Estimeret læsetid: 13 minutter
Onlinehandlen har udviklet sig enormt over de sidste par år:
Webshops, for eksempel, er gået fra at være en simpel “nice-to-have" til faktisk at være blevet en absolut nødvendighed for de virksomheder, som har en ambition om at nå ud til det stigende antal af kunder, der handler online.
De nyeste teknologier indenfor mobiltelefoner og tablets har samtidig også påvirket måden, hvorpå en virksomhed kan nå ud til sine kunder.
Hvad der tidligere var separate områder - butik, online, mobil, sociale medier – forventer kunderne nu, er integreret, for at skabe en god brandoplevelse.
Derfor er det ikke længere nok blot at sælge gennem flere kanaler og behandle dem som forskellige områder, der benytter sig af hver deres strategier for salg.
For at give dine kunder en samlet brandoplevelse på tværs af disse kanaler er du nødt til at have en fuldt integreret opsætning - lige fra dine interne forretningssystemer til de eksterne platforme, som kunderne benytter.
Multi-Channel integration i forbindelse med webshops handler om at forbinde alle de forskellige systemer og platforme, din virksomhed benytter sig af, således at du får en ensartet opsætning, men hjælper samtidig også med at sikre, at købsoplevelsen for dine kunder er problemfri, og at den hænger sammen på tværs af de forskellige systemer, de møder undervejs.
This is how Multi-Channel integration works
Imagine a very simple store where a product is sold and you have 4 units in stock.
When a customer comes in and buys 1 unit, the store must write down its inventory from 4 to 3 units.
When there is 1 unit left in stock, the store must place a new order with its supplier.
If you e.g. decides to make an offer, you must first note the new price and perhaps calculate a new cash flow, then the prices must be updated in the various sales channels (store, webshop, Google shopping, Facebook, etc.), and marketing and sales employees must be informed, etc. A big task, but possible.
Naturally, as a business scales up, more factors are added and the approach becomes more complicated.
Men det grundlæggende koncept er, at hvert aspekt af virksomheden skal forbindes, så data (lagertælling, genbestilling, prisfastsættelse, tilbudspriser osv.) afspejles konsekvent og præcist på tværs af hele virksomheden og i alle processerne.
Multi-Channel integration hjælper med at holde overblikket.
I modsætning til eksemplet med de 4 produkter, hvor man sandsynligvis kan slippe afsted med at have overblikket i sit hoved, har de fleste moderne webshops behov for forskellige systemer til at administrere data, såsom:
- Et ERP-system (Enterprise Resource Planning), der typisk håndterer data om regnskab, drift, logistik, salg, marketing og kundeforhold.
- Et PIM-system (Product Information Management), der bruges til at indsamle, justere, styre og distribuere produktinformation på tværs af forskellige salgskanaler.
- Et IMS-System (Inventory Management System), der indeholder data om, hvor mange varer der er på lager og somme tider lagerstyring.
Oven i alt dette er der andre interne systemer som en fysisk butiks lokation og de platforme, dine kunder benytter, inklusive din webshop, mobilapp eller salg via andre salgskanaler som Amazon, Zalando, Miinto eller Google Shopping.
Alle disse systemer skal have en måde at kommunikere med hinanden på for at holde data synkroniserede og opdaterede.
Multi-Channel integration tilbyder en løsning på dette ved at systematisere de data, der sendes og modtages i hvert enkelt system og bagefter automatisere hele processen.
For nemmere at forstå hvordan det virker, er det værd at kigge nærmere på, hvad alternativet ville være til at forbinde alle de forskellige systemer.
1. Manuel flytning af data
På det mest basale niveau kan forskellige systemer "kommunikere" gennem en manuel overførsel af data enten ved traditionel copy + paste eller ved at eksportere data fra et system og importere filen til et andet.
It is clear that if you use systems such as PIM and ERP, but still transfer data manually between them, then this opposes the whole idea of the systems, which is precisely to eliminate the manual tasks and give you back the time you used to spend on boring, manual tasks that the systems should in reality save you from.
2. Point-to-Point connection
A Point-to-Point connection means that you have directly connected one system to another 1:1 - for example, connecting a webshop to a separate IMS system (Inventory Management System).
In such a setup, your IMS is automatically updated with the new stock status when a sale is completed in your webshop.
A system like this works fine with two systems, but quickly gets complicated as you add new systems.
In the diagram above, all systems are connected point-to-point with each other, resulting in a complicated web of lines representing the data transfer between the systems.
Adding a new webshop (Webshop C) will further complicate the whole setup, especially if it also needs to be connected to every single existing system.
A software update for just one of these systems may also require you to update five different integrations, which in the long run can be very expensive.
Although a Point-to-Point setup ensures an automatic exchange of data across the various systems, it does not ensure that such data will always be synchronized and up-to-date.
First, when data is pulled from and transferred to different systems, data may not be consistent, which can quickly become a problem.
And with so many different points in a single system that need to be interconnected, a single failure in one place can affect the quality of the data sent out of the system and distributed to the other channels.
Conversely, a Multi-Channel integration will reduce the necessary connection points by having only one platform where data from different systems is consolidated and then distributed to the channels that need it.
Instead of connecting systems directly to each other and creating different connection points in the process, you only need to create a connection between one system and the integration platform, which in turn acts as the central hub that connects all systems and channels together.
The central point in a Multi-Channel integration setup is the integration platform, which will be at the center of the entire process.
This integration platform can be:
- A commercially available pre-built system that contains the basic functions you need to set up a Multi-Channel integration and which you can adapt to your own way of working.
- Software-as-a-Service, where the platform is hosted by a third-party vendor. Often these platforms already come with pre-built guidelines and rules to help you better define the connections across systems.
Seamlessly setting up an integration between different systems can be a challenge – in fact, we have seen many of our customers use three or more different systems.
At 1902 Software, we have built our own component that acts as a base integration platform that can be adjusted and customized according to various factors, e.g. the systems to be connected and how data is to be sent across systems (eg one-way or two-way exchange of data).
We will go into more detail with that integration component in this guide, but now that you have an understanding of how a Multi-Channel setup works, it's time to take a closer look at how such a setup can help you with your online webshop strategy.
Get to grips with the benefits of Multi-Channel integration
Multi-Channel integration brings together both your internal systems and the platforms your customers access.
If set up correctly, your business can enjoy benefits in two areas:
Uniform processes - With a central integration platform, your data becomes more uniform, compared to if all data comes from different systems, as they would in a Point-to-Point system.
Easier administration - Since all systems only need to connect to a central system, it becomes easier for you to have a consistent approach to each integration, regardless of the way a system is built.
Scalable and allows for growth - As your business grows, you may need to add more systems that need to be integrated into your existing infrastructure.
Multi-Channel integration allows you to easily scale and add more systems or platforms as needed, without having to worry about additional connection points.
Optimizing the internal ways of working is in itself already a good step on the way to a more efficient sales process, and thus at the same time provides a better customer experience.
Men ud over det er her et par andre ting, som Multi-Channel integration hjælper med:
Bedre indsigt i dine kunders shoppingadfærd - Når alle områder af din forretning er forbundet sammen med dine interne systemer, får du mere præcis og kontekstualiseret indsigt i, hvordan dine kunder handler og engagerer sig i dit brand.
Denne indsigt er et værdifuldt udgangspunkt for dig til at optimere kundeoplevelsen yderligere.
Stærkere brand - Nogle vil se deres fysiske butik, webshop og andre e-handelsplatforme som forskellige kanaler, men for dine kunder er de alle samlet set dit brand.
Multi-Channel integration giver dig mulighed for at strømline og synkronisere data ensartet og sammenhængende på tværs af dine forskellige kanaler, hvilket giver dit brand mere troværdighed.
If you are interested in implementing a Multi-Channel integration in your company, in the next and last part of this series you can see a presentation of a case about how one of our customers has successfully integrated a Multi-Channel strategy in their business.
Case Study: How to implement a strategy for Multi-Channel integration
One of our customers from Sweden, a wholesale motocross accessories company, used to struggle with manually synchronizing data across their various business systems.
To solve this challenge, we devised a Multi-Channel integration strategy that eliminated the need for manual tasks and simplified their work tasks.
The challenge: Manual synchronization
Our client manages several systems in their e-commerce business: three different webshops built on Magento, an ERP, a PIM and an IMS.
Apart from the challenge of systems being connected, their ERP, PIM and IMS also need to be connected to their suppliers, from whom product information and inventory status data come.
With all these extra areas, it only becomes even more complicated to integrate.
Originally, our customer had a Point-to-Point solution that connected their Magento webshop and ERP system, so that orders coming from the webshop were automatically synchronized with the ERP.
In addition to this, their Magento webshop was not connected to the rest of the systems, so the transfer of data had to be done manually.
Note that our customer managed hundreds of products across three different webshops - they manually exported and imported data from the stores to the different systems and spent a lot of effort and resources on it.
Strategien: Multi-Channel integration
With our integration component as a cornerstone, we built a platform that acts as a central hub where the three systems, ERP, PIM and IMS were connected.
Since our customer already had certain ways of working that they followed when manually synchronizing data, we adapted and changed them to be automated in our Multi-Channel integration component:
The diagram above illustrates how each individual system communicates with each other through the Multi-Channel integration as a central platform.
The result: optimized workflow
We streamlined our client's work using this Multi-Channel integration strategy.
Before, data had to be transferred from the webshop to the ERP and then imported into the warehouse management system - which was previously not connected and therefore caused a bottleneck of data that was not properly synchronized.
After implementation, each system now has a direct connection to the integration, which can now distribute the updated data instantly.
How can 1902 Software help?
At 1902 Software, we have skilled technical experts and developers with extensive experience in developing integrations between several webshops ( Magento , WordPress , Umbraco ) and business systems such as ERP, PIM and warehouse management.
We work with your third-party vendors (eg ERP and PIM providers) to develop custom integrations and streamline your processes.
As we have previously mentioned, we have also developed our own Multi-Channel component which acts as a basic platform for your Multi-Channel integration.
If you buy our Multi-Channel integration component, you will receive a copy of the source code.
Contact us if you have questions about the integration of a Multi-Channel strategy.