Streamlining Ecommerce Integrations

Integrating legacy systems with modern solutions

Ecommerce is evolving at an unprecedented – and ever more complicated –  pace.  

And IT departments are struggling to keep up.

Today’s online brands sell across multiple sales channels. They sell through Amazon, Walmart and other marketplaces or specialty sites like Wayfair. They sell through the online sites of their traditional retailer channels like Target or Home Depot. Many sell through social media. And most have their own online stores powered by Shopify or other shopping cart platforms.

Once a sale is made, sellers may fulfill their orders from their own warehouses and distribution centers. They may also use Amazon FBA, Walmart WFS, or other sales channel fulfillment options. Or they outsource fulfillment to 3PLs , drop shippers or other partners. Some fulfill through their retail locations using traditional carriers, fast last-mile services or customer pick-up.

And many sellers use a combination of sales channels and fulfillment methods, making operations even more complicated.

As online sales and fulfillment become ever more complex, efficient order and inventory management, driven by real-time data syncing, is even more essential to ensure profitability and a good brand experience.

For IT professionals, adding these new channels, partners and platforms to existing operations is a challenge. This is especially so with legacy systems. Often relying on point-to-point, one-off integrations, these ad hoc setups are unreliable, unscalable and strain limited IT resources.

IT teams must ensure systems run smoothly, data flows seamlessly and operations are efficient. However, the increasing number and complexity of integrations can overwhelm even the most battle-hardened IT departments.

To stay competitive, businesses need better integration strategies.

Adopting modern integration tools, like the Etail ecommerce integration platform, can help. These tools streamline connections and reduce the burden on IT teams.

But ultimately, the goal is to create a seamless sales and fulfillment experience for both the business and its customers. By mastering ecommerce integrations, then using tools purpose-built to drive efficiency, cut costs and boost ecommerce margins, companies can improve their ecommerce operations, margins and customer experience.

That’s smarter commerce. And that leads to better profitability and long-term success.

Overcoming Ecommerce Integration Hurdles

IT professionals managing ecommerce integrations face several critical challenges:

Scalability and Flexibility

Integrating new sales channels, partners and systems becomes increasingly complex as ecommerce sales and operations grow. Point-to-point, one-off integrations strain IT resources and lack the scalability required for future expansion.

Legacy System Integration

Many businesses rely on legacy systems, such as CRMs and ERPs, which were never designed for modern ecommerce integrations. Integrating these systems with new sales channels and partners often requires complex and resource-intensive workarounds.

Data Integrity and Consistency

Ensuring data accuracy and consistency across multiple systems is a significant hurdle. Manual data entry processes and disparate data sources can lead to inconsistencies, hampering decision-making and impacting customer experiences.

Real-time Data Synchronization

In a world where ecommerce customers expect fast – often same, one or two-day order delivery –  real-time data synchronization is essential. Delays in updating order statuses, inventory levels or customer information across connected systems can result in overselling, costly operational inefficiencies and margin loss.

Security and Compliance

With sensitive customer data and financial transactions involved, IT teams must ensure that integrations adhere to industry-standard security protocols and compliance regulations. Amazon and other sales channels also often have their own security standards and audits to ensure that you – and your ecosystem partners – meet them to remain selling on their marketplaces.

Overcoming these hurdles is not just about maintaining current operations but also about setting the stage for future growth and efficiency. By understanding and addressing these key issues, businesses can lay a solid foundation for more streamlined and effective integration strategies.

The Benefits of a Streamlined Integration Strategy

Implementing a comprehensive ecommerce integration strategy can unlock several benefits for businesses:

Increased Operational Efficiency

Automated processes, real-time data synchronization and reduced manual work result in streamlined operations, improved productivity, less costly errors and returns, and cost savings.

Improved Data Accuracy and Consistency

With a centralized platform and strong data validation procedures, sellers can ensure data integrity and consistency across all connected systems, quickly spot exceptions for troubleshooting and enable better decision-making.

Enhanced Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Real-time visibility into order statuses, inventory levels, and accurate customer data contribute to the brand experience, fostering increased customer satisfaction, recommendations and loyalty.

Increased Scalability and Adaptability

A scalable and flexible platform enables businesses to easily integrate new sales channels, partners and systems as their ecommerce operations grow, future-proofing their investments.

A Sharper Competitive Edge

By streamlining ecommerce integrations, sellers can gain a competitive edge; responding quickly to market demands, adding or changing new trading partners or acquisitions, and capitalizing on emerging opportunities.

Creating a solid ecommerce integration strategy offers benefits ranging from increased efficiency to better customer satisfaction.

Now, let’s explore how to bridge legacy systems with modern technologies to create seamless ecommerce operations and a future-proof ecommerce ecosystem.

Combining Legacy and Next-Gen Technologies

Combining old and new systems is challenging. Legacy systems are deeply embedded in business operations, so they can't just be shut down or bypassed.

Here are several factors to consider in bridging legacy and newer systems and technologies:

At the heart of Etail lies a powerful integration and workflow optimization engine. External systems are simply connected to Etail - eliminating the need for point-to-point integrations.

1. Integration Complexity

Managing multiple point-to-point integrations becomes increasingly complex and unsustainable as a business grows.

Each new connection demands individual attention, creating a tangled web of integrations that are hard to manage and prone to failure; causing operational disruptions, lost sales and customer dissatisfaction.

Investing in a robust integration platform can centralize and simplify adding, managing and monitoring all integrations, significantly reducing complexity.

Implementing an ecommerce integration platform offers several advantages:

Centralized Management: Oversee all integrations from a single system, reducing complexity and errors.

Simplified Monitoring: Provide real-time visibility into integration status for prompt issue resolution.

Streamlined Scalability: Handle increased loads and new sales channels  or partners without additional point-to-point integrations.

Improved Data Consistency: Consolidate data from multiple sources for accurate, up-to-date information across systems.

Enhanced Security: Centralize and automate security measures, safeguarding data and ensuring regulatory and channel compliance.

Boosted Efficiency: Automate processes like data synchronization and error handling, reducing IT workload.

The Etail integration platform addresses these issues by utilizing a “hub and spoke” architecture. Rather than connect systems with each other with point-to-point integrations, all systems are connected with the centralized Etail hub, which handles data transfer and monitoring among the connected systems.

2. Legacy System Compatibility

Many ecommerce businesses rely on legacy systems for their core operations.

Integrating modern platforms with older ERP, CRM financial and other systems can be challenging.

Legacy systems often lack the flexibility needed to seamlessly connect with new technologies, leading to data silos, errors and inconsistencies. But too often, other departments and functions depend on these legacy systems of record – so eliminating or bypassing them is not an option.

To improve compatibility with legacy systems, businesses can use middleware solutions such as ecommerce integration software to act as a bridge between legacy systems and modern platforms, facilitating smoother integrations.

Developing APIs for legacy systems can also enable better connectivity and data exchange with newer systems. But it’s also important to consider your customer’s legacy systems in designing your ecommerce ecosystem.  Many retail channels still use EDI  or even flat files for data exchange so your system may also need to handle these older technologies.

Planning for phased modernization allows businesses to gradually replace outdated components without disrupting operations, ensuring a smooth transition to more flexible and integrated systems.

The Etail integration platform, for example, works with systems already in place. Think of it as an integrated second layer over the systems you or your partners currently use. Legacy systems connect to it where they need to be part of the ecommerce technology stack while other functions continue to use them as normal. This approach creates a single, centralized, integrated ecommerce platform – including legacy systems – without the need to “rip and replace” them.

3. IT Resource Strain

Limited IT resources are a common issue for many businesses.

Creating, maintaining and troubleshooting multiple integrations consumes significant time and effort. Everything works fine – until it doesn’t,  because something changed in an external system or process you’re connected to, leading to a scramble to find and fix the error.

This focus on keeping systems running leaves little room for strategic initiatives that drive innovation and growth. Manual processes required to bridge gaps between systems further strain IT departments.

Automating routine tasks and processes can significantly reduce the burden on IT resources, allowing the team to focus on more strategic activities. By selecting a platform with strong automation capabilities for routine tasks such as order processing and inventory updates, you’ll reduce the workload on the IT team, allowing them to focus on strategic initiatives.

Ensure the platform offers comprehensive ramp-up and ongoing support services, including the option to outsource non-core IT activities such as new employee training, analysis and report development, and troubleshooting sales channel issues. This provides additional expertise and relieves the strain on in-house IT teams.

4. Realtime Data Access and Accuracy

Access to real-time data is essential for making informed decisions and responding quickly to market changes. However, achieving real-time data synchronization across multiple systems can be challenging. Without real-time data, businesses may face delays in order processing, inventory management and customer service, dragging down overall performance and profitability.

Implementing real-time integration solutions can ensure data is synchronized across all systems as it is updated. Investing in data warehousing and analytics tools provides real-time insights and reporting capabilities. Developing an API-first strategy enables real-time data exchange between systems, ensuring data consistency and availability for better decision-making.

But in the real world of ecommerce integrations, just quickly transferring the data is not enough. That’s because different sales channels, 3PLs and other trading partners are not only using systems that need integration, the data provided by these systems is formatted in different ways – called its data taxonomy.

For example, a data taxonomy might classify products by type; brand; supplier; price range; SKU, ISBN, ASIN or other identification;  and other attributes. Amazon’s data taxonomy is different than Walmart, which is different from Target, which may be different from the way you or your 3PLs look at these things.

Data with external systems needs to the normalized, aggregated and reported in a common taxonomy to be useful for analysis.

Without a solid design to handle data taxonomy, integrating systems can be chaotic, leading to misunderstandings, errors and inefficiencies. By having a well-defined taxonomy, organizations can streamline processes, enhance data quality, cut costs and make better business decisions.

Etail, for example, leverages a “single item master SKU” combining all possible taxonomy into a single, common denominator that identifies each product no matter where or how it is sold by any trading partner.  That ensures accurate data for analysis – especially in forecasting and replenishment where the same core product could be sold as a single branded SKU, a private label SKUs for multiple customers, as part of a multi-pack or as a component in a kit or bundle. Data from all these configurations – wherever they were sold or stocked – is combined into a single master SKU for forecasting. That increases forecast accuracy, prevents overstocks or out-of-stocks, and improves inventory yield and ROI.

Optimizing Integrations with Ecommerce Tools

A successful ecommerce integration strategy is about more than just connecting a bunch of disparate systems.  It’s really about giving people the tools they need to drive the business forward using those systems.

Too often, this is forgotten.  

An integration platform is chosen, then connected to a separate order and inventory management system.

Sure, the systems are “integrated”. But are they optimized to work together to increase efficiency, cut costs and improve margins,  and drive customer satisfaction?

Unlike other intgration solutions, Etail was purpose-built for ecommerce and to drive growth with a built-in suite of order, inventory and fulfillment management tools.

Increase Operational Efficiency

Fragmented order and inventory management processes can lead to inefficiencies and increased operational costs. Disjointed systems require manual intervention to ensure accuracy and consistency, which is time consuming and prone to errors. Streamlining these processes is critical for improving operational efficiency and reducing costs.

Automating key operational processes, such as order routing and inventory tracking, reduces manual effort,  returns and errors.

Etail takes operational efficiency a step beyond by integrating and automating product listings with inventory availability. This inventory-centric approach changes listing visibility, content and pricing shown to individual shoppers based on inventory availability and actual cost of fulfillment for their location. They result? You’ll never take an order you can’t successfully – and efficiently  – fulfill.

Cut Costs and Improve Margins

Ecommerce customers demand fast and often free or low-cost delivery.

To meet these demands, sellers often disperse inventory to multiple locations to be closer to potential customers and cut delivery time and expense.

It’s called Distributed Logistics and three technologies are required to successfully implement this strategy:

  1. Distributed Inventory Management (DIM): The ability to manage inventory at multiple locations, including partner locations like 3PLs, FBA or WMS, or suppliers.
  2. Distributed Inventory Forecasting (DIF):  The ability to translate real-time demand data into forecasting and replenishment strategies that maximize inventory yield and inventory ROI.
  3. Distributed Order Management (DOM): The ability to route individual orders to the best, lowest-cost fulfillment option that meets customer and channel fulfillment expectations.

Most DOM platforms only work with locations using their software. But the Etail distributed logistics capability is system-agnostic. It works with whatever WMS systems are already in place at your 3PLs or other fulfillment locations.

Plus Etail offers cartonization – which automatically selects the best, lowest-cost packaging for every order,  automated carrier rate shopping and other integrated features designed to cut costs and maximize margins on every order.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

Ecommerce fulfillment drives the customer experience.

It makes sense, the fulfillment and delivery experience are often the last touch point a shopper has with the seller for their transaction. Good or bad, it’s what they remember.

General integration platforms can do a good job of stitching together and synchronizing various platforms and systems – including those used in ecommerce.

But, unlike Etail, they are not purpose built for ecommerce and to enhance the ecommerce customer experience.

Etail Solutions’ integration capabilities significantly customer satisfaction by ensuring seamless operations and efficient data management. Automated processes reduce errors and delays, leading to timely and accurate order fulfillment and fewer returns.

By integrating sales channels, supply chains, and operational systems, Etail Solutions provides real-time data synchronization. This ensures that inventory levels, order statuses, and customer information are always up-to-date, accurate and communicated to sales channels.  So customers benefit from real-time order tracking and improved communication, which increases transparency and trust. Plus, the unified view of customer data enables personalized interactions and better customer service, further enhancing the customer experience.

Learn More

The Etail Solutions platform was purpose built to integrate and automate ecommerce operations to reduce costs and boost profits, supporting rapid growth without extensive system overhauls.

The platform integrates sales channels, supply chains and operational systems, enabling automation and synchronization to reduce costs and maximize profits.

Etail also features a fully integrated suite of ecommerce management tools including order and inventory management, shipping and fulfillment optimization, catalog and listing management, and data analysis and reporting.

The platform is trusted by top brands and 3PLs for its ability to streamline operations and support complex ecommerce ecosystems at scale.

Additional resources

ETAIL PLATFORM OVERVIEWS

Integrations

Software Overview

BLOG POSTS

Future Proofing Ecommerce Operations: Three strategies to thrive in an unpredicable future

Siloed Data and Spreadsheet Olympics: Taming data silos and dis-integrated systems

The Ultimate Guide to Order Management

Identifying IT Barriers to D2C Growth: What it takes to scale D2C fulfillment for market-leading, legacy brands

CASE STUDIES

Evenflo: Conquering Legacy System Challenges, Empowering Online Sales  

VIDEOS

Distributed Logistics for Digital Commerce (video series) https://www.etailsolutions.com/videos

LIVE BRIEFINGS

What it Takes to Scale D2C Fulfillment From a Global Leader with Anthony "Chip" Gaetano, VP of IT, Goodbaby International  

Scaling Ecommerce Growth and Profit Beyond Your Siloed Systems with Dana Smith, VP of IT, Lasko Products

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