eCommerce and ERP – 9 Questions to Ask Before Integration

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Whether you are a business to business website, a business to consumer website, or a little bit of both – you have made a decision and are ready to integrate your eCommerce Store with an ERP system. This is a great step forward in setting your business up for success. Still having a hard time deciding see 5 Signs it is Time to Integrate your eCommerce and ERP

Integrating your eCommerce solution and ERP system – Sounds easy right? A bit of Google searching, some phone calls and emails, you select an Integration solution, purchase, install – Viola! Orders and Information start to flow – Problems Solved! While finding the right solution for your business does not have to be difficult, before you start your search there are a few things you should consider. Here are 9 questions to ask:

1. What eCommerce Platform(s) are you integrating?

Do you run all of your online sales from a single eCommerce platform or do you have multiple solutions – such as a combination of Amazon and Magento or BigCommerce? Does each eCommerce solution need to integrate to your ERP or will you focus only on your eCommerce channel with the highest volume?

If you are using a popular, well known eCommerce platform such as Magento or BigCommerce – the options of off the shelf Integration Solutions are much great than if you have a smaller or home-grown eCommerce solution.

2. What ERP(s) are you integrating?

Do you run all of your backend processes and product/inventory management through a single ERP platform or do you have multiple solutions that will need to integrate with eCommerce?
If you are using a popular, well known ERP systems such as SAP, Sage, Microsoft Dynamics or NetSuite – the options of off the shelf Integration Solutions are much greater than if you have a smaller or home-grown solution.

3. How many eCommerce Stores are you integrating?

One store, two stores, multi-language? Documenting your current stores and how they interact with each other and with your ERP will keep everyone on the same page as you begin to review Integration solutions.

4. What is your feature list of “Must have” vs “Nice to have” vs “Future phase”?

Before you start looking at solutions, jot down a list of all features necessary for your new integrated solution. Now break that list into: Must have, Nice to have, and Future phase. While you may add/remove/modify this list as you learn more about eCommerce and ERP integration – this will be a good starting point for evaluating your options.

5. What level of Order and Process Automation are you looking to achieve?

What kind of question is this – you have convinced me I need an integrated solution – I want it ALL automated to remove ALL manual errors. Set it and forget it, right? Well sort-of, there are many variations of “automation” from a full scale everything is automated and integrated to semi-automated systems where data entry is not manual but there may be human intervention to import eCommerce orders into the ERP – and everything in between.

6. What information should flow between the eCommerce and ERP system?

Each possible eCommerce and ERP touch point should be discussed as a part of your feature list.
These touchpoints may include:

  • Product Data: Pricing, Details (Description, Images, etc.), Inventory, Manuals
  • Orders, Invoices, and Returns
  • Payments and Credit Memos
  • Shipping and Tracking
  • Customers
  • Tax (and Tax Certificates)
  • Reporting
  • Promotions, Coupons, Specials)
  • Customer Communications (Emails, Newsletters)

For each touchpoint, you should ask:

  • Where will master information be stored?
  • What information will be synchronized between systems?
  • Will the information flow be one-way or two-way between the systems?
  • Does information synchronization need to be real-time or can it be scheduled?
  • Are there any business specific customizations that need to be considered?

7. Do you allow backorders?

A seemingly simple question, however, if you DO NOT allow backorders – inventory management should be prioritized high on your list of features. You will want to ensure customers don’t place orders for items you don’t have in stock.

8. Who will manage the system once it is up and running?

Some businesses prefer to manage IT and all related solutions in house. Some businesses prefer an outside specialist to handle it all. Most businesses fall somewhere in between. Defining your internal business stakeholders and internal support team up front is a good step to take and should be a key input into the final solution.

9. What are your tradeoffs and constraints?

“Fast, good, cheap, pick two” – while it may be simplistic this common saying provides some insight and truth about tradeoffs. Solution Integration projects often put tradeoffs into three big buckets: Timeline, Budget, Scope. As you begin your project you should ask yourself:

  • What are your tradeoffs?
  • How do your tradeoffs rank against one another?
  • What are your project constraints?

As you proceed forward with an integrated eCommerce and ERP solution, asking the right questions up front will reduce risk and set your business up for success in the long run.

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