What is the true value of integrating your B2B e-commerce platform with your ERP solution?

The growth opportunity in the B2B digital commerce market is phenomenal because the majority of order processing transactions are still managed through traditional selling methods, such as telesales and field sales or fragmented brochure sites which do not offer on line trading facilities. Smart B2B companies are implementing digital transformations that will enable them to capitalise on this growth opportunity​.

But don’t just think of your digital footprint as simply selling on-line, this could be an important strategic initiative with the potential of delivering huge impact when you consider how integrating with your ERP solution can provide one version of the truth.

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Of course, it’s a temptation to stay safe and avoid external expense by continuing to use your current software. Why take the risk if you don’t have to? However, you can’t expect to progress as a business without continued review and investment. As the saying goes, a tradesman is only as good as his tools. Similarly, your business is only as good as the software and processes in use. By using an integrated solution, your business life becomes a great deal easier and your day to day business will run more smoothly.  If you’re using your systems separately, you’re creating silos of information which need manual intervention, duplication, rekeying and this is typically error prone as time and volume pressures grow.  Using an integrated system will ensure you only have to worry about one set of data, freeing up time for more proactive work and greater innovation.

Why integrate your e-commerce and ERP solutions?

So of course you can deploy your e-commerce platform as a standalone entity, but does manually entering data from your e-commerce solution into your backend solution sound appealing, timely or efficient? Even if you’re not working with high volumes of data, this task can be laborious and open to errors.  You won’t be able to provide your customers with an accurate view of product data and availability without them calling or emailing you, which can lead to frustrating disruptions and ultimately customer dissatisfaction. With decreasing attention spans and increased competitive options, you will very quickly lose customers to other more digitally enabled businesses.

As Millennials are moving into buying positions, their expectations of B2B e-commerce sites are much the same as what they have been used to with B2C sites like Amazon and eBay, they want more than just an order entry portal. They want a customer-centric approach to reflect their specific requirements and experiences.   They want to be able to self-manage for re-orders, access order tracking and on-line payments. They want to be able to see real-time inventory helping to improve order management and fulfilment and maybe have visibility of special offers of complimentary products and services to save their time from shopping around.  Ultimately, they want to be in control and do business 24/7 to suit their schedules, and they want to do this from any device they may choose to use.

So what can you expect to gain by integrating your e-commerce platform with your ERP solution?

Customer Self-service – Historically B2B organisations have been slow to adopt digital commerce as many of the offerings have been designed with B2C in mind. However with an integrated platform, customers can view available stock, latest order status, track shipments, download invoices, make online payments, view balances, browse purchase history etc.  With an integrated solution this information is easily accessible and completely accurate.  In a situation where a customer is expecting a shipment from you, for example raw materials that are required for production, a delay could completely disrupt their commitments to their customers, so delivery information is of the utmost importance to them. It makes doing business with you easy! People want access to accurate information at the click of a button, gone are the days where customers expect to sit on the phone on hold waiting for delivery information and stock levels.

Less Data Duplication – Orders placed on the website are automatically transferred to your ERP system in real-time. You don’t have to waste resources to manually re-key data. Your product and pricing data can be entered in your ERP solution and all your channels have access to the same set of data ensuring one version of the truth.

Less Errors – When your staff are manually rekeying data, especially with complex configure to order requirements, numbers can easily be transposed, incorrect quantities entered and orders can even be lost. Payments can be taken incorrectly creating customer dissatisfaction.  Even if you don’t have high volumes of data going through, you’ll eliminate the need for manual data entry and you will be less prone to errors.

Increased Customer Satisfaction – All of the points above equal happy customers! If you’re able to provide your customers with up to date information, tailored to the sets of requirements, is current and error free, it means you’re providing a first-class customer experience. This of course leads to customer loyalty, referrals and ultimately an increase in your bottom-line.

Increased Productivity – With staff spending less time manually entering data, this becomes even more relevant if you have large volumes of data to work with and provides real support for scale bale growth. The order cycle is reduced and staff will have more time to work on other projects.  Your business will enjoy reduced labour and operational costs.

Improved Stock Control – When orders are flowing seamlessly into your ERP system, the order cycle is more efficient and faster. Stock levels will be updated automatically helping to reduce inventory costs.

Summary

While potentially daunting, making some minor changes to the way in which you engage with your customer base on-line can make significant differences in this increasingly competitive world.

If you’re able to take a customer-centric approach to reflect the experiences that buyers have from B2C sites, you’ll both enjoy increased efficiencies. Integrating your e-commerce platform with your ERP solution will provide a scalable platform on which you can increase revenue, promote greater customer loyalty and increase profitability.

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