Having an online store today is more than just a passing fad. It’s, well, a basic necessity.
We can probably all agree that ecommerce has fundamentally changed the way we shop. It’s totally different from the wholesale model, or even the traditional brick-and-mortar retail space. Most online stores don’t sell bulk orders of the same item to one distributor. They also don’t have customers who pick out and purchase a variety of individual products in the same day, and then leave with those items, too. Their logistics and fulfillment processes differ entirely: ecommerce businesses demand that small, single orders be shipped to different buyers, across a multitude of geographic areas. Imagine how meticulously online store teams need to manage profit margin when there is this level of activity to wade through.
Not only that, but customer service becomes a huge hurdle. How can we connect with a customer we can’t even talk to? An ecommerce store is essentially the first ‒ sometimes only ‒ impression. It displays goods in a way that is easy for browsers to understand and entertains the impulsive side of buying behavior at the click of a button (doesn’t “Add to cart” sound inviting?). It provides functionality for the shopper to rescind on that impulsivity (“Remove from cart”). Finally, clicking the “Remember Me” checkbox will allow shoppers to check out and pay faster the next time their cart is full. But the issue remains: they can never actually try on, feel, smell, or touch the products. There’s a bit of a built-in gamble here.
Back to our online shopper. Their expectations have gotten so high at this point that their post-shopping experience had better be solid, too. When should they expect their order? The shipping confirmation containing its real-time tracking details has been triggered and is sitting in their inbox. The boxed order arrives within 2 to 5 business days? Great. The products inside better be perfect. Not what you expected? Hassle-free returns. Each one of these events needs to happen in a timely manner, making sure the customer is looped in every step of the way.
Alas, these seemingly simple requests are not tasks that we mere mortals can easily facilitate. The thing is, the system that faces the customer (the website that they’re shopping on) is typically organized totally differently than the system that fulfills all of the demands expressed by the customer (the ERP software). That having been said, there needs to be a strong mechanism to connect the two in such a way that requests don't fall through the cracks.
The integration between an ecommerce site and an ERP software can make the buying process nearly seamless. A client submits their order and payment details from the online store, triggering an order in the ERP system as well. When the company receives the online customer order, they can pick the selected items from their locations, pack them, then ship the box. Inventory is deducted appropriately and shipping information is confirmed. Once this is complete, the ERP solution should prompt the ecommerce website to send out a shipment confirmation email to the customer.
When a company is not busy fulfilling online orders, the system in the backend needs to ensure that inventory quantities are reflected in real time in the ecommerce store to avoid frustrating shoppers with incomplete orders. The product catalog needs to display the full selection of items, including their respective up-to-date pictures, prices and descriptions.
The online shopping space is incredibly competitive, and customers are easily turned off by a choppy, unclear or misleading purchase process. The world moves too fast for businesses to be updating everything by hand in both systems, and the risk of human error is way too high. It’s high time ERP and ecommerce met. You owe it to your customers (and let’s face it, they’re expecting it, anyways). It may be a thankless task, but it’ll provide a great solution for the future.