Shifting consumer expectations, the explosion of social networks and multiple sales channels have certainly altered the ecommerce landscape. Today’s online shopper demands an easy purchasing experience and then visibility throughout the order’s lifecycle – from submission through delivery, returns and refunds.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the online order process is a complex chain of synchronized processes and applications. And that synchronization requires integrating all systems, applications and databases that underpin your ecommerce environment – from customer-facing applications to the systems key to your overall business operations.
Ironically the more online orders you have, the more noticeable your lack of integration becomes. Too many steps done manually increase the opportunity for human error and delay service management, which can result in an unhappy customer, lost sale and/or bad publicity. On the other hand, a fully integrated ecommerce solution means you can streamline order management, simplify payment processing and enhance personalized service.
Although ecommerce integration can be complex, the right planning and execution can help you avoid many common issues and costly mistakes that can disrupt operations and increase costs.
Starting out on the right foot
Internal factors can negatively impact any integration plan. But if you identify those factors early on, you can avoid scope creep, costs overruns and the derailment of your ecommerce journey. These include:
- Get buy-in and support from executives – Without proactive executive sponsorship, it is difficult to gain and maintain consensus among stakeholders. Ensure you have a strong commitment from your executives that goes beyond a simple sign-off on funding
- Build the right team – Determine early on which stakeholders must be involved in the integration planning beyond IT and customer support. That may include other departments, divisions or business units, as well as your trading partners.
- Keep the human factor in mind – Changes created by ecommerce integration, such as modifications to a current workflow, will affect your employees. So ensure that employees know about the project and are trained on new processes that result from the integration.
- Fix what needs fixing first – Integration cannot fix something that is already broken, such as poorly written code or fuzzy processes. You must address these issues prior to starting a project or it may cost you more down the road.
- Take a realistic approach to backend integration – Backend integration offers a great opportunity to look at applications and business processes and make the necessary changes. That does not mean ripping out your legacy applications, but enabling them to communicate with modern systems using a phased approach.
Three steps to a successful integration
The complexity of ecommerce integration can often seem overwhelming. There are three critical steps you can take that can help you create a more agile and profitable e-business:
- Look at your entire e-business holistically – Successful ecommerce requires real-time access to product, customer and supply chain information. That means your technologies must be scalable and your platforms must be compatible. So make sure you understand your architecture before you integrate existing applications or purchase new ones in order to avoid disruptions or data loss.
- Understand that data synchronization is fundamental – Synchronized data means that the behind-the-scenes data sharing between your webstore and other processes takes place in real time. While companies often focus on automating existing processes, to gain the full benefits of synchronization, you should first make improvements to your current workflows using a phased approach.
- Automate as many interactions as possible – Streamline the flow of data between your systems and consolidate it via a single user interface. This will provide you with real-time access to the key data that is driving your e-business, helping you respond quickly to changes, reduce costs and increase customer loyalty. If not, you risk making critical operating decisions based on flawed or incomplete information.
Ecommerce integration done right
While ecommerce integration is complex and time consuming, it is essential to enhancing your customers’ online experience, growing your business, increasing your profitability and differentiating your brand.
To assist you in this journey, consider working with a multi-disciplined integration partner that has experience solving ecommerce business issues similar to those you are facing, including working with backend applications and legacy systems like those deployed in your ecommerce ecosystem.
Your partner’s expertise in business processes, integration strategies and technology implementation across multi-channel touchpoints can alleviate much of the angst that might otherwise sidetrack your ecommerce integration efforts.