The IT function is the glue holding an organization’s ecommerce strategy together.
Marketing and Operations have big plans, but they turn to the IT group to make those plans happen. And it’s a complex, often thankless, job.
Disparate systems – inside and outside the organization – need to be connected and Integrated. Partner and organizational data from a bewildering array of OMS, IMS, PIM, WMS and EDI systems needs to be normalized and leveraged for good use. Priorities are unclear, conflicting or driven by departmental myopia. There are too many projects and too few IT resources to work on them. So IT leaders are left to sort it all out – and someone is bound to be unhappy with the results.
But there’s hope.
That hope lies in thinking about D2C ecommerce less about technology and more about options…specifically, keeping options open.
Here’s how it works.
Traditionally, ecommerce IT has been about integrations. For example, integrating Amazon with your order and inventory management system. That’s a pretty straightforward, point-to-point integration.
Easy peesy…until Marketing decides they also need to sell on Walmart or a niche sales channel like Wayfair. And then they add a branded Shopify site. And by the way, Operations needs to add a 3PL or three to keep up with the demand for 1-2 day shipping. And each 3PL has its own operations platform and workflows. And everything needs to sync with an aging ERP system that can’t keep up with the breakneck pace of ecommerce growth – but the legacy ERP system is too important to other functions, too expensive, and too risky to just rip and replace.
Suddenly those straightforward point-to-point integrations aren’t so straightforward. They’ve become what Etail’s system architects affectionately call “a rat’s nest”. And when something changes – either with an external partner’s systems or an internal system – bad things happen, and the scramble is on to fix them.
And when they do get fixed, it’s just a band-aid because the next change starts the scramble all over again.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Winning in the D2C IT space involves moving beyond the idea of just executing integrations to creating a control tower for ecommerce operations.
An ecommerce control tower aims to provide enhanced connectivity and visibility among trading partners including sales channels, inventory and fulfillment options, and systems of record. It’s a central hub that gathers, normalizes and distributes data to drive order and inventory management, forecasting and analytics, and – ultimately – higher margins.
Learn more about ecommerce control towers. Click here to view our infographic.
A well-designed ecommerce control tower is built around digital commerce integration platform designed to help IT leaders architect, build and manage their ecommerce operations technology stack. It’s powerful. It’s agile. And it’s designed to keep options open…no matter what the Marketing and Ops folks come up with next.
Let’s take a look at how an ecommerce control tower like Etail can help accelerate an organization’s D2C transformation.
BUILDING A MORE FLEXIBLE, RESILIENT TECHNOLOGY BASE
COVID taught us hard lessons in many areas. As IT leaders, we learned just how quickly marketplaces, fulfillment options, and customer expectations can change. In an ever-volatile environment, change is a given. The challenge is to build smarter, more flexible, more adaptable systems to meet those changes as they happen in real-time.
THE SOLUTION: KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN
Connectivity lies at the core of an advanced ecommerce operations control tower. As circumstances change and new opportunities evolve, you need to be able to integrate your ecommerce operations quickly and seamlessly with new sales channels, new fulfillment options and new suppliers.
Etail’s “D2C Leadership Now" webinar series examines “Identifying IT Barriers to D2C Growth”, featuring Anthony “Chip” Gaetano, Vice President of IT for Goodbaby. Click here to view the recorded webinar.
CONNECTING DISPARATE SYSTEMS
Today’s ecommerce ecosystem is complex, involving multiple trading partners such as sales channels, inventory locations, suppliers and retail outlets. Most of these partners have existing infrastructure, software platforms and workflows. Your job: make it all work together seamlessly within your organization and with external business processes.
THE SOLUTION: PLATFORM AGNOSTIC ARCHITECTURE
Etail is a digital commerce integration platform designed to connect disparate systems across your organization and with external partners. Etail creates a secure, integrated connection among all members of your ecommerce ecosystem, no matter what OMS, IMS, WMS other software they use; no matter what system of record they have; and across all standard communication protocols.
As your organization’s digital commerce strategy evolves, more third-party vendors and partners are brought in to expand your ecommerce capabilities. Integrating with each one is expensive, time consuming, and makes your success dependent on their technology stack. That puts your business at risk when faced with unexpected demand, changing requirements, or dealing with partners who are falling short of expectations.
In a volatile environment, 3PLs and other partnerships are an important strategy for increasing D2C capabilities, boosting speed of implementation and getting inventory closer to your customers. But partners each have their own systems and infrastructure and you’ll need to connect to it. And more importantly, partnerships can mean giving up control of your fulfillment technology stack. And that can be a serious risk if circumstances change.
THE SOLUTION: OWN AND CONTROL YOUR ECOMMERCE TECHNOLOGY STACK
As an ecommerce control tower, Etail is designed to seamlessly integrate other systems into the Etail platform. Because you control Etail, you own your fulfillment technology stack – not your partners, who simply retain control of their localized platforms and tools and can use them with data from the Etail system.
Without Etail, when you add a 3PL or other fulfillment option, you are limited to their technology stack. Your visibility to inventory is limited to the visibility they have – which is only a small part of your total picture. And should circumstances change and you need to replace a partner, you’ll be left scrambling to pull together another integration project.
With Etail, you own the integration layer and the fulfillment technology stack. Your fulfillment partners are easily integrated with Etail, no matter what current OMS, IMS, PIM, WMS or other platforms they use. Changing or adding partners is simple. Once added, you have visibility to that partner as part of your entire ecosystem. Your partner can continue to use their tools, pulling data from the Etail platform. And you’ve mitigated the risk of making changes if circumstances change.
ENSURING DATA INTEGRITY
Your internal and external customers, management and stakeholders look to IT to provide accurate, timely data in a format they can understand. But compared to traditional distribution, ecommerce data is fragmented, often incomplete, and reported in different ways by different sales channels. And supply chain data often involves collecting data across dozens of partners with disparate OMS, IMS, WMS and ERP systems.
THE SOLUTION: INTEGRATED, NORMALIZED DATA AND REPORTING
Etail is a fully integrated ecommerce control tower. Orders, inventory, fulfillment, pricing and costs across all your channels and trading partners are normalized, integrated and automated for absolute data integrity. The Etail control tower then provides a powerful business analytics engine and reporting tools. Or you can export data to third-party tools such as Tableau for additional analysis. Plus Etail integrates with your ERP or other systems of record to help ensure data consistency across your organization.
PLANNING FOR SUCCESS
Many order and inventory management systems are hiding a dirty little secret: they can’t handle high volumes of unexpected demand. That leaves you exposed to seasonal inventory surges, unexpected demand spikes, or just ensuring your system can handle future growth.
THE SOLUTION: PROVEN SCALABILITY
Etail counts among its customers some of the largest online sellers – the top ½ of 1 percent of Amazon merchants. These Etail customers process 10,000s of transactions daily around the globe with millions of pricing transactions an hour. Etail’s unique multi-threaded architecture can be scaled almost infinitely to support the largest ecommerce operation.
FINDING CAPACITY TO IMPLEMENT ECOMMERCE INITIATIVES
Business is evolving on so many fronts there is never a shortage of IT projects. What is often in short supply is the IT bandwidth to support all the initiatives requested across all business functions.
THE SOLUTION: IT-“LITE” IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS
Etail is designed to be implemented without extensive IT involvement. Etail Solution Architects, Implementation Managers and Implementation Teams are experts implementing Etail without stressing out the organization. Some IT involvement is needed; it’s difficult to say how much without knowing the details of your project. But most IT leaders are surprised by how few IT hours are required for a successful Etail implementation and roll out.
PROVIDING PLATFORM SUPPORT
IT pros know something business and supply chain leaders sometimes forget: once a platform is implemented, it will need to be supported on a day-to-day basis. Who troubleshoots the software when things don’t go as expected?
THE SOLUTION: DEDICATED CUSTOMER SUCCESS TEAM
There is nothing basic about Etail’s base level of technical support, included with every installation. Our customer support and technical specialists pride themselves on – and are evaluated by – their responsiveness, knowledge of your business and their focus on results. You’ll know your customer success manager by name. They’ll have been on your project since day one. And expert help is close at hand.
An ecommerce control tower can be a powerful option for expanding and systemizing your D2C support capabilities.
Want to see a real-world example of Etail in action? Etail’s “D2C Leadership Now" webinar series examines “Identifying IT Barriers to D2C Growth”, featuring Anthony “Chip” Gaetano, Vice President of IT for Goodbaby. Goodbaby International is a leader in the durable juvenile products industry whose brand portfolio includes Evenflo, cbx, Urbini and several other baby products brands.