According to the latest research, eCommerce sales are expected to reach $4.13 trillion in 2020. Businesses that want to take full advantage of the growing online market have to remain efficient as the number of customers they have to handle increases. For businesses without a proper connection between the online store and various backend systems, this can be quite a challenge. It can, however, be solved with proper eCommerce integration of your online store.
The “What” and “Why” of eCommerce integration
As the number of customers increases, so does the amount of data (order information, stock updates, etc.) that your business needs to handle. For businesses with disconnected systems – this is a problem, as each system has to handle the data separately. To solve this, these businesses have to interconnect the data flow between their eCommerce website and various backend systems (POS, ERP, etc.) using eCommerce integration.
However, before implementing, you have to choose the right eCommerce integration approach that will bring the most value to your business.
What are the common eCommerce integration approaches?
A basic approach to eCommerce integration is using point-to-point solutions (modules, applications, etc.) that can be found in various eCommerce marketplaces. Those are simple, usually inexpensive add-ons (~$100-200/month) that “point” specific systems at each other, without any sort of operational hub in the middle.
The low price tag does come at the cost of functionality. Being just simple add-ons to your eCommerce platform, these solutions are quite limited in the type and amount of data that they can handle. In addition, they also have limited capability of how often they can sync your data. This means that information such as price and stock changes may not be updated in time. As a result, these solutions provide a poor level of automation and scalability, especially for larger businesses that use complex operations and have lots of data to handle.
Smaller and mid-sized businesses, on the other hand, may find them appealing. However, as the business develops, point-to-point add-ons can become more and more of a hindrance. Every time a new system is added to your platform (e.g. new payment or shipping method) the existing solution would have to be modified in order to accommodate it. This can become very messy very quickly, making it increasingly hard to manage the business.
Middleware integration solutions
This type of eCommerce integration involves using a third-party solution (usually, cloud-based) as an operational hub between your systems. Unlike point-to-point integration, this approach offers a lot more flexibility.
The “hub” orchestrates the transition of all data between connected systems. Therefore, it can (usually) handle large amounts of data, and sync it regularly to ensure that it stays updated. Operating with accurate and up to date information, you avoid the risk of shipping wrong items to your customers – the cause of 23% of all product returns.
The problem of the middleware integration approach is that it involves using a middleware solution. There are plenty of those on the market, each having its own advantages and limitations.
Is it designed specifically for eCommerce and retail? Will the data be monitored? Who will be maintaining the platform? How difficult is it to scale and connect additional systems? These are all questions that you need to answer before choosing a solution. Choosing the wrong one can be quite costly.
Custom eCommerce integration
Finally, there is a custom eCommerce integration approach. This involves building a custom eCommerce integration solution that is designed specifically for your business.
Any limitations or constraints of third-party solutions will not affect you since you will be building a completely unique system from the ground up. This will bring a great deal of flexibility, whether you are building a custom PIM solution that automates product information management or just a simple tool to connect a specific payment method. You can add and remove any feature – it is, after all, your solution.
However, building such solutions requires assistance from experienced software developers. You can, of course, assemble your own tech team, though this may be costly, time-consuming, and quite a challenge without proper experience.
The alternative is to select a software partner that has proven experience and deep expertise in helping businesses solve such challenges. You need to choose carefully which team you will partner with, and be aware of the specifics of working with such a team.
A thing to keep in mind about the custom eCommerce integration approach is that it is not for everyone. Smaller businesses should definitely avoid it and look towards less sophisticated alternatives. For large and growing mid-sized businesses, on the other hand, this is a very attractive option that brings almost endless possibilities for scaling.
Pick the right approach for your business
To stay viable, businesses have to keep up with the pace at which eCommerce is growing. No matter which approach you choose, a properly done integration in your eCommerce store will bring great value to your business. Feel free to reach out, we are happy to share our experience in helping businesses reach success with eCommerce integration.