Why your clients will need ecommerce integration before they know it, with Vendasta’s Wayne ThompsonBy Solange Messier
More small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are now selling online than ever before. In fact, the global pandemic added $219 billion to US ecommerce sales in 2020 and 2021 (Digital Commerce 360). While online sales have helped many SMBs stay afloat and grow, the move to ecommerce doesn’t come without its challenges. Adding an ecommerce website as a new sales channel can be complex in terms of ordering, invoicing, inventory management, and shipping, among others.
In many cases, though, ecommerce integration software can eliminate these challenges to help SMBs transition to online sales and scale their businesses.
What is ecommerce integration? It’s the coordination between an ecommerce website and a company’s back-end systems, such as its accounting, enterprise relationship management (ERP), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Ecommerce integration software creates a bidirectional flow of data between the systems, so business owners only need to enter data once. The information is then updated across all the other systems automatically.
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We interviewed Wayne Thompson to get his thoughts on the importance of ecommerce integration for SMBs. Wayne is the Strategic Partnership Manager of the Ecommerce Vendor Marketplace at Vendasta. With over 16 years of experience in working in the eCommerce, ERP, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Integration-platform-as-a-service (IPaaS) markets, Wayne knows better than most what value ecommerce integration sofrware can bring to your SMB clients. Here’s his take.
When should a growing business consider ecommerce integration software?
Ecommerce integration means different things to a lot of people. If we frame it for a small business and why they need to know about it, it would be how it will impact their ability to handle customer service and volume as their business scales, as their order volumes go up, and as their internal processes become overwhelming.
Typically, when businesses start to look at integrating their ecommerce store with their backend accounting system and other internal processes, it’s because they’re achieving a decent sales order volume and they want to be able to keep up with that demand. It might be a matter of them doing so well that they’re outgrowing their current systems and integrations and need something more robust.
In other cases, they may start realizing they’re the only one handling all the business, and they’re starting to miss orders. They may start causing errors, like shipments going to the wrong addresses, which starts to cause delays. That’s when many of them will start to think that they need some kind of automation to make their life easier.
How can digital experts identify the customers that might benefit from integrations?
The deeper the relationship between the expert and their customers, the more likely it is that the expert will be able to identify these red flags and recommend ecommerce integrations as a solution.
For example, the local business expert might notice that the merchant is hiring more administrative staff to take care of order fulfillment, inventory management, or shipping. Or, the local business expert might notice that the business is skyrocketing and they might want to suggest e-commerce integration software to help them keep up with the higher volume of orders.
Tell us about the different types of integrations available and how they benefit all scaling businesses?
Ecommerce integration software can eliminate human error associated with manual data entry because it’s all automatic. It can also help them keep up with demand and scale without increasing overhead.
For example, if I’m a merchant and I’m selling to a variety of customers, I need to be able to keep track of everything. If I’m manually entering those orders into a database or accounting system in order to ship out products, I might get a backlog of orders that I can’t keep up with. I may need to hire more employees to keep up with the demand if I’m going to continue on with the manual data entry.
Alternatively, I could figure out a way to automate that process. That’s where the integration would come into play. It could eliminate that manual data entry, so I could keep staff light, while at the same time continuing to meet the demand and scale the business.
That’s the first area where integration could be important to a small or medium-sized business, handling orders. On the other hand, it can also help with inventory management. Let’s say a company has a brick-and-mortar store, and they sell five pillows in the store, and then someone comes online and wants to buy 10 pillows. Who’s updating that data between the physical store and the online store? An ecommerce integration can connect the backend inventory with the company’s various channels, both online and offline, to always accurately reflect what’s in stock.
A merchant could also create an integration between their shipping carrier and their ecommerce channel. So, if a customer looks online, they can get updates on where their products are and when they’re going to arrive. When platforms are integrated, there’s better data flow between the carriers, the platform, and the customers.
Do these integrations come in a package, or do businesses have to go to an expert to integrate all of these systems separately?
That’s a good question. Some of the platforms have what you call a predefined integration. Depending on what the applications are, some of them already have a data flow built between each other so they can “talk” to each other. The customer would usually be able to self-enable and launch that type of setup because there’s already a data flow for synchronizing the data that’s already built out.
When they launch Shopify, for example, there could be a predefined integration to QuickBooks. The Vendasta Marketplace actually has plenty of products that integrate with each other.
Where they would need a custom integration would be having their ecommerce integrate with an older database or platform that doesn’t have some kind of API-driven integration between one system or another.
They may have some backend accounting system, for example, that has the need for some kind of middleware to facilitate that integration. In that case, you’d have a third party step in and do the configuration and implementation of that integration. No two businesses have the same internal business processes, so many need some kind of customization for the data flow to match their unique business process.
What are the top third-party integration platforms available to SMBs?
What are some of the challenges SMBs face around integrating their systems? How can a local business expert help them?
Not having the right strategy around integration early enough could be a challenge for them. Trying to figure out which systems work together well can be overwhelming.
That’s where they can rely on experts to help them with this, the whole strategic side of being able to implement solutions that already talk with each other. If you get too down the road of having too many custom applications that don't work together, your cost of getting them to talk to each other is going to be substantially higher.
Digital experts can help SMBs road map where they want to take their business with respect to the systems that they have today and the ones they’re planning on using in the future.
Are ecommerce integrations costly?
Not necessarily, but they could range. I would say the cost of ecommerce integration software could be anywhere from $500 to $3,000 a month.
Serving your customers well often means anticipating their needs and solving challenges they might not even realize they have or don’t know how to solve themselves. If you resell white-label ecommerce to clients, ecommerce integration software may offer you another way to add value to the relationship.
About Wayne Thompson
Wayne Thompson is the Strategic Partnership Manager of the Ecommerce Vendor Marketplace at Vendasta. Thompson has 16 years of experience in working in the eCommerce, ERP, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Integration-platform-as-a-Service (IPaaS) markets.