To do eCommerce at any scale you need to connect your accounting, ERP, POS, or warehouse systems to your eCommerce software. While managing 5 or 10 orders a day manually might be a pain, managing 50 or 100 is fatal and 1000+ is impossible. Integration will reduce your order fulfillment costs and help you leave your non-integrated competitors behind.
Here are a few rules we have learned over the last couple of decades integrating many different systems with CommerceCM.
- Plan: You need to have a good understanding of all of the data that is going to be exchanged between the systems. Look at everything you are doing with your systems, how that will affect the data being sent to your eCommerce software, and how often that needs to happen. Look ahead to those things that happen once a year or infrequently to deal with specific situations.
a. Inventory & Price updates from in house to eCommerce
c. New Products
d. Temporarily out of stock or Permanently out of stock
e. Low inventory or end of line clearance
f. Shopper Data
Talk to everyone that uses your systems internally. Figure out what you want and need to be able to do with the two systems and compare their data models and API options. Figure out what habits need to change. Ask all the questions. The only dumb question is one that isn’t asked during the planning phase.
- Document: The system will outlast the staff that plan it so don’t rely on memory for what decisions or accommodations were made. Make sure everything is documented and everyone knows where it is documented. The documentation will evolve over time as you learn more about the systems and users ask questions. This investment is critical to the long term success of your project.
- Prepare: Most accounting systems are expert systems designed to be used by insiders. People use abbreviations and office shorthand codes that “everyone” knows. The use of the systems likely evolves over time as well so we find data gaps and vestigial data that has not been updated. “If you can’t find that in this field, look in this other field because we used to keep it there before the upgrade 4 years ago.” You should expect some data cleanup before the integration.
- Test: All the processes. Even the ones you don’t plan on using often. This also needs to become a habit with any ongoing changes. If you change how something works and it just inconveniences internal users that is one thing, but if it impacts your eCommerce site then that is a whole new world of hurt for your company. Your eCommerce vendor should provide you with a staging platform that is identical to your live platform that you can experiment with.
- Communicate: Keep your vendors in the loop with upcoming changes and needs. Planning on implementing the upgrade to your accounting platform? Talk to your eCommerce vendor in advance.
You can often plan a phased approach starting with inventory/price updates and orders and work your way up to full integration. Your plan can be your roadmap and you wouldn’t take a trip without a map would you?