B2B ERP-Ecommerce Integration May Have Been a Long Time Coming… But Don't Let It Pass You By
Most of us in B2B sales have been fooling ourselves for a long time. We’ve been doing business as usual, ignoring the modern digital world and its impact on B2B, but we can’t avoid the facts any longer. If we want to stay competitive, we need to empower our clients with the ability to make their purchases online.
Not sure how to start and worried that your business will be left behind? Read on to learn about the growing importance of B2B ERP-ecommerce integration -- and why it's suddenly become a hot topic now.
First Off: Defining Our Terms
Because technology changes so quickly, it’s common that people reading a blog post will have many different interpretations for a specific term. In this article, we’ll be using two terms often:
- “Ecommerce” - the practice of selling things online, usually through an online storefront
- “ERP” - an Enterprise Resource Planning system, which is business software that connects your front and back offices together so that everyone in your company has access to information that speeds operations companywide
In years past, it was difficult, not to mention expensive, to integrate ecommerce with ERP because the Internet and ERPs were developed with highly specific programming language that couldn’t communicate.
Quick explanation: If the Internet and ERP were people, one of them would have spoken Greek while the other one spoke German – so they couldn’t talk.
A Growing Market…
All that changed a few years ago when Internet-enabled ERP hit the mainstream. Suddenly many ERP providers were offering Internet-based enterprise management software, written in a language both ERP and the Internet could understand, and at the same time, people started buying more online.
In fact, on November 28, 2005, the concept of Cyber Monday was born: a revenue-generating day specifically dedicated to online shoppers. Within five years, Cyber Monday became so popular it made $1.25 billion. In a single day.
…And Growing Dissatisfaction with the Status Quo
As consumers increasingly turned to the Internet and web-based storefronts to do their day-to-day shopping, they began to dislike the hassle of traditional B2B purchasing, usually accomplished over the phone or email. In recent years, as larger businesses have begun to offer B2B ecommerce options, dissatisfaction with “the old way” has only increased; Forrester predicts that the B2B ecommerce market will reach $1.2 trillion within five short years from right now.
Quick explanation: The B2B ecommerce world is increasing daily, and your competitors know this too. That’s why it’s important to start preparing your ecommerce plan now.
A Mobile World
Did you know that more of the world connects to the Internet through their smartphone than through their computer? It’s true. By 2014, mobile Internet access surpassed desktop access… and that statistic is only growing. Paired with the previous statistic, this means that not only are B2B shoppers wanting to shop online, they want to do so on their phones.
Quick explanation: Designing a website is hard enough, and designing an attractive, highly functional one is pretty tough. However, designing a site that looks great on a phone is very, very hard – it usually takes a talented team of web designers, marketers, and graphic designers.
That's where B2B ERP-ecommerce integration comes in. When you integrate your systems, you'll have the freedom to design an attractive, appealing website, and have it connect to your ERP. Still confused as to why the two need to connect with one another?
B2B ERP-Ecommerce Integration Saves You A LOT of Time
Here's the truth about ecommerce:
If you want to run a web-based store without a data-entry nightmare, you need to link up your production system with your sales system (your back office with your front office), using B2B ERP-ecommerce integration.
B2B ERP-ecommerce integration used to be very difficult and expensive, because typical B2B purchasing methods weren’t compatible with typical B2C purchasing methods that web-based stores offered. However, as the technology has improved, it’s become more flexible. Now it’s not hard to set up an affordable, effective, and revenue-building ERP-ecommerce integration.