fully integrated with your ERP, CRM or EMR/EHR

How to Build a B2B WooCommerce Solution Through Back-Office Integration

The line between B2B and B2C eCommerce is disappearing or becoming blurred. One recent article suggested that the B2B-B2C divide is disappearing altogether. [1] One reason is due to the increased importance of developing a great customer experience, which B2C eCommerce platforms handle very well, while B2B platforms tend to focus more on custom business workflows. In fact, analysts predict that B2B sales will outstrip B2C sales by 2020. B2C companies use WooCommerce for nearly 41 percent of all online stores, so it’s reasonable to assume that this open source platform provides a superior customer experience and efficient administrative functions. [2] More and more B2B companies are trying to integrate WooCommerce, but require it to be “brought into their business processes” through integration to their Inventory, ERP or CRM. That’s where Clarity’s Connect platform can help.

The Benefits of a B2B WooCommerce Integrated Solution

WooCommerce can be integrated with many back-office applications including Salesforce, Quickbooks, NetSuite, Oracle, SAP, Epicor, Dynamics (check the list below) and other software that address the special challenges of B2B business processes. They key to success for B2B companies is integrating these software applications fully into the company platforms’ API layer to empower and automate sharing, administrative processes and customer-facing website resources.

WooCommerce offers plugins for many B2B storefront functions including Invoicing, Quoting, Subscription services, but it’s critical to integrate the eCommerce software into the back-office business workflows to get optimal results. B2B companies can process payment tiers, monitor account status, set custom prices, generate real-time inventory figures from sales channels, manage complex inventory situations, produce customer-specific products and much more when the software is fully integrated. Plugins alone can’t do the job, as they simply can’t fully integrate with the back-office applications. You need an integration platform, like Clarity Connect, which is designed to fully integrate with any software application, database, file format, EDI interface and more. Connect also provides the transform of data, as well as communication and message queue. This means that you could transform medical orders information into HL7v2 from a hospital gift store, into the hospital’s EMR application, for example. The queue also provides asynchronous processing if the back-office application is offline for maintenance, so that the end users’ experience is non-interrupted and the site behaves like normal.

Other benefits of the WooCommerce software integration include:

  • Manage complex catalogs, custom catalogs and store-within-store catalogs.
  • Add unlimited products, categories and subcategories.
  • Take payments from multiple processors, and enable offline options such as checks, invoicing and cash on delivery (COD), orders.
  • Automate tax settings for different countries and tax jurisdictions.
  • Manage multiple carrier shipping options.
  • Generate custom sales reports.
  • Assign custom account roles for retail sales, wholesale applicants and approved B2B wholesale accounts.
  • Manage custom pricing tiers, discounts, price quotes and bulk pricing.
  • Process purchase orders, and manage the sales funnel to satisfy the concerns of multiple decision-makers in buying committees.

 

All these benefits deliver a great B2C experience for customers who expect a high level of customer service from respected businesses. The additional B2B functionality from added plugins are really starting to supply the demanding requirements B2B vendors, distributors and customers expect.

Integrating your CRM and ERP software can produce a dynamic B2B platform that can seamlessly handle multiple sales channels, marketplace applications, store-within-a-store applications, specialized catalogs and custom content needs. Integration of back-end and front-end software enables automated syncing of sales information, better lead management, better productivity and stronger sales conversions. Companies can save huge amounts of time and money by automating business processes, eliminating manual entry, reducing paperwork and increasing customer satisfaction. Other signature benefits of integration include:

  • Dynamic fulfillment processes
  • More self-service options for customers
  • Greater efficiency in product management
  • Better and real-time inventory management
  • Reduction or elimination of rekeying errors
  • Enhanced communication opportunities for customers

Using WooCommerce’s expertise in B2C sales, and Clarity's WooCommerce back-office integration of business processes experience, allows B2B companies access to a platform that’s scalable, user-friendly and easy to update. Customers get access to transparent pricing, product research, a range of shipping and payment options and easy returns, real-time inventory, custom fulfillment, account and order statuses and more, which characterize the best B2C websites.

WooCommerce Is Open Source

The biggest benefit of using the WooCommerce platform is that it is open source and there are a large number of plugins available for it. IT experts can build a fairly robust eCommerce solution without generating a ton of software costs using Wordpress, free or inexpensive plugins and other open source materials. WooCommerce offers flexibility, versatility, hundreds of extensions, analytics tools and tutorials. [3] However, B2B websites, storefronts, marketplaces, etc. typically have different needs than retailers such as quantity-based pricing, multi-location inventory, warehousing, creating pick tickets, group discounts, and customer-specific pricing. Some actions can’t be completed automatically without approval based on credit history, customizations and approvals from multiple decision-makers. That’s why integrating software and WooCommerce is so important. This strategy automates many business processes, speeds completion of transactions and triggers automated alerts to staff members who must approve certain sales, returns and quotes.

 

What Makes WooCommerce Integration Possible?

Clarity has their own integration platform, called Clarity Connect, that we’ve used for many years to integrate hundreds of back-office applications and databases with our Clarity eCommerce platform for our B2B customers. Until now, WooCommerce didn’t have enough modules and functionality to be customized to the level that a typical B2B client would need. But with the addition of new functionality and the many 3rd party plugins that are now available, Clarity’s had a number of clients with some pretty heavily customized WooCommerce installations that wanted to integrate to their back-office line of business apps. So Clarity wrote a WooCommerce Integration Connector, which talks directly to the WooCommerce API. With that in place, a WooCommerce integrated solution, using Clarity Connect, can now speak to virtually any and all ERPs, CRMs, EHRs, databases, EDI interfaces and much more. On one such recent project, a Clarity client had tried unsuccessfully to integrate any of their web properties to Epicor Eagle, with a significant portion of that caused by the lack of technical documentation and support from Epicor. Clarity’s background with Epicor and integration platform allowed us to create an Epicor Connector, paired with the WooCommerce connector, which created a single integrated B2B solution. Their WooCommerce front-end can now allow users to view and split ship products to multiple locations, while the back-end can now properly route each item within an order to the closest fulfillment location, automatically calculating individual shipping for each line item, something that they’ve been unable to do for years.

 

What Can We Do With the WooCommerce Integration Connector?

The WooCommerce API is a fully integrated-with-WordPress REST API. The Clarity Connect WooCommerce connector integrates with exposed endpoints, or functionality, that we can call from outside the WooCommerce system to create, read, update and delete information using a JSON format over REST API Authentication methods or calls. Endpoint calls may be over HTTP or HTTPS, but you must be on WordPress 4.4 or higher, WooCommerce 2.6 or higher and change the default Permalinks setting in WordPress so that custom endpoints are supported.

With the above environment, the WooCommerce API and Clarity connector provides us access to most data within the system (i.e. coupons, customers, orders, refunds, products, variations, attributes, categories, shipping classes, tags, reports, tax rates, and more). This means that we can push orders automatically into your fulfillment process, as well as web-initiated refunds and much, much more. As you can see from this list above, there are a number of key items missing, such as inventory, locations, payment terms, tiered pricing, etc. which are usual fields needed for most B2B implementations. Most of these custom fields need to be added to WooCommerce via a 3rd party plugin that would provide that B2B functionality. From there, we can use the webhook endpoint exposed by the API to access that new information in the database and pass it back and forth to the back-office application and business process. This means that we can do real-time inventory validation, split shipping, location-based shipping estimates and inventory, multi-tiered pricing for customer types and much more.

What Can We Integrate With?

Clarity, over the course of the last12 years, has developed and launched over 1,000 websites, containing thousands of integrations with hundreds of applications. Many integrations we do are common and easy. These types of integrations would be with applications like UPS, FedEx, DHL, USPS, Avalara Sales Tax, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Infusionsoft and applications that are more of a highly-available API. For these, we’re just making a simple call to get a piece of information, such as a shipping rate or simply capturing an email address in a web form and pushing into an email distribution list. Those integrations are usually one-way, read or write-only, quick and relatively inexpensive. The integrations we’re talking about here are the bi-directional, read and write, with significant business logic workflow integrations. These are integrations where we’re actually integrating the front-office web property (portal, storefront, marketplace, etc.) tightly with the back-office ERP, CRM or EMR / EHR. Here are just a handful of the WooCommerce integrations possible using the Clarity Connect platform:

 

 

CRM (Customer Relationship Management Applications)

 

EMR / EHR (Electronic Medical/Health Records)

  • EPIC
  • eClinicalWorks
  • Allscripts
  • GE Healthcare
  • Athenahealth
  • Cerner

What Type of Automated Business Processes Can We Do?

The list of possible business logic that we can build into your system is virtually endless, and is only bounded by your company’s own business processes and back-office applications’ capabilities. Here are just a few of the commonly implemented “touches” or integration workflows that we’ve seen within our own implementations:

 

 

Visitor Profiling & Lead Capture

  • Visitor browses the storefront, doesn’t buy anything
  • Process grabs browser’s IP, posts cookie to user’s system, adds new lead to CRM with record that user @ IP address browsed X products
  • User returns, back-end sees cookie and that they “like” power tools, serves up a coupon for 10% off power tools
  • User purchases, registers user account, system matches cookie to IP address in lead, turns lead into contact record with user and purchase information

 

 

Sales Insight

  • User browsing, purchasing behavior all recorded as activities within their CRM record
  • System records every visit to site as an “activity” in CRM. Sales can now have “Customers at Risk Report” where [contact < 2 visits within last 90 days = at risk]
  • Sales Reps now can easily see buying habits, patterns, trends, logins or lack thereof, of all their accounts

 

Product / Inventory Sync

  • Your company has all product information, including stock in your ERP
  • Integration pulls / populates all product information into storefront automatically
  • Updates to product, stock quantities, product pricing automatically get pulled every X minutes or hours
  • Multiple integrations can be used to integrate with different warehouses so a single storefront could display accurate inventory stock and process orders to the closest warehouse for fulfillment

 

 

Account Validation

  • User logs in, system looks up user, belongs to ACME Corp
  • Looks up ACME Corp, is account at risk / on hold? Can user purchase on account?
  • What pricing does ACME Corp get? i.e. Are they a reseller, wholesaler, distributor, VIP customer, etc.?
  • What products are visible to ACME Corp in the store?
  • Does ACME Corp have any unpaid invoices, past orders, etc. to post?

 

Checkout Validation

  • Pull in Company Billing information
  • Pull in Company Ship To Addresses
  • Offer ability to enter PO if client can purchase on account
  • Display printable receipt at checkout

 

 

Invoicing & Payments

  • User enters a PO number at checkout
  • System pushes order to back-office system
  • Either back-office or Clarity eCommerce generates and emails/posts invoice to client
  • Customers can view, print and pay invoices online

 

Multi-vendor Drop-Shipping

  • Set up EDI integration for each vendor
  • Integration populates each vendor’s inventory stock quantities and pricing
  • User makes purchase on storefront, system splits order items into separate orders, sends to each vendor automatically for fulfillment / drop-shipping

 

 

Login Authentication

  • User visits portal, creates a user record (registers)
  • System looks up user in CRM, if exists adds login activity, if doesn’t exist creates new CRM contact

We’ve seen hundreds of custom workflows. Most businesses have some processes that require customization. The Clarity Connect platform is made to customize and build onto its workflow logic. These workflows are meant to automate and improve business processes, as well as help speed up and improve customer services.

A Robust and Dynamic B2B Platform Becomes Increasingly Essential

In today’s competitive B2B markets, customers are demanding the latest self-service conveniences. B2B companies now offer custom products, small-batch orders, multiple company products on marketplace websites and other conveniences to deliver exceptional customer experiences. WooCommerce integration with other software applications offer the kind of user-friendly applications that customers demand. One study found that 93 percent of B2B customers now prefer to close deals online without the intervention of staff or salespeople. [5] About one million salespeople are predicted to become unemployed between 2018 and 2020 because of this trend.

That’s why having a robust and dynamic self-service website has become almost mandatory. WooCommerce offers a free sales platform and hundreds of open source features, apps and extensions that are especially beneficial for building a customer-centric platform. Integrating WooCommerce and customer-facing and back-end software offer these distinct advantages:

  • Automated features
  • Custom alerts
  • More sales channels
  • Access to more B2B buyers
  • Dynamic pricing for each client
  • Digital self-service applications
  • Better brand awareness

Another current issue is that the next generations that are growing up with technology are changing the way companies have to do business. The traditional B2B practices of past decades no longer work as well as they used to. These practices included limiting information, assigning sales staff for each inquiry, not publishing transparent prices and using complex purchasing practices.

Integrating B2C Tactics Into Your B2B Marketing Strategy


Free tools are great for building your eCommerce platform, and WooCommerce is the most popular open source for building an online store. However, you have special needs for B2B applications such as access to complete administrative tools, global shipping carriers, custom tax options, business intelligence integrations, SEO and content management tools. A seasoned development partner can integrate your WooCommerce and other software to deliver incredible results for both in-house staff and multiple customer profiles. The better developers will consult with your IT staff, incorporate your suggestions, get to know your business and deliver a customizable and self-sustaining platform that can be integrated into any software or application. Give Clarity a call today and let us show you how WooCommerce integrated storefront can be easily added into your business processes.

 

 


 

References:

[1] Cin7.com: Is the B2B-B2C Divide Disappearing? https://www.cin7.com/b2b-b2c-divide-disappearing/

[2] Blog.apruve.com: 5 Reasons Why a WooCommerce Integrated Wholesale Store is Perfect for Your B2B https://blog.apruve.com/why-a-woocommerce-wholesale-store-is-perfect-for-your-b2b-website

[3] Wpmayor.com:Is WooCommerce the Right Platform to Build a Wholesale Business Website? https://wpmayor.com/woocommerce-wholesale-business-website/

[4] Zapier.com: Add New WooCommerce Orders to Salesforce as Leads https://zapier.com/apps/salesforce/integrations/woocommerce

[5] Shopping-cart-migration.com: Top 6 Best B2B eCommerce Solutions to Catch the Wave https://www.shopping-cart-migration.com/blog/61-must-know-tips/top-6-best-b2b-ecommerce-solutions-to-catch-the-wave