Planning your B2B eCommerce approach requires a lot of attention to potential issues. You’ll likely face various problems that might block you for some time, and it’s important to anticipate them and know how to deal with them. Integrating a good ERP solution is one of the most important factors for your success.
It’s something you need to choose from the very beginning, because it’s going to dictate your future choices to a large extent. If you pick the right one, you can easily integrate ERP into your eCommerce platform – and any other business platforms you’re using – and realize the full potential of your plans.
How An ERP Solution Can Help In eCommerce?
ERP software is the most important node in your entire organization. It’s a centralized point for everything from accounting to customer databases, inventory lists, purchasing orders, invoicing, and more.
When utilized correctly, it can be an extremely powerful tool. But for that to happen, you need to choose an ERP solution that’s compatible with your eCommerce platform and the rest of the solutions that you’re using. You might assume that this will be a standard feature in all popular ERPs out there, but that’s unfortunately not the case.
A typical ERP will handle all of the following:
- Product database
- Customer database
- Financial details (pricing, taxes, invoicing)
- Support and returns
Some solutions will offer more, but those are the most critical points to consider. You must ensure that whatever ERP platform you end up choosing, it will be able to integrate with all those aspects of your business operations. This can be particularly tricky when you are still relying on legacy tools that might have their own specific requirements.
Benefits Of Integrating ERP In eCommerce
Integrating your ERP into your eCommerce platform can bring many benefits to the table. You’ll be able to utilize all your data in more depth, leveraging real-time information to make short-notice decisions. You’ll also have a constant overview of your inventory, and will be alerted of any deviations from the norm in that area.
If you are facing a sudden shortage, you will be able to prepare for it better. In the end, this can lead to significant savings across the board. You will waste less inventory and storage space, and you’ll make more accurate decisions driven by the current state of the market. Last but not least, you’re going to see an improvement in the quality of the customer experience that you deliver.
Understanding How Your Data Flows
Integrating ERP into your eCommerce platform will require you to have a good understanding of your current data flows, and how to adapt them to your chosen solution. It’s a good idea to have this knowledge in any case, but if you’ve never taken the time to map out your data connections, you might want to do it now.
In particular, think about data exchange points and how everything is going to be linked together. Reconciling offline and online behavior is also a tricky ordeal that might require some extra attention. But doing all this will ensure that you can successfully integrate ERP into your current workflow, and reap its full benefits.
What Strategies Should You Utilize?
There are several different approaches to integrating ERP in eCommerce. One of the most commonly used ones is the P2P (point-to-point) model, which is suitable when you’re working with a small number of applications. This model means that each application directly communicates with other applications that rely on its data (or vice versa).
While the approach is quite simple, it can get unwieldy fast as the size of your infrastructure grows. It’s typically only suitable for smaller environments for this reason.
The middleware integration model, as the name implies, uses an intermediate layer to facilitate communication between each application and your network as a whole. This can either be done in a centralized way (with each application connected to a central “hub” that handles the communication between all nodes), or as a bus – commonly known as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).
An ESB functions similarly to its counterpart from computer architecture, acting as a central line of communication to which all applications connect. It’s important to note that the bus only provides the ability to forward messages down the chain, it doesn’t do any actual translation of data between communication nodes.
Choosing The Right Synchronization Approach
Another important decision you need to make is how you’re going to migrate your data and synchronize everything. Real-time integration works by constantly polling the system for new transactions, and then integrating them into the chosen target on the fly. This is a suitable approach when every transaction needs to be processed immediately and you can’t afford any delays.
If you’re frequently working with lots of transactions happening constantly, you should probably look into this approach. However, the resource utilization of this type of approach can make it unsuitable in some cases. The workload required to implement it is not to be underestimated either.
Batch integration, on the other hand, aggregates transactions in batches and processes them in this form. This can work well when you don’t need immediate feedback on each transaction, and it requires fewer overall resources compared to real-time synchronization. If you don’t need to immediately synchronize with a large number of processes, this is often a good approach that’s also sustainable in the long run.
Is Your eCommerce Platform Suitable for ERP Integration?
As you can see, it’s important to choose the right eCommerce platform if you’re planning for ERP integration. You’ll want something that’s still in active development and has strong support, both from its developers as well as the community.
Ideally, it will be a platform with a wide range of application support. And the earlier in your planning that you choose your eCommerce platform, the better this decision is going to play out in the long run. You will have fewer adjustments to make later on, and you’ll be able to scale up your operations with minimal hassle.