Purchases via e-Commerce channels are expected to grow from 9% to 14% of all US retail sales by 2021. With 80% of shoppers shopping online monthly, and one-third shopping weekly, e-Commerce is expected to continue annual double-digit growth for several years. In this landscape, an explosion of new applications and services has become available to help retailers ride this tremendous wave of growth.
These applications and services make it easier for companies to reach and target potential shoppers, merchandise products, offer personalized interactions, outsource fulfillment, provide seamless returns and many other capabilities to successfully grow in the online channel.
However, this also means that many retailers end up with multiple systems that are typically isolated, and key data is not automatically exchanged between the systems. In an environment where consumers have been trained by Amazon to expect immediate fulfillment, companies can no longer afford data bottlenecks.
Disconnected Systems = Dissatisfied Shoppers
When key e-Commerce components are not connected, manual processes increase the risk of delays and errors, contributing to an overall poor customer experience.
For example, if orders need to be manually entered from a shopping cart platform to a third-party logistics provider (3PL) system, this can lead to a delay in fulfillment — a critical showstopper when orders are not shipped until two or more days after an order is placed. And if shipping information needs to be taken from the 3PL system and manually entered into the e-Commerce platform, then that can lead to even further delays for customers to immediately get the tracking number as expected.
In today’s omnichannel world, most retailers sell across multiple channels, such as their own web site, online marketplaces, physical stores and other channels. As a result, if product availability is not updated in real time across all the channels, there is a risk of stock-outs, especially for popular products. Not only does this lead to a poor buying experience, but typically results in cancelled orders, especially when the shopper is able to find the same product from a different vendor.
With the popularity of Amazon, most retailers are selling on the marketplace or are suppliers to Amazon. To be successful with Amazon, it is critical that information is accurate and exchanged in a timely fashion between Amazon and a retailer’s backend systems, to meet Amazon’s stringent requirements.
Options For Connected Systems
Some companies increase headcount to manually enter and update data across multiple systems. However, this is costly, and risks delays and errors. As the business grows, this approach is not scalable. The smarter approach is to integrate the systems so that data is automatically synchronized across the relevant systems.
One alternative for automating how systems talk to each other is using an application vendor’s native point-to-point integrations. For example, most e-Commerce platforms offer integrations between the shopping cart and online marketplace. However, these vendor-specific integrations do not have the flexibility to integrate with other systems that retailers typically use, such as ERP, accounting, inventory and support applications. Vendor integrations end up only solving the simplest part of the problem.
Customized integrations are another option for integrating e-Commerce systems, allowing the integration to be built to meet a company’s specific business processes…at that specific time. As business processes change, the integrations need to be reengineered, typically requiring coding changes. As the costliest option, from upfront project fees to ongoing maintenance, this option does not offer the flexibility to adapt to changing business requirements.
For many eCommerce companies, the best option is integration platform-as-a-service or iPaaS, whether there are two, 10, 20 or hundreds of applications that need to be integrated.
iPaaS For E-Commerce Integrations
iPaaS is a cloud-based integration platform that standardizes how applications are brought into business processes, offering a powerful and flexible platform for connecting web storefronts, online marketplaces, point-of-sale, ERP, warehouse management, suppliers and other systems. In addition to reducing the time to create integrations, an iPaaS allows integrations to be easily updated and managed as the business evolves and grows.
iPaaS makes e-Commerce integrations better:
- iPaaS makes it easy to synchronize data across any applications or systems using a variety of protocols, such as REST/JSON API, XML, HTTP, FTP, EDI SQL, and others;
- iPaaS helps automate processes, with the ability to add rules to trigger certain actions based on data from other applications;
- iPaaS automatically provides common integration requirements, such as guaranteed data delivery, data de-duplication rules, governance, and more;
- iPaaS makes integrations reliable; if an Internet connection or application goes down, for instance, the data is stored and automatically sent to the right applications as soon as the connection resumes;
- iPaaS makes monitoring easy, with a dashboard that provides visibility to view, prioritize and troubleshoot errors; and
- iPaaS offers a flexible integration platform that supports all types of integrations, including API, XML, HTTP, FTP file, SQL, EDI and many other formats.
For retailers to take advantage of the tremendous growth in e-Commerce and to make it a viable channel in their overall strategy, using an iPaaS should be considered as a key tool. This is particularly important as shoppers expect even more from their buying experience.
Jan Arendtsz is a veteran of the software industry with more than 20 years of experience in development, product management, client services, and sales roles. He founded Celigo in 2006, with the goal of simplifying the integration of cloud-based applications. He is responsible for overseeing all company operations. Arendtsz was a Director of Technical Services at NetSuite, where he led a team that provided technical solutions within the professional services group. He also worked as a Product Manager at NetSuite, launching the company’s integration platform. Before NetSuite, Arendtsz worked for Cambridge Technology Partners, where he implemented complex solutions for a multitude of customers ranging from Internet startups to Fortune 500 companies. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin.