The Definition of eCommerce Software Integration

Danielle Lobo

Any industry will have its own set of acronyms, industry-specific jargon, slang and terminology that can be difficult for everyone to understand. What's more, some industry players use the terminology differently which can add to the confusion when trying to make sense of a specific topic. One such area where this happens is in the software industry, specifically when trying to understand eCommerce integration. While most people understand what eCommerce is, to fully explain eCommerce integration, we first have to take a closer look at defining eCommerce.

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce, short for electronic commerce, is used to describe an industry in which buying and selling products and services is conducted over electronic systems – most commonly via the Internet. It also refers to the exchange of information necessary to complete these online transactions such as inventory volumes, pricing data, shipping information and customer data. eCommerce includes transactions made online with mobile and tablet devices and can apply to both the B2C (business-to-consumer) industry and B2B (business-to-business) industries.

It may surprise you, but online shopping has its roots as far back as 1979 when Michael Aldrich connected a TV to a computer using a telephone line, marking the dawn of online shopping as we know it today. eCommerce continues to evolve as features such as mobile commerce, group buying, private sales and social commerce are developed.

What is eCommerce Software Integration?

eCommerce software integration is the coordination between a company’s front-end eCommerce site and back-end accounting and inventory (ERP) system. Proper integration enables eCommerce ERP to automatically flow information bi-directionally between the two systems meaning data only needs to be entered into one system once (typically your ERP software). Inventory quantities, prices, descriptions, and images are managed in your ERP software, and then automatically reflected online. This results in various efficiencies such as inventory levels automatically updated across all channels and systems once the product is sold on the eCommerce site, and as the product gets received into a warehouse and added to inventory. 

However, it's important to note that there are varying degrees of integration. The most basic level of integration is one-way integration or batch updates (which involves some manual processes) or true eCommerce integration with two-way, real-time or near real-time data flow.

Many businesses choose to fully integrate both systems as it means inventory and pricing information is available to customers and staff in real-time and as demand increases the need for additional staff to handle transactions is minimized.

The seamless integration between eCommerce platforms and ERP systems offers businesses of all sizes a practical solution, making the secure 24/7 online purchase of products incredibly appealing.

B2C eCommerce Software

Businesses selling directly to consumers will opt for an open-face eCommerce platform such as Shopify or Magento. These tools successfully integrate with the business's back-end ERP system and the eCommerce Store is open to the public. In this case, the best case scenario is full-fledge integration since consumers can shop 24/7, you’ll want the information to be up to date, and accurate, all the time.

To effectively implement a B2C eCommerce strategy, it is essential to engage with your customers through various marketing channels including utilizing SEO techniques or paid advertising. Building a strong social media presence, creating compelling content, and utilizing email marketing campaigns can also play a crucial role in enhancing the growth of your eCommerce platform. By implementing a well-rounded marketing strategy, you can effectively increase visibility, attract new customers, and ultimately drive sales on your online store.

B2B eCommerce Software

For businesses selling to other businesses, the need for marketing initiatives is not as high. Instead, an order portal is often recommended to enhance the user experience for both customers and sales representatives during order entry.

A B2B specialized Order Portal creates a seamless and intuitive ordering process for your customers. By incorporating an Order Portal that aligns with your brand identity, you can elevate the overall user experience and establish a sense of trust and reliability. The simple UX design not only enhances navigation but also fosters a feeling of familiarity, making it easier for both customers and sales representatives to place orders effortlessly.

Key Consideration - Mobile Optimization

In 2022, 65.7% of total eCommerce sales worldwide were conducted via mobile eCommerce – this is not something to overlook.

When targeting B2B customers, a desktop-friendly order portal is key as they typically prefer conducting business transactions on larger screens. However, for the B2C environment, the focus should shift towards creating a seamless mobile experience to cater to the on-the-go nature of consumers. Prioritizing a mobile version of the website will not only enhance user experience but also drive higher engagement and conversions in the competitive online marketplace.

Advantages of Integrated eCommerce

eCommerce that is successfully integrated into a company’s back-end systems proves advantageous in many ways.

  • Increased Audience: businesses are able to reach consumers on a global scale if they wish
  • Inventory only needs to be entered (either typed or scanned using barcode scanning software) into one system
  • Inventory levels are automatically updated and sales orders and purchase orders are approved
  • 24/7 access by consumers means they are able to submit orders at their convenience
  • Automatic notification to customers and employees
  • Cost savings: Certain businesses have chosen to abandon physical retail locations altogether. Additionally, by leveraging integrated eCommerce solutions, some have managed to sustain significant growth without the need for hiring additional staff.
  • Credit Card processing is simplified – entered directly by the customer instead of manually over the phone
  • Improved customer experience and loyalty: Established businesses with a 30-year track record have navigated various challenges and chances in the market. By incorporating eCommerce integration, these companies can streamline the ordering process for customers, fostering continued loyalty.
  • You have the ability to experiment with sales strategies and hold an even higher competitive advantage.

Disadvantages of Non-Integrated eCommerce

There are several challenges of non-integrated eCommerce or no eCommerce at all. These include:

  • Manual processes require you to update your ERP system and eCommerce separately, leading to data entry errors and wasted employee time.
  • Inventory levels are not automatically updated, leaving room for inaccuracies.
  • The lack of automation results in higher costs, as hiring employees for manual tasks can be expensive
  • Competitors who embrace integrated eCommerce sales strategies will outshine those who do not.

 eCommerce Platforms to Integrate With and What to Expect

Assuming you already have (and are happy with) an inventory and accounting ERP back-end system, you’ll want to speak with your vendor to see if they have any preferred eCommerce partners. Their expertise in previous successful integrations will guide you through the data migration process, and you can even connect with other satisfied clients who have undergone similar projects.

In the event that your software provider doesn't have a specific preference, you have a wide array of options to choose from, including popular platforms including

Shopify provides many advantageous features for small and large businesses. It provides an easy set-up for those unfamiliar with website design and the 24/7 support can be beneficial but it won’t be personalized.

Magento is great for business owners who want to have more control of the eCommerce platform as it offers a fully customizable platform. It’s a great option if eCommerce is the sole selling channel and you have the time and resources to configure your website.

WooCommerce offers a free trial and plan making it a great entry-level option for small businesses. It does offer some flexibility due to modular designing.

If you haven't yet integrated an eCommerce platform with your backend ERP software, now is the perfect time to consider doing so. This integration offers benefits for both B2C and B2B environments. To stay competitive and succeed, it's crucial to provide your customers with options.