You want to offer your customers a rich online customer experience. That is why you integrate your webshop with your ERP system so that customers automatically have insight into the current product, price, and stock information and enjoy a faster processing process. Sounds logical, right?
And yet the integration of webshop and ERP is still (too) often seen as a side issue. As a result, concessions are made to integration, which can be prevented with proper preliminary research. Which factors influence the quality of your integration?
In this article, you will find the most important criteria for selecting a good integration solution.
12 factors that play a role when purchasing an ERP connector
After the decision has been made that an ERP link must be established, many companies have difficulty making the choice. There is so much to offer! And you want to be sure of a qualitative connector, which requires specific knowledge of both your webshop and ERP system. How do you know if that is the case? More choice is not always better, what should you pay attention to when comparing the different solutions?
1. Standard versus customization
Although many organizations initially intend to implement a ready-to-use standard solution, in practice the wishes still require (in part) customization. Whether it concerns your interface or middleware to link your ERP to your webshop, customization is common. This has the advantage that you get exactly what you need but also adds a degree of complexity and risk to the project. The question of whether this is the best solution for your organization (and to what extent) determines your choice.
Take a critical look at the range of ERP e-commerce connectors. To what extent does standard mean standard? And to what extent does customization mean customization? In many cases, you will see a combination arise, in which part of the solution is standard and part customization. In this way, the solution can be offered (cost-) efficiently, and at the same time, there is seamless integration. Identify the extent to which dependence arises on the partner if there is (partial) customization. Only the partner knows how the connector works, is that desirable?
2. Solution type: middleware or extension
Middleware refers to software that functions independently of your web store and your ERP. It is important to investigate how the process flows work between the ERP system and the e-commerce platform. For example, is a partner’s server involved? Is it in the cloud, or has a local provision been made? If third-party servers are used, what happens in the event of a malfunction or failure? How does this affect the integration of your platforms? In other words, identify the vulnerability of the link and discuss it with your partner.
3. Encrypted source code
Is the source code of the connector encrypted or is it visible? If the source code is encrypted, you cannot make changes to the link yourself. Ideally, you have an interface where you can make changes without having to write code.
4. Flexibility of the solution
Your ERP system is, as a rule, constantly subject to change. It is therefore important to know whether the connector is pre-programmed and to what extent adjustments can be made to it. If the link is preprogrammed, customization is always required to keep your link up-to-date in case of changes in your ERP system.
5. Horizontal or vertical solution
A vertical solution is specifically designed for a particular industry, while a horizontal solution is widely applicable. It depends on your company which type of solution suits you best and it is good to think about this in advance.
6. Compatibility with different versions (ERP + commerce)
In most cases, further development takes place in both your ERP system and your commerce solution. It is important that you choose an integration that can deal with these changes or make agreements about this with your partner. On the one hand, you do not want to feel obliged to update your ERP system or webshop to keep the integration running, and on the other hand, you want the connector to continue to connect seamlessly when you perform the updates.
7. Type of connection
There are roughly two options for opening data between the two systems. The first possibility is that the data from the ERP is written directly into the database of your webshop (or vice versa). The first option entails security risks because there is direct access to the database. What are the other pros and cons of the first option? The second option is to send the data via API. This makes it very efficient and results in more time, money, and overview of your business.
8. Logging and monitoring
If the link between your ERP and your webshop is fully automated, there must be a good log of adjustments. For example, do you receive an e-mail or another notification if there is a problem with the data transfer? Then it is just as important to be able to see what has been adjusted, by whom, and at what time. If you are not able to do this, it usually takes longer to find the cause of a problem.
9. Changes after going live
Both your ERP and your webshop are not static. This means that new fields are added to your database from time to time. Can you easily add these fields yourself or do you always need a programmer or another specialist?
10. User interface
Is it visible in the application which fields in the ERP and your webshop software correspond with each other? This way you know exactly which fields you need to update in your ERP to fill the correct field in your webshop. Sometimes only the manufacturer knows which fields are connected, you can imagine that this presents all kinds of practical problems.
11. Product Information Management
If you change the specifications of a product in your ERP system, you want this data to be immediately entered into your webshop software. Does this happen, or do you still have to make the changes manually? Product information management is a time-consuming job, so you want the data to be synchronized.
12. Total Cost of Ownership
You often pay a purchase price for an ERP integration. But what costs do you spend after installation, for example on maintenance and further development? It is important to have insight into the full costs.
Why choosing the right solution is important?
Integrating your webshop and ERP is the starting point for a rich online customer experience. Not only that, but it is also important for the productivity and bottom line of your company. By choosing the right solution from the start, you avoid disappointment in terms of budget, planning, or link quality.
ERP systems and e-commerce solutions are constantly developing so that the number of possibilities for your organization will continue to increase in the future. The choice for integration is therefore a decision for the long term. Before entering into new partnerships, make a good assessment of the type of integration you want to purchase, and don’t go overnight.