by Jason Madison
What could it mean for the future of your business if you could make it easier to be innovative and gain competitive advantages? This might sound like one of those “no-brainers,” but did you know you can look to your web solutions for help with these critical tasks?
It’s no secret that innovation and operational efficiency are top of mind for leaders of manufacturing organizations. Whether small, large or somewhere in between, all manufacturers today need to innovate to stay competitive. And most will tell you they are also scanning the environment for ways to do more with less, while working on optimizing customer service.
One way more and more manufacturers (and distributors too) are accommodating this feat is through the use of eCommerce. But we’re not talking about yesterday’s B2B or B2C approaches. There’s a new approach that’s helping sellers do more business online, and protecting their eCommerce technology investment as their needs change.
The New Wave of eCommerce
Simple shopping carts have become a thing of the past. Sophisticated storefront environments and eCommerce websites loaded with self-service features are what’s happening today in B2B and B2C eCommerce. And the amazing part? They’re often free. Whether you consider installed software like PrestaShop, Magento, Volusion or a host of others, or an online storefront like Amazon or BigCommerce, the demand for online selling is increasing so dramatically each year that providers are scrambling to compete. As storefront providers continue to respond to the increasing demand, the result is an explosion of eCommerce choices for sellers and vendors on the web.
Even more exciting is the fact that many of the free websites are world-class quality and they’re continuously maintained by sizeable organizations. The array of choices is amazing, with literally hundreds to choose from.
Ask yourself: Am I currently overspending on solutions that don’t pack the power or feature-strength I should expect from today’s eCommerce technology?
Fund Your Customer’s Experience
Sellers and vendors no longer need to invest thousands in web store software. The features and functions of even the free offerings often exceed the needs of many organizations. Funds can be invested instead in extending an organization’s unique brand of customer service through their web presence: an idea that is coming of age as web store front-ends are increasingly integrated with back-office systems.
Sellers and vendors can now expect to find many of the features that match their style of doing business, already programmed and ready to go, either in the base eCommerce system or in the many add-on modules being offered on so many of these platforms. But here’s the biggest payoff of all: developers can now focus instead on streamlining connections to back-office ERP systems and interfaces with the company’s business partners, to create the kinds of customer experiences that differentiate them from their competitors.
Ask yourself: How could I be knocking my customers’ socks off by creating unique, brand-building, customer-serving experiences on the web?
Future-Proofing Your eCommerce: It’s the Middle that Matters
Thanks to the new breed of web-based integrations between web stores and back-office systems, storefront operators are no longer as permanently tied to their website choices as they were just a few years ago. Web-based integrations concentrate their connectivity intelligence in “middleware”, not in the back-end ERP system or in the eCommerce website. So, when more attractive web technologies emerge, or when the ERP system is changed, it’s much easier to make a switch because the intelligence in the middleware is still there, ready to deliver the same or similar functionality to the new systems.
This fundamental difference in integration architecture can deliver huge benefits in the fast changing world of eCommerce. Not only do shopping carts and storefronts benefit, but many other web-based systems can gain an advantage as well. Think retail and drop-ship services, web-based CRM and manufacturing software, customer and vendor portals, payment portals, inventory pricing services . . . practically any online software that can be integrated with another system.
Ask yourself: What level of return on investment could we experience with a flexible eCommerce website that allows us to swap components (like our web store or ERP system) in and out with agnostic middleware?
Together, the increasing availability of full-featured eCommerce and other web-based applications, and new web-based integration architectures are creating an exciting new wave of eCommerce solutions that are bringing even more innovation, efficiency and return on investment to the process of doing business on the web.
For more eCommerce help, read our blog article, “5 Questions to Ask Website Integration Vendors” for ideas on how to make sure your next website project is a success. http://bit.ly/1UrQ7GX
About the Author
Jason Madison is the Web-Stor Solutions Manager for Kissinger Associates, where he helps businesses grow their sales and increase efficiency with leading e-commerce solutions for Sage 100. Kissinger has been providing cutting-edge ERP solutions for 30+ years. Kissingerassoc.com | web-stor.com
Reprinted from the Summer 2016 issue of Bellwether.
Subscribe to get a copy mailed to you each quarter for free.