The Real Challenges of eCommerce Integration
Read other parts:
- E-commerce integration, part 1. The need for integration in enterprise e-commerce
- E-commerce integration, part 3. Growing number of dependencies between apps as an integration challenge
- E-commerce integration, part 4. How Virto Commerce can help with e-commerce integration
- ERP and e-commerce integration scenarios, part 5. Overview and point-to-point integrations
- ERP and e-commerce integration scenarios, part 6. Using integration middleware
The real challenges of e-commerce integration extend to business and technical issues. When Virto Commerce team members come into contact with client’s projects and review their current IT ecosystem and “how this business works”, they often discover a very complex IT landscape at the crossroads of many commercial and technical issues.
Master data challenges
In this section, we will talk about master data challenges. Let us consider the following topics:
- How to organize a catalog to provide fast and relevant access to the list of goods and services
- How to manage prices and price lists
- How to control warehouse stock
- How to accept orders and payments
- Issues related to order processing and notifications to customers.
The analysis is based on basic issues: e.g. determining where the master data is located in which including solution catalog, customer list, orders or payment list? How is the business logic and assigned IT functionality distributed between the different IT systems? Where is the catalog organized as master data, where is it enriched so that it turns from a simple list of goods and/or services into a set of e-commerce solutions on the website?
This process of catalog enrichment requires many aspects such as adding digital content of additional text descriptions, specifications, pictures and videos, brand and model lists, search tags, and so on. This means that additional data processing is required. At the same time, master data must provide fast and relevant access to the digital catalog, allowing the customer to find the website quickly, find the necessary goods (products and services), and then to select the product and proceed to checkout in a real-time.
Another data-related task is where and how to manage prices. This is a very complicated issue, which is of great importance for B2B, where personalization, contracts, certain agreements between the retailer and their client including personal decisions on price management, prevail. Therefore, price regulation can be a tricky process requiring an understanding of how the warehouses monitor the current assortment, the interaction with production side and see on-shelf goods at the moment with the sales forecast based on the production plans.
Other things to explore are how to accept and process orders and payments and how to provide the customers with the opportunity to place their order easy and quickly. What are the ways to successfully accept the payment, process it, run an interaction with the payment system, offering various payment methods like online payment with a bank card, or payment in cash upon delivery (which is relevant for the B2C) or by invoice (B2B)?
The next step is about processing the orders within the retailer and delivery companies — where the orders go after being paid, which app processes them, how the logistics personnel find these goods in the warehouse. Even basic tasks on how status notifications or changes are sent to the customer and how the customer’s system responds to them, need to be algorithmized.
Data security, compliance and third-party issues
The next challenge that we face is data security. Since the business logic is distributed over many applications, the data are also distributed. So, the question is how to control all storages and types of data. Data may require special processing, such as compliance with The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is essential to protect contract data, check price visibility for various types of customers, and so on. This topic is critical, not only for B2C, consider current trends on more restrictions on e-commerce solutions coming from the governments of different countries.
We continue with the challenge of a failure or unstable operation of the integration solution. Imagine, when transferring an order from one system to another, we lose prices. That could get to an unpredictable result. Or in some other case there an integrated third-party ERP system is unavailable when the client is placing an order. Many problems can occur. But what is certain — the failure of an e-commerce process, even for a few minutes, leads to a serious loss of revenue. When talking about hours or days of downtime, it could result in a crash of the entire online retail business.