You’ve got a strong ecommerce presence and are growing your business at a healthy pace. You’ve also got a CRM system managing your customer data, promotions, and marketing. And you’ve implemented an ERP system to handle your finances and logistics.
It’s perfectly acceptable to run your business using different software for specific needs, and you may be comfortable doing so—but there are a vast number of ways to streamline your business and simplify your processes just by integrating your ecommerce solution with your CRM and ERP systems.
The biggest (but not only) advantage to integrating your ecommerce site with your CRM and ERP systems is that your customers will have an easy and enjoyable shopping experience. A large part of this positive experience is the ability to perform self-service tasks on your ecommerce sites, such as viewing order history or creating a return.
Failing to properly implement self-service can have drastic implications for your business. According to StellaService, “Customer self-service isn’t just a courtesy: it’s an organizational imperative. Over half of shopping carts are abandoned due to hidden or hard-to-find product, price, and/or policy details—costing retailers $4 trillion in sales revenue each year.”
It’s easy to forget that even though your back end systems aren’t visible to customers, they play an extremely important role in the rhythm of your business.
Tackling an integration project such as this will no doubt involve some effort—but the many advantages of integrating your ecommerce, CRM, and ERP systems will be more than worth it in the end. Let’s take a look, one integration at a time, to see what these advantages are.
ERP and Ecommerce Integration
When most people think about ERP systems, they picture behemoth software packages that manage finances, payroll, logistics, and more. There is no question: ERP systems are extremely powerful. But they can also give your business an extra boost when your ERP and ecommerce systems are integrated.
ERP and ecommerce integration can enhance productivity by streamlining your product data management. Setting up and managing your products is challenging enough; duplicating this effort across different systems is an unnecessary burden. When your ERP data flows directly into your ecommerce system, all the work put into setting up new products, adding descriptions and images, and attaching pricing models will be incorporated into your site for customers to consume.
On top of that efficiency, you can sell the same products configured in your ERP system across all your selling channels (e.g., online, brick and mortar stores, call centers, and catalogs) effortlessly, by managing it all in a single system.
Keeping a single system of record for your financial postings is a no-brainer. However, when you’ve got separate systems for your back-end ERP and front-facing ecommerce site, integration can seem like needless task.
But imagine this scenario—a customer places an order on your site for three different items. He wants two of the items sent to his house in Portland, OR. The third item is a gift, and should be sent to his friend in Los Angeles, CA.
Your business model calculates tax on a destination-based taxing schema, so your ecommerce site should calculate zero percent for the items shipping to Oregon and 9.5 percent for the item going to California. At checkout, the customer decides to use a gift card for $20 and puts the remaining payment amount on a credit card.
This scenario might be achieved with a stand-alone ecommerce system, but when the quarter ends and you need to report on your taxes charged—or when you need to reconcile customer payments against accounts receivable statements—you’ll need to extract all this data to create your reports.
If your ERP and ecommerce systems are integrated, tax and payment data can flow easily from one system to another, and reports can be generated in a cinch.
Nothing leaves a bad impression like a broken promise. Providing accurate inventory positions and delivery dates to your customers is key to high customer satisfaction. Even better, allowing them to track the progress of their orders online empowers shoppers to control their shopping experience. This is where ERP integration provides a huge advantage.
If you manufacture your own products, you can give realistic expectations to your customers regarding when items will be available, based on calculations your ERP system can perform. Most ERP systems have built-in capable-to-promise (CTP) or available-to-promise (ATP) algorithms that take into account your production and fulfillment time. When your ecommerce and ERP systems are integrated, these dates can be shown to customers on your site to give them more information while shopping.
ERP integration can boost confidence that inventory information displayed on your ecommerce site accurately reflects your warehouse inventory. If your systems are integrated, inventory levels can be automatically increased whenever your warehouse receives a purchase order, or decreased any time shipments are picked up. Better yet, when shipments leave the warehouse, you can notify your customers so they can be excited about receiving your goods.
When your ERP and ecommerce systems are integrated, logistics information is passed back and forth in near real time—providing your customers the best possible information about your goods and their orders.
CRM and Ecommerce Integration
CRM systems have become essential to running a business in the ecommerce space, and they are utilized by nearly every ecommerce business. CRM systems are perfect for capturing contact information for leads, managing customer data, and creating targeted promotions. But CRM systems alone are incomplete. They don’t contain the transactional and financial information that can help managers track customer trends and identify new sales opportunities.
An ecommerce and CRM integration can have a huge, positive impact on your business. It helps you establish a sense of loyalty among your current customers, maximizes your sales, and makes the shopping experience exceptional.
Loyalty programs incentivize existing customers to come back to your ecommerce site, thus strengthening your impact on those customers. A good loyalty program allows customers to accrue points, participate in campaigns, and get rewarded with special promotions and offers. Most CRM systems come with out-of-the-box functionality to create, manage, and monitor loyalty programs. Integrating your ecommerce and CRM systems will make it easy for customers to go online and look up their available rewards and points balances.
Another great benefit to sharing your data across ecommerce and CRM systems is the ability to save customer shipping and payment information for convenience at checkout. Taking away any hurdles that stand between a customer putting an item in their cart and checking out is a huge advantage on its own—and making it extra convenient allows customer to check out with ease. With this customer data, you can also implement abandoned cart recovery, maximizing your sales and delivering a personalized shopping experience.
Aside from loyalty scenarios, there are several other situations in which you’d want to display data from your CRM system on your ecommerce site. For example, let’s say a customer received numerous compliments on a new lip color she purchased from your site. She wants to recommend it to her friends, but she can’t remember the name of the shade. If her order history was available online (fetched from the CRM system), she could easily pull up the exact shade to share with her friends.
Another scenario where CRM data is extremely useful on your ecommerce site is when a customer wants to make a return. A 2017 study from UPS found that two-thirds of shoppers surveyed take the time to review a return policy before purchasing. When your CRM and ecommerce systems are integrated, you can make your returns process smooth and simple. Data from CRM can be auto populated in the return form, such as item identifiers and customer email addresses and phone numbers, saving your customers time (and headaches).
When your ecommerce, ERP, and CRM systems are talking to each other, your operations are greatly simplified. And you will benefit from three huge advantages: your data will be synchronized; your business will be able to grow more easily; and you will be providing an exceptional shopping experience for your customers.