One of the most important considerations of a multi-channel environment is how well the various supply chain management solutions interact technically to carry out business processes that support your operations and provide the best possible service to your customers. To gain that collaboration, you must take on a multi-channel integration project that connects your ERP/Accounting, Point of Sale (POS), eCommerce and marketplace systems so they all represent your company as a single cohesive unit as opposed to a collection of independent systems.
1. Open systems – Evaluate your supply chain management solutions to see if they have a published application interface (API) to determine if you can get data in and out. Systems that are not flexible (no API) or have limited import/export capabilities will add expense to your project. If you haven’t kept up with your software support plan, or applied the latest version upgrades you may consider replacing a system that can’t effectively be integrated with your other supply chain or retail systems. Older eCommerce solutions can be rigid as well. So do your homework – the cost of replacement may be far less than trying to connect and support outdated or rigid systems, and the operational efficiencies you gain from integration with a new system could increase the value even more.
2. Integration management – Determine the connection points you will need to operate in a multi-channel environment. You may initially think of it in terms of eCommerce to ERP (such as Magento and Microsoft Dynamics RMS, Magento and Microsoft Dynamics GP, or Sage 100 and Amazon). But, more likely, it’s several connections (such as Magento, eBay and Microsoft Dynamics SL). The combinations are almost endless. There are many solutions that establish a simple one-to-one connection between two systems. However, you would have to buy a different point solution for each connection or even invest in a few custom developed integration points. Instead of streamlining your process, you will wind up adding complexity to your environment and creating a support nightmare.
So before beginning any integration project think through which channels you need to manage and what systems they use, then find a multi-channel management platform that:
- Integrates to multiple industry-leading retail systems
- Offers connectors where the providers on both sides of the connection point are focused on ensuring the total solution works (not just their portion of it)
- Provides you with the ability to add or remove channels as your business or market conditions change
- Is easy to monitor so you can quickly identify and resolve connectivity issues
- Is easy to manage – especially if you have multiple vendors involved
- Provides regular updates and quality support so you don’t have to worry about your connections failing when you apply the latest upgrade to your accounting or POS system
- Leverages the functionality of your existing systems to manage orders and inventory
- Develops connectors with bi-directional data flow so that full transactions can be managed (item syndication, order collection, inventory synchronization and customer collection)
With a tightly integrated environment, your multi-channel sales model could yield great results including higher revenue and loyal customers. But understanding your systems and choosing an easy-to-use, flexible and robust platform, such as nChannel, enables both distributors and retailers to easily and cost-effectively manage multi-channel sales and supply chain processes.