Few companies are willing to expand the offering in a traditional way, which implies buying out, storing, selling products, and taking all the risks associated with such an arrangement, including constant catalog maintenance and management. New ways to expand the business must be devised.
One of the primary challenges of integration is that not all ecommerce solutions can maintain catalogs with millions of products. While some solutions state the limitations overtly, others don’t and need to be inquired separately. It is essential to know how much your ecommerce can handle. If it can only support up to one million products, your expansion efforts might prove futile. Even solutions as Salesforce and Hybris have limitations that might not be openly disclosed, so you should inquire privately.
Another challenge is the implementation of the required changes to the business model. Although changes might not be as dramatic as turning your store into a marketplace or incorporating drop shipping, certain changes are still required: your suppliers shall be able to upload and maintain their products without external help. At the same time, customers have a birds-eye view of the current stock and detailed information on the delivery terms. For suppliers to make relevant changes to the catalog, it needs to be available via APIs. Access to the catalog implies that your platform needs to have customizable permissions and granular access levels. Seamless digital catalog management is one of the top priorities and perhaps, the main challenge to overcome to make direct integration successful.
The catalog management also implies the need for automatic pricing or a pricing module capable of assigning prices to a multitude of products without manual intervention.
After pricing, you need to configure business logic for payment and delivery of products. From a customer’s standpoint, they will still think they are buying products directly from you; however, in reality, your suppliers are responsible for organizing the shipment of their products. Such a complex arrangement requires your ecommerce solution to be in sync with your suppliers’ inventory and shipment/delivery modules. For example, suppose a customer chooses a product that belongs to your supplier. In that case, you have to be transparent with your customer about the logistics process involved and the expected delivery dates. When you have millions of products in your catalog, it becomes virtually impossible to handle every order manually. Hence your solution needs to provide such information automatically so that customers are aware of the movement of their orders and any other relevant details (such as additional overhead costs).