Mary Yasensky Delivery Manager

    Ecommerce and ERP: Integration That Drives Growth

    As your retail business or Ecommerce startup grows, aligning storefront operations with backend business processes gets increasingly difficult — this is where Ecommerce and Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) Integration comes in.

    Facilitating a two-way data flow between your Ecommerce and ERP systems has a ton of benefits. Such as:

    • Better inventory optimization
    • Accurate financial forecasting
    • Less inventory management errors
    • Better order tracking through matching purchase orders, inventory and costing.

    With over 12 years under our belt at Surf, we’ve helped businesses from Y Combinator startups to large enterprises in integrating complex resource management solutions — one of our biggest projects so far was developing a custom ERP system for KFC.

    In this article, we’ll use our expertise to look into the advantages and potential challenges associated with Ecommerce and ERP integration. Let’s dive in.

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    Who can benefit from an ERP and Ecommerce integration?

    In today’s competitive landscape companies need to stay agile, swiftly adapting to changing market trends — that’s where Ecommerce and ERP integration comes in.

    As a company grows, staying lean becomes more challenging. This is especially true for Ecommerce companies that deal with many sources of truth: digital storefronts, backend systems, CRMs and so on.

    Ecommerce integrations are great for medium to large Ecommerce businesses or growing startups. It can help speed up decision-making and improve data access.

    But how can you tell if your company is the right fit for this project? One way is to watch for the following signs:

    • You’ve digitized your business processes, yet it feels like software is still bottlenecking your growth.
    • You’re short on data for strategic decisions, often scrambling for information.
    • Your employees are spending valuable time manually synchronizing data across various digital touchpoints.
    • All of these issues result in mix-ups and service hiccups that impact your customers.

    How to ensure a successful ERP and Ecommerce integration?

    When beginning an integration process, you first need to determine the data to be exchanged and the direction they need to flow. Not all data needs to move both ways. For instance, an ERP platform doesn’t necessarily need to push data to initiate a purchase at the storefront. 

    But mapping out the data flow is just one of multiple challenges. Here are a few more to keep in mind: 

    • Integration difficulties. Strategically planning your architecture is crucial to avoid additional costs. For instance, if any of your systems uses legacy code, it may not integrate well with newer software. This can require you to develop a translation layer or update that system. 
    • Operational disruptions. Integrating systems can cause temporary disruptions to your day-to-day operations. A key challenge is minimizing downtime during the transition.
    • Data security. Ensuring the security of your data during and after integration is vital. A breach could be catastrophic, so careful planning and stringent security measures are a must.

    To sidestep these and other potential pitfalls, a thorough development roadmap and roll-out plan are essential. At Surf, our senior UX researchers and product managers dedicate maximum effort and skills during the zero sprint to create a comprehensive MVP specification, risk management plan, and technical architecture.

    All of it sets the stage for a successful development phase, where we can focus solely on implementation.

    Ecommerce and ERP integration benefits

    Let’s take a look at the main benefits ERP system brings to your business:

    Streamlined inventory management. Some businesses still manually manage inventory, often with spreadsheets. This can lead to multiple data sources. Adopting a centralized database establishes a single entry point that automatically synchronizes across all interfaces, enhancing efficiency and accuracy.

    Personalization. 94% of businesses see personalization as key to their success. Collecting all data in one place can help to provide a more personal experience: personalized response to customer inquiries, accurate order tracking and timely delivery, or personalized special offers and promos.

    Transparency. The use of segregated tools can often result in data silos within departments. Integration tackles this issue, promoting enhanced collaboration: sales teams can adjust pricing according to inventory, while marketers can fine-tune campaigns based on sales performance.

    Easy access to data. Data accuracy and availability are vital for informed decision-making. By processing data from multiple sources, you can gain a comprehensive view of customer behavior, shopping trends, employee performance, as well as track progress towards your KPIs. And by making the data readily available through a mobile app, you can ensure an uninterrupted access to information.

    For instance, when KFC approached us to create a custom ERP system, they were grappling with delayed decision making and lack of data as their regional managers were still hooked on paper-based processes for reporting and tracking clock-in and clock-out times. This created challenges for senior management, making it difficult  to streamline processes in line with the lean methodology the company was aiming for.

    We assisted KFC in digitizing business processes within a custom ERP system. The project encompassed digital dashboards, automated scheduling and task-management as well as an automated time-clock system powered by facial recognition (it improved the accuracy of time tracking in KFCs restaurants where it was deployed).

    From state-wide pet shops to global pharmacy chains, Surf has a wide-ranging experience in building top-performing apps.

    Learn how we build for Ecommerce

    Ecommerce and ERP integration challenges

    Both ERP and Ecommerce involve numerous moving pieces, potentially making the integration process both technically and conceptually challenging. Here are a few hurdles you might face:

    Legacy software. If your current software is beginning to show its age, it could be using outdated data protocols, like XML instead of JSON, which is the current industry standard. This issue can be addressed by developing middleware software — a translation layer that converts data into a format each system can understand. This can be cheaper in some cases and is exactly the approach we took when we developed a new app for a large European bank.

    Scalability and post-launch support. For larger stores, the integration layer may have to handle a considerable amount of data, so it’s essential to ensure your infrastructure is up to the task. 

    At Surf, we primarily utilize scalable, widely-used technologies like Go and Node.js for backend development. While this may initially present more challenges, it streamlines future product development for our clients.

    We also meticulously document everything — research, reports, scenarios, tests, approaches, and specifications — and hand it over to the client’s team. This thorough documentation enables our clients to efficiently manage the product in-house, or continue collaborating with us for further development and support.

    Data security and compliance. Ensuring that your integrated systems adhere to relevant data protection regulations can be challenging, especially when dealing with sensitive customer information and legacy systems that may not have been designed with current security standards in mind. At Surf, we prioritize data security and compliance from the outset by designing systems with GDPR, CCPA, and other data protection regulations in mind.

    Looking for an Ecommerce and ERP integration partner?

    Ecommerce and ERP integration is a complex but necessary step towards optimized business flow. If you’re considering such an integration and need a trusted development partner, Surf is ready to offer our experience and expertise.