How eCommerce brands integrate ERP into their infrastructures
ERP software has long been a critical operating tool for enterprises across multiple verticals, eCommerce included. Via ERP systems, enterprises access extra capabilities related to CRM, HR, supply chain, order, warehouse management, and many others. Moreover, ERP solutions enable enterprises to gain real-time information about their workflows and thus streamline them, which results in lower operational costs, reduced risks, and enhanced employee collaboration.
Despite the importance of such software, not all enterprises consider their ERP projects successful; according to Panorama Consulting, only 52.66% are satisfied with their ERP system implementation. At Itransition, we believe that eCommerce enterprises can boost the viability of their ERP adoption by integrating it with their eCommerce platforms for all the systems to work as one consolidated tool.
This article will explore reasons why enterprises should consider ERP eCommerce integration and also give some tips on how teams can ensure that this procedure goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Why integrate eCommerce and ERP?
By default, customer-facing business systems and software that support back-office processes are often run separately; while the eCommerce website acts as a digital storefront where customers browse and buy products, the ERP is to support core internal workflows. If these systems aren’t connected, the company may face problems related to data inconsistency. This can also cause data entry errors and delays in order fulfillment, resulting in low team productivity, poor customer satisfaction, and of course, decreased sales and revenue.
To mitigate such risks and gain several business benefits at the same time, the store and other elements of the eCommerce stack can be integrated with the ERP to synchronize data across both systems. This is the way to go to increase the visibility and integrity of critical data, which allows for improving the customer experience and employee productivity. For clarity, let’s look at an example.
Let’s say, several customers purchase some low-stock products. If the software is integrated, the ERP will “see” that a particular product is running low and warn the team about the shortage in real-time; thus, the team will be able to replenish the products quickly and timely. At the same time, the ERP will help the team to track the status of those products that have already been bought and inform the customers, in which case the ERP helps employees enhance customer service.
Also, integration helps enterprises automate routine workflows and tasks, enabling employees to focus on more critical and strategic activities. For instance, that’s how teams can automate their finance management: the store sends data about placed orders to the ERP; powered with AI, the ERP solution can then use this data to make predictions about the enterprise’s revenue and report them to executive managers. They, in turn, can adjust the team’s strategy to these discoveries.
Of course, these are just a couple of the benefits that ERP integration may bring to an eCommerce business; in fact, there may be much more of them — from shorter order fulfillment cycles to better HR management.
How to make eCommerce and ERP work together?
To begin with, it is worthwhile to note that ERP integration is a complex process that may carry certain business risks; therefore, enterprises should ideally first come up with a comprehensive integration strategy and only then proceed to technical implementation. If the company doesn’t have enough in-house skills or knowledge to conduct the integration, it can turn to third-party consultants. Regardless of which approach to integration a particular enterprise will choose, taking these preparatory steps is highly recommended.
To begin with, enterprise managers should create a map of all their eCommerce processes, identify the slowest and most labor-consuming ones, and also list all related software tools. While doing this, managers should closely communicate with employees because the latter understand their workflows more deeply. Next, managers need to determine what data is required by the team and customers (orders, billing information, etc.) and determine how all the parties can access this data. Finally, the team can calculate the approximate cost and ROI of the ERP integration.
An ERP is indeed a powerful software solution; using such a tool, an eCommerce business can manage its logistics, inventory, finances, customer relationships, and many more. Among other things, an ERP system can provide teams with real-time data that can help improve, optimize, and even automate multiple business processes. This may result in enhanced employee productivity and increased sales.
By integrating the ERP and the storefront, an eCommerce business can go further and simplify the order fulfillment cycle and improve customer service. To run such an integration, the team should first map their workflows and develop an integration strategy so that the integration is carried out as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Article contributed by Roman Davydov, Ecommerce Technology Observer at Itransition