Whether you are setting up an e-commerce site, or redeveloping an existing one, there are many different ‘systems’ which need to be integrated and work well together. As we have already established in previous blogs, which you can read here, your website needs to be accessible to a variety of different people.
It also needs to seamlessly connect a number of back-end systems in a way that makes things simple, both for the customer, but also for your operations.
For example, your business might have a website, a different customer service system, a postage and fulfilment system and a stock control system. They all need to communicate with each other. Most businesses have more than one ‘system’ and it is really important to consider how they interact with each other. This may all sound very obvious but it is surprising how many businesses are wasting masses of time and leaving themselves wide open to human error, through simple communication failures between internal systems.
Four top tips for seamless integration
There are undoubtedly many many tips and tricks to ensure that your internal systems are communicating as effectively as possible. However, here are my top four must have areas:
- Your website and database
- Order fulfilment systems
- Content management system
- Stock ordering system
Not all of these suggestions will be relevant for your business, but many will, so its worth casting an eye over the detail below:
1.Your website and database
Having access to your data, particularly when a customer is on your site, is of paramount importance. Whatever happens on your website, the database needs to be updated with the relevant information ASAP. For example, if a customer updates their delivery address on the main website, this information should be automatically shared with the back-end system for the app. Your customer does not want to input their new address every time they make a purchase, or worse still, have to phone you to manually change it. It needs to be as easy as possible.
2.Order fulfilment systems
Many companies nowadays use a completely separate system for fulfilment (getting the parcel to the customer). This is fine, assuming that your fulfilment system, your website and your database are all talking to each other, with minimal human interaction. Customers expect to see tracking numbers and get updates on their delivery. Equally, if you are selling through another platform, such as Amazon or Notonthehighstreet, how do you connect orders from third party sites to your own system. So many companies have to physically print out the orders and then re-input them into their own system. This is both time consuming and open to human error.
3.Content management system
Who is responsible for putting products on your site and updating content? How are you ensuring continuity of style and description etc? It is so important that we think through who is responsible for creating and uploading content. If different people need different levels of access, then you might need multi-tiered access levels. If you’re not happy giving everyone your Facebook and Twitter log in then you may want to use systems like Hootsuite etc. Overall you still need to make it accessible and simple.
4.Stock ordering system
How do you monitor stock? If you are using your back-end system, is that the right way to do it and does it help with re-ordering? The best systems are those that generate lists of products that need re-ordering when stock reaches a certain level. However, for this to happen the backend system needs to talk to the fulfilment system and the website. I have seen small companies go under because this aspect of their business was not working well.
"In the world of e-commerce system integration is king!" Matt Edmundson