Whether it’s an online store that sells directly to consumers or a wholesale-restricted website for business buyers, brands have been rushing to build ecommerce sites to establish direct relationships with customers and expand sales. Although online selling can be a lucrative channel, managing an ecommerce storefront can also burden growing organizations because of the additional resources and expertise it requires.
In particular, many companies hastily stand up a new ecommerce store and overlook how it ties into their back-office business management solutions, like financials, CRM, order management and inventory management. Running a website that is disconnected from these core systems can create inefficiency in the rest of their operations. The merchandiser adding new items to the site, the marketer creating promotional codes, the warehouse worker picking orders and the customer service representative processing returns will all pay the price when they have to take extra steps to their daily routines to circumvent technology integration gaps.
In fact, the effects can be wide ranging, encompassing:
- Errors from manual data entry. Manually importing online orders and product data between multiple systems is susceptible to human error. It also delays product delivery. You can try to automate this with third-party integrations to exchange data between systems, but they typically only sync data daily or hourly, so information gets stale quickly. In addition to the ongoing fees you’ll pay for the integrations, they can be a maintenance nightmare requiring frequent fixing and upkeep.
- Inaccurate inventory and pricing. If you are managing a separate ecommerce product catalog alongside your main inventory management system, it’s a constant struggle to sync stock levels and pricing changes. When you create new items in your system of record, you also must add them to your online store. If the warehouse replenishes inventory, it may take time to reflect that on the website. It’s more challenging to display available quantity on hand, so items are simply marked in stock or out of stock, and customers don’t have a sense of urgency when making a purchasing decision. Over time, you can have items sitting on warehouse shelves that aren’t visible on the website, or you have to cancel orders because you oversold what’s actually available.
- Order processing delays. When you have to import online order details into the order management system, it typically adds a couple extra business days to your fulfillment process. Since orders don’t feed directly from the website to the warehouse throughout the day, they come in as batches, making it more difficult to pick, pack and ship. Once orders are marked shipped, there is usually a delay posting the tracking information back to the ecommerce platform. Customers get frustrated not being able to check the status of their order and are forced to contact your sales or customer service representatives.
- Complex B2B account management. B2B organizations need to make it easy for their business buyers to submit quotes, place complex bulk orders, pay invoices and check shipping status and account balances. If business accounts can’t perform these routines tasks online, they are forced to deal with your sales representatives over the phone or email instead. This not only frustrates buyers, but it also results in lower productivity across your sales organization, forcing reps to waste their time manually entering sales orders, providing status updates or chasing down late invoice payments.
- No personalized shopping experience. It’s very difficult to personalize an individual’s shopping experience if you don’t know anything about them. If your ecommerce website can’t use your customer data, including web browsing behavior, cross-channel purchases and search history, you’re treating every shopper the same by showcasing the same products and promotions. This one-size-fits-all approach ultimately hurts engagement and customer lifetime value as distinct customer profiles behave differently and require different tactics to convert—a new visitor may need a special coupon to get them to make their first purchase while a familiar wholesale buyer needs a personalized product catalog to speed up their routine purchase. The easiest way to increase average order value is to upsell similar items, but ecommerce systems disconnected from financial or customer data typically only provides generic bestsellers instead of personalized product recommendations, which improve click-through rates by 2-5%.
Remove the complexity from your ecommerce operations
If your customer, order, inventory and financial data is stored in separate, channel-specific silos, you’ll need to spend additional resources to manage these multiple data sources to keep orders moving. These inefficiencies force your ecommerce operations team to spend extra time fixing problems instead of creating more engaging shopping experiences.
When ecommerce is natively unified with ERP, CRM, order and inventory management, you gain an unprecedented level of real-time visibility designed to make more informed business decisions. You’ll be able to see, for example, what products are moving best in a given region or with a given buyer persona. And, because you won’t need to integrate front-end ecommerce and back-end business systems, you’ll no longer need to manage separate systems and stumble through manually importing data to get everything to work together.
NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce ecommerce solution is automatically unified with your core NetSuite operational business systems, providing a single view of customer, order, inventory and other critical data so you get real-time visibility across your business while powering personal and relevant cross-channel experiences.
Story by Austin Caldwell