Asking the Right Questions to Prepare for eCommerce ERP Integration

Many businesses integrate eCommerce and ERP to merge their online store with backend operations. This integration gives transparency to real-time financials and inventory that boost productivity and streamline business efficiency.

So, if you’re looking to start an eCommerce ERP integration, what should you be thinking about?

The Right eCommerce ERP Integration Questions

What are Your Main Goals?

It’s crucial to begin your integration journey by mapping all the eCommerce processes relevant to what you’re trying to accomplish. ERP eCommerce integrations commonly sync data around orders, accounts, and products. But many businesses also choose to bring data like product pricing and quotes into the mix.

The more you integrate, the more complex and expensive the project becomes, so the key to avoiding overcomplication is to think critically about how this integration should support day-to-day operations.

  • What EXACTLY do you need the integration to do, and which data sets are connected to those actions?
  • Which processes are currently causing unnecessary slowdowns and should be automated by this integration?
  • Which information is most important to be accurate and timely as a result of this integration?

This basic concept of how the integration should solve for X is a start, but it’s not the whole picture. There are still questions that must be answered.

One-Way or Two-Way Syncing?

The nice thing about integration is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing in regard to how your data syncs. Some fields can be synced one-way and others two-way, depending on your use cases.

In most instances, data synced between the ERP and eCommerce solution will only need to go one way. For example, it would make sense to sync the product catalog from your ERP into your eCommerce platform, but you probably don’t need all the corresponding product descriptions, images, product reviews, and other content from the eCommerce site to feed back into the ERP. It would just create clutter.

On the other hand, you may find two-way syncing comes in handy for real-time transaction data around sales orders. For example, if you sell something on your eCommerce site, that data should go into the ERP to let the warehouse know what they need to pack and ship. Once a shipping label is created, you’d want the information synced back to the eCommerce platform so the customer could track their order’s shipping status. Work through your use cases with your integration partner to pinpoint how you need each integration pathway to function.

At What Frequency Will You do Data Syncs?

Depending on your applications’ costs structures, you may find yourself paying a hefty sum for data storage and/or API calls related to your data syncs. Just as you must define the directional sync for information between the ERP and eCommerce, it’s also important to plan the frequency of those syncs.

If we go back to our example with sales orders, that’s an example of data you’d want to sync instantly to support internal efficiencies and timely customer service. Inventory data, on the other hand, would need to be synced often, but probably more like every hour or every few hours instead.

The goal is not to go overboard on your syncing frequency. As part of your planning process, you should list which integration pathways will sync instantly vs. hourly vs. weekly, etc. and make sure you understand how the volume of those data syncs will affect your data storage and API call limits.

How Will This Integration Impact Processes?

Integrating your eCommerce with your ERP will change how your teams work and how your customers experience a purchase. More of your manual tasks will be automated, but there are also opportunities for duplicate functionality to cause issues if you’re not careful.

For example, both the ERP and eCommerce software may have order entry capabilities, but which one should ultimately control that order entry process will depend on how you expect processes to flow after integration. Make a point to find duplicate functionality and features between your ERP and eCommerce and plan which application should exist as the main source of truth.

How Might Other Integrations be Affected by this Down the Road?

Most companies rely on a range of applications to operate, and at some time or another it will make sense to connect more of those applications together. For example, CRMs are commonly integrated with ERPs. Businesses may also be using shipping solutions, marketing automation platforms, and analytics platforms whose tools could be better applied through integration with the eCommerce or ERP system.

It's important to anticipate these factors as you take on your eCommerce ERP integration. It’s also something to keep in mind if you plan to add new applications to your tech stack. How will these play with your existing software? Are they compatible? Is there a use case for connecting this software to other solutions?

Building a holistic view of data is important to digital transformation, and it must be thoughtfully planned. Integrating applications is part of creating that holistic experience. Think critically about your integration goals and how you want your data to work for your business to achieve success with your ERP and eCommerce integration, and beyond!

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