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B2B connectors – what they are and why we use them

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When you are planning to streamline your business to business (B2B) ecommerce operations you will want to take full advantage of systems integration supported by effective B2B connectors.

Integration with key systems for enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM), for example, and other service extensions like payment gateways will improve your efficiency, extend your ecommerce functionality, and reduce data entry errors to improve customer satisfaction.

However, not all connectors are the same so you will want to consider how they work before making your choice.

TYPES OF ECOMMERCE CONNECTORS

Direct connectors –  many B2B ecommerce platforms offer you a number of direct connector options which are often the ones most commonly needed by their existing customers. Because they are frequently used you can be confident that they will provide an effective way to transfer data between your ecommerce platform and other applications. If they are already integrated into your ecommerce solution, they should also be more straightforward to implement.

Third-party connectors – these might be custom-built to provide a link between two supported systems like your ecommerce platform and a sales ordering app. Because they are specific to those systems, they should provide an in-depth solution. Some larger systems can connect multiple platforms but they can vary widely, depending on the type of integration and the required application.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) – you can create connections using APIs that are specifically designed for the systems you use and the needs you have. Many B2B ecommerce platforms offer APIs to support integration.

Data push/pull systems – there are also options to push, pull, and synchronize data between systems. Web-hooks can send data when something specific happens like an order being placed or a customer’s details being updated. You can also use Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), Applicability Statement 2 (AS2) and other two-way data synchronization processes to send and receive scheduled document uploads and downloads quickly and safely.

All of these solutions are designed to improve data accessibility, making it easier for your systems to communicate, and for your customers and everyone in your business to have the right data in the correct format.

Why use ecommerce integration?

When your data is held in silos there will inevitably be delays and the risk of errors when you are processing and fulfilling customer orders.

Using connectors you can coordinate data between your ecommerce platform and your other business systems to improve efficiency, to coordinate your business activities, and to improve customer service.

Integration allows a two-way flow of information in near real time so you can avoid out of stock issues and give your customers confidence to place their orders.

For example, you might be planning to launch a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model. With effective integration every sale will automatically update your inventory in your ERP system without any manual input from your team.

The benefits of B2B ecommerce integration

As B2B sales increase via online channels scalability and data accuracy have never been more important. The benefits of integration include:

Reducing order errors – manual and duplicated data entries can be reduced significantly and data exchange can take place much more quickly, improving customer service, efficiency and satisfaction.

Improving accuracy – you can have a single source for all your inventory, pricing, ordering, customer and fulfillment information. With data exchange taking place in near real time, you can use your business systems with confidence and remove the need for frequent data synchronization and checking.

Engaging customers – you can automatically keep your customers up to date with progress information; they will know when you have shipped their order and they can track their deliveries accurately.

Simplifying pricing – manual pricing updates can easily lead to costly errors resulting in customer dissatisfaction. With an integrated system prices can be more easily updated and will be immediately visible for all your customers, employees, and business partners.

Entering new markets – you can add new sales channels without significantly increasing your operational overheads. It’s a cost-effective way to reach new markets and test new products.

Gaining business insights – at the same time you can collect and interrogate information about sales and customer behavior, for example, from a single source. You can use it to improve your business insights to make better informed decisions based on reliable data.

Implementing ecommerce Integration

Understanding your requirements – to realize these benefits it’s important to understand what your business needs and how integration can contribute to improved performance. Understanding how to create, support and maintain organization-wide integration is the next step. You will also need a clear picture of the processes and workflows that can benefit from an integrated approach.

Dealing with legacy systems – for some legacy systems there’s always the concern that data formats will be incompatible, increasing the risk of errors, data corruption or loss, and security risks. Bespoke connectors might need to be developed and tested to be sure that data can be exchanged reliably and securely. When you’re ready to work with new partners and offer new services, replatforming might become a requirement.

Managing multichannel operations – many B2B businesses now recognize that online sales involve more than launching an ecommerce site. Where retail ecommerce leads, B2B will eventually follow, so it’s important to think about the role other channels, such as call centers, brick and mortar stores, mobile devices, online marketplaces, and social media could play in your digital strategy. Your customers will want to discover your products, make purchases and reorder using multiple devices on channels that suit them. Delivering a consistent omnichannel experience could require new skills, systems and processes.

Maintaining visibility – integration allows you to make decisions based on real-time performance. You can centralize information and allocate control to different departments to maintain end-to-end visibility of your business and share accurate data with your customers, employees and business partners.

Work with a trusted partner

Cloudfy was designed at the outset to meet the ecommerce needs of manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors worldwide. It’s delivered on a single cloud platform that allows you to sell online while fully integrating orders, pricing, product and stock data with a range of ERP, warehouse and accounting back office systems.

It can help you to sell more, reduce costs to serve, provide your customers with a round the clock self-service platform, and provide a completely integrated solution.

Book a free Cloudfy demonstration to see how you can create a fully connected ecommerce solution for your business.

Heineken

FEATURED CASE STUDY

Heineken needed to quickly deploy a B2B ecommerce solution to allow their wholesale customers to order online 24/7. From their P.V. Union Brewery in Slovenia, the new client ordering portal would serve nearby bars, restaurants, and distributors with their daily, weekly and monthly orders… Full Case Study

"Great work by the Cloudfy team launching our B2B portal in record time."

Tilen K., Ecommerce Manager, Heineken