Successfully integrating ecommerce and enterprise resource planning (ERP) requires both short-term action and long-term planning. Your company can use the data from this integration to develop a streamlined sales environment and a better customer experience, plus find ways to operate more efficiently and profitably.
Why Ecommerce ERP Integration Is So Important
Setting up an ERP ecommerce integration can give your company serious insights into how to generate additional revenue and boost profit margins by making better decisions about how you utilize your resources.
Integrating ERP and ecommerce can even be vital to the survival of a business. This was the case with Dressbarn, which needed its integration to transform from a failing brick-and-mortar business to a fully online one in 2020.
Dressbarn already had a growing ecommerce business, but it found that its failing physical stores were overwhelming the success of the online business. The company made the call to abandon its retail stores and move completely online.
To be able to do this successfully and with as little interruption to its customers as possible, the company set an aggressive timeline of eight weeks for the transition. Dressbarn knew that its customers had seen closing signs at the stores and read news stories about the closing. It needed to quickly reconfigure the brand as online-only before customers began shopping elsewhere.
Dressbarn used Shopify to take advantage of its significant collection of customer data from its retail locations. It was able to market directly to these customers, showing them that the brand was still alive and well online.
Next, Dressbarn used its ecommerce ERP integration to reset its SKUs, as it no longer had the challenges of maintaining in-store inventory. Shopify’s platform greatly simplified this process, allowing the team to move forward with a limited SKU count initially. It then added SKUs steadily throughout 2020 until the entire catalog was available online.
Through the email and social media marketing tools in Shopify, Dressbarn was able to leverage its customer data to keep customers engaged with the brand. These campaigns helped customers feel comfortable about transitioning away from visiting an actual Dressbarn store like they had in the past.
Dressbarn was able to use Shopify to make immediate changes that benefited its transition. Additionally, now uses Shopify as part of its ecommerce ERP integration to set up and execute its long-term business plans.
Quick Tips to Improve Ecommerce ERP Integration Today
If you are looking to receive an immediate benefit from your ecommerce ERP integration, we’ll spell out some of the different steps that can help.
Improving Your Website’s Design
One of the quickest ways you can see improvement in your ecommerce results is through a site redesign. A visitor to your online store who struggles to find their desired product is eventually going to jump to your competitors’ stores. When your site has excellent organization, visitors can find what they need quickly, leading to a pleasant shopping experience that helps you develop return customers. You can use the ERP data you are integrating to help with this site organization.
With Shopify, you receive access to dozens of website development themes that help you display and organize your products in a manner that makes sense. Shopify can help you display related products alongside the product the visitor wants to purchase, potentially convincing the visitor to add more products to the shopping cart. The ERP data you are integrating into the Shopify ecommerce platform can help you find these related products.
Additionally, when you use Shopify to create your online store, you can make use of a color and design theme that exists on every page of the website. Having this type of consistency available will convince visitors about the professionalism and trustworthiness of your site.
You can achieve these benefits in your website’s design when subscribing to Shopify without having to hire a professional website designer.
Improving the Customer Experience
Beyond having a better design in your website to improve the customer experience before the purchase, the ERP ecommerce integration can give your customers a better overall experience post-purchase.
When customers have questions about the status of an order or about order history, they don’t want to have to call your business to learn this information. They want to be able to search for and find this data on their own through the website.
When you integrate your ERP with the ecommerce platform you are using, the two systems can share their tracking data. This should give your customers easier access to the types of information they most commonly are seeking.
You may even be able to set up automatic email messages when packages are on the way or when an out-of-stock product is now available again.
Customers also should be able to personalize their experience with your online store, ensuring they can see the exact data they want to see. When you deploy an ecommerce ERP integration, this data will be constantly available and always up to date.
Maintaining Your Inventory
Few things will frustrate your customers more quickly than finding the product they want on your website, only to have it listed as out of stock. After encountering a couple of out-of-stock pages in your online store, chances are high that your would-be customers will move on to one of your competitors and never return to you.
With the inventory tracking capabilities you receive when integrating your ecommerce and ERP packages, you’ll receive real-time information about product availability. Simply having this information available should help you reduce the number of times you are caught off guard with low inventory.
Without an ERP integration with your ecommerce website, you will not receive alerts about low inventory. You also may struggle to receive accurate and up-to-date data about inventory levels without the integration.
Adjusting Pricing in Real Time
When you have data available from the ecommerce ERP integration that shows exactly what you are paying to obtain each of your products, you can quickly adjust your online store’s pricing.
You don’t want a sudden price hike from your supplier to catch you off guard. Should you fail to update your ecommerce website’s prices to reflect the additional cost of acquiring the products, you could leave your profit margin extremely thin, or you could even lose money on some sales.
Along those same lines, if you notice that a competitor recently dropped its price on one of your more popular products, you might have a temptation to quickly drop your price in response. However, once you study the data available in your integration, you may find that such a price drop would leave you with a loss on that product.
You then can make a calculated decision about whether to risk losing a few customers to your competitor (who is almost certainly selling at a loss) or whether to also drop your price and eat the loss to try to protect your customer base.
Having accurate data through your ERP ecommerce integration when setting prices can give you an advantage that will pay dividends immediately.
Long-Term Strategies for Ecommerce ERP Integration
Although implementing an ecommerce ERP integration delivers immediate benefits, it also helps your business over the long term. We’ll spell out some of the strategies you can use to create benefits from this integration for years to come.
Collecting and Using Customer Data
When you have an integration between your ecommerce and ERP platforms, you will be able to share customer data between them. This step greatly increases the usefulness of your collected data, bringing insights that simply aren’t possible without the integration.
Your sales and marketing teams will be able to use this data to create targeted marketing campaigns that feel personalized to the customer. The data helps you measure the success of each marketing campaign as well, giving you solid information before deciding whether to tweak the process.
However, taking full advantage of the data that the ecommerce and ERP integration collects requires some time. It can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to compile enough data from site visitors and customers to create useful data points. If you only have a few customers per day, it will take longer to collect a large amount of data. If you have hundreds of customers each day, you will have plenty of data in several weeks.
The good news is that the more data points you collect over time, the more accurate decisions you will be able to make. Setting up the integration and sharing the data will pay dividends for your business for years to come, steadily delivering more and more accuracy. Storing the integrated data in a centralized location gives everyone in your organization the ability to see the data at any time as well.
Avoiding Excess Inventory
We earlier mentioned the immediate advantages you receive in terms of tracking inventory and reducing the chances of out-of-stock issues when using an ERP ecommerce integration.
The data you collect through the integration will pay long-term dividends for inventory tracking as well. By studying your actual sales data over several weeks or months, you can see which products are moving quickly and which ones are lagging.
Ideally, you don’t want to have an excessive number of products on hand that are lagging in sales. Overbuying slow-moving products leaves you with more money tied up in these products, affecting your ability to react quickly to changes in market conditions.
Having accurate, long-term data on hand about your inventory and sales gives you a far better chance of purchasing the correct amount of inventory each week or month for all your products.
If your data shows that you have some products that sell especially well in the early summer but taper off by early autumn, you can use the data to plan for these sales trends. You even can anticipate the upcoming increase in sales of the particular product to purchase extra items when they are available at a lower price, building up your inventory to match the anticipated increase in sales that the data indicates will occur.
Planning for Steady Growth
All businesses want to grow. However, unchecked growth can be highly dangerous, as it could leave you over-promising to your customers and under-delivering.
To grow your business in a healthy manner, you need to make plans for how you will grow. Ideally, you will create these plans using accurate data that shows the business’s strengths and weaknesses.
You don’t want to schedule a huge marketing campaign to try to gain a significant number of new customers without having a plan in place to fulfill the anticipated rise in orders. If you run your campaign at a time when your inventory is low or when you don’t have the employees available to fill orders in a timely manner, your campaign will alienate the majority of your new customers.
You need to study the data you have in hand from your ecommerce ERP integration to determine how you want to grow and when you want to aim for growth.
Maybe the data shows you have a couple of product families that are extremely popular. You could plan some marketing campaigns designed to further increase the sales of those products, seeking more purchases from existing customers and initial purchases from new customers.
Perhaps the data shows that you have a few months out of the year where your sales are lagging. Maybe this is the perfect time to start an aggressive sales campaign, as you can take advantage of having otherwise idle manpower to fulfill orders.
You may even be able to try to spark new growth by asking for customer feedback about what types of new products you should offer. Your ecommerce ERP integration should help you decipher the results of a customer survey to develop a plan for using it to fuel sales growth.
For example, you can track the search terms that customers type into your online store to determine whether they are looking for products that you don’t currently have. You then may want to add those products.
Rather than adding new sales channels on a hunch, the ERP ecommerce integration gives you accurate data that you can use to have a better chance of success when you enter new sales channels in an effort to fuel growth.
An ecommerce ERP integration can transform your business, but only if you have the best platform for your needs. Selecting tools with features that apply to your situation is vital to keep your business moving forward.
We put in significant research time building our list of the best ecommerce platforms. For the majority of users, Shopify is our pick as the best ecommerce software that you can use for the integration with your ERP system. Perhaps one of the other picks on our list actually fits your needs better. Either way, starting your ecommerce ERP integration as soon as possible will pay dividends now and in the future.