The Definitive Guide to Ecommerce Integrations in 2023
Navigating Complex Integrations - Learn how to conquer data challenges, choose tech vendors wisely, enhance security, and prioritize integrations for seamless e-commerce operations.
For modern, tech-savvy ecommerce businesses, integrations are critical to achieving success. However, synchronization across multiple software platforms represents a truly unique challenge, and it’s especially vexing for ecommerce businesses at the enterprise level.
Why? You deal with a ton of data all day every day. Operating your business is living and breathing data like sales orders, customers, ad spend, fulfillment, shipping, customer communications and more. When operating an ecommerce store at enterprise scale, proper data hygiene and utilization become exponentially more important.
As an ecommerce manager, you often find that many software vendors promise data integrations but they don’t always offer solutions that fulfill your needs. In many cases only partial information is passed along, it has mismatched formats or information, sync timing may be inaccurate, core features may not be accessible to all users, custom integrations may be fragile and the way data is used may not take into account the unique nature of each business.
Ecommerce businesses often come to us because they have these problems, and we have experience helping them through these challenges every day. So we thought, why not use our knowledge and experience to create a definitive guide to ecommerce integrations?
First order of business? How to properly integrate and sync data in your enterprise ecommerce business. Here’s what you must consider:
Integration problems often manifest themselves in customer service and in reporting. A high number of customer service requests or anomalous analytics or financial reports are frequently indicators of integration problems, not business problems.
Some of the most common challenges that result from sub-optimal data integration and syncing include:
Time-consuming manual efforts to bridge gaps between systems
Poor decision-making due to inaccurate sales and marketing data
Confusing workflows and processes resulting in avoidable human errors
Inaccurate inventory, fulfillment and returns management
Inconsistent customer experience across different channels
Poor ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) due to inaccurate sales attribution
While the challenges individual businesses face are unique, some of the technology components of the puzzle are much more ubiquitous. Some of the typical components of a modern SaaS commerce architecture include:
Ecommerce Platform (e.g. Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce etc.)
OMS (Order Management System)
CMS (Content Management System)
CRM (Customer Relationship Management platform)
PIM (Product Information Management system)
POS (Point of Sale system)
Martech (CPC, PPC, Email, SMS, Loyalty)
BI (Business Intelligence & Reporting)
Integrations between these systems allow businesses to do a variety of things – manage product data, inventory, manufacturing, marketing, advertising, and overall business intelligence. Some tools on the market have pre-built integrations with other platforms via APIs and existing apps, others can be synchronized through the use of an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service), and others may require a fully custom solution.
Choosing your tech vendors wisely has a significant impact on integrations. Each vendor has their own ecosystem with varying support for native integrations, data connectivity, accessible APIs, SDKs and various integrations capabilities.
From ecommerce hosting platforms to individual parts of your technology stack (e.g., payment processing software, email marketing tools), it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which solutions you should use from an integrations perspective.
Platforms that focus on ecosystems as a priority are increasingly the leaders in their space, so you should factor in the following:
Does the vendor allow “partner” integrations (not just built-in integrations)?
Is there a marketplace?
Does the vendor have open APIs, SDKs or developer toolkits?
Are partnerships and common pairings for integrations mentioned in the sales materials?
Do you see this vendor in the marketplace or app store of vendors you already use?
Even some of the world’s biggest companies face cybersecurity challenges on a daily basis—and the threat is growing. In addition in many jurisdictions, you are now required by law to employ methods of protecting customer personal data (PII). Laws like GDPR, CCPA and a myriad of state and national laws have important implications for security best practices.
You don’t want to get caught in a nightmare security issue where hackers gain access to your or your customers’ sensitive information. That’s why you should employ strong data encryption measures in your integrations to prevent attacks and minimize vulnerabilities.
Our development team suggests doing the following to protect your data:
Employ encryption and secure methods of authentication such as SSO
Tokenize and anonymize sensitive data when possible
Avoid basic FTP for transferring files
Ask customers to verify their identity (e.g. biometrics, two-factor verification, etc.)
For custom integrations, use firewalls and SSL certificates
Update your software regularly to the latest versions
Run regular backups
Employ methods of deleting personal information and ensure your vendors do too
Do you have experts with knowledge in data security on your team? We often develop websites and apps for enterprise ecommerce businesses for whom security is of utmost importance. If you need help to protect your business’ data, give us a shout.
Let’s dive into the different types of ecommerce integration solutions. Each one comes with its pros and cons, and the one that’s optimal for you will depend on your needs.
Depending on the nature of the platform and how you intend for it to interact with other systems and services, it is important to understand exactly what pre-built integrations are designed to do.
If you’re planning to use Klaviyo’s email marketing platform with your Shopify or BigCommerce store, it is a pretty safe bet that their existing integration will check all of the proverbial boxes.
On the other hand…
If you have a legacy, on-premise ERP platform that recently published an update and is advertising its “out of the box” integration with your commerce platform, I would recommend digging into the details. What fields are able to sync between platforms? How frequently does data sync between platforms? How is this integration supported and updated?
As a third-party integration cloud-based technology, iPaaS provides a centralized hub, or common interface, to design workflows and automations between platforms that have been pre-built. In this hub, you can manage and integrate cloud-based software and services using connectors, APIs and code. And you can do it all without extensive coding or using middleware or hardware.
Automatically sync data across systems: Avoid errors related to manually updating information.
Pre-built application connectors: Reduce the work required of your developers to build integrations in-house.
Easy for non-developers to manage and configure software integrations: iPaaS is a low-code integration platform, which makes self-service integrations possible.
Full access to your data: You have the ability to view, access and share your data seamlessly across all your connected systems.
Shared infrastructure: If the system goes down or changes, your integration will break.
Fragile: Small changes or inconsistencies between platforms can interrupt without warning.
Limited functionality: Important features in your vendors may not be accessible or have workflows appropriate for your business.
Incomplete ecosystem: Not all vendors are supported by every iPaaS
Lack of software control: You are dependent on the iPaaS vendor to resolve issues in a crisis and may need a service-level agreement to guarantee
Sometimes out-of-the-box integrations simply won’t work for your business needs. You can develop custom middleware software to perform integrations and workflows specifically for your business.
Custom integration is the process of building a connection between two or more applications, software solutions, platforms, or IT systems from scratch. Such an application integration is then 100% tailor-made to answer your business's specific needs and requirements.
For example, you can integrate your ERP with their website or your ecommerce solution. One of the most beneficial data integrations is without a doubt an integration between a CRM system and an ERP system.
Overall it’s important to think long-term. Do you foresee needing more custom integrations in the future? Will certain built-in integrations suffice in the long term?
Custom integrations can be time-consuming and complex if you’re not sure what you’re doing or what to look for. Make sure to enlist the help of an experienced and knowledgeable integration partner.
What should be at the top of your mind when you’re considering ecommerce integrations? Here are the topics we help our clients with most frequently.
Research shows that 87% of consumers say the shipping and delivery experience directly impacts their decision to shop with the merchant again. You want to make sure that every step in the process is easy for your customer.
Some factors that can cause your order fulfillment process to break down include, but are not limited to:
slow shipping and transit times
poor management of stock availability and backorders
technical issues (e.g. website crashes, system glitches, etc.)
issues with order picking and packing
insufficient communication between shipping carriers, customers, and your businesses
You want to automate as much of your process as possible to take the load of your staff and unify all elements of your order fulfillment to ensure they work together in a cohesive manner.
Accurate reporting is essential to measuring success, financial planning and overall health and operations of the business. You want to ensure that you have the right data sources for your business intelligence tools. You’ll want order, customer and inventory data accurately reflected for your finance and operations teams on a near real-time basis. This includes ERP, inventory and bookkeeping software integrations.
The integrations you implement into your business should allow you to collect data sets. But it’s not enough to simply gather data–they should allow you to determine which of your marketing efforts are generating revenue.
Marketing attribution reporting allows you to make sense of your marketing campaigns and be more effective at marketing. You can maximize your ad spend and understand how your ad campaigns are performing, calculate sales conversions, develop effective loyalty programs and plenty more.
When you implement integrations in your ecommerce business, it’s important to consider how that will affect the channels you use to communicate with your customers. You goal is make your customers happy and retain them for the long term, so you need integrations that allow you to understand their wants by collecting their data and communicate with them in meaningful ways.
Consider the following: Will you integrate a customer support platform like Zendesk? What about order status information, SMS for updates and promotions, social media, and chats? Do you have a CRM that allows you to easily manage information about past, current and prospective customers?
There are many integrations that help you seamlessly connect your online store to your brick-and-mortar store. For example, a POS integration is sure to improve internal operations and make the customer experience more enjoyable. With it, you can implement a buy online pick up in-store feature, optimize store inventory fulfillment, build loyalty programs and more.
These are all huge challenges that can seem overwhelming without the right experience and technical expertise. If you’re curious about how we can help, give us a shout for a no strings attached call. We have decades of experience partnering up with enterprise businesses to build integration solutions for their most complex challenges.