In B2B e-commerce, delivery speed, real-time information and flexibility are extremely important. Customers want to track their delivery online, make changes after they’ve ordered, and easily return something if they’re not completely happy with it – naturally free of charge. This has all been standard for a while in B2C e-commerce. However, now B2B customers are expecting the same level of service. If you take this as an opportunity to invest in automating processes and connecting your core e-commerce application with other systems with a flexible integration solution, you will also benefit from a wealth of other advantages. In the following, we will look at the seven most important advantages of e-commerce and how integrating your e-commerce solution with other systems makes your e-commerce activities significantly more successful.
This is the second part of a four-part blog series. Part one is an e-commerce 101 which also looks at helpful integration options. Part three contains seven things you need to know when setting up an online-shop, and looks at helpful approaches to these, while in part 4 we’ll be looking at system integration in detail.
The advantages of e-commerce and integration for the B2B sector
E-commerce and the revenues it generates are growing. No wonder, since digitalised, automated processes have clear advantages for customers and suppliers alike. Discover the seven most important advantages of e-commerce and how you can maximise these by seamlessly integrating various other systems.
1. Lower costs
An e-commerce business can be run at much lower cost than a bricks-and-mortar business. In traditional retail, for example, you need to rent and fit out a shop building, train staff and pay them wages. Online retail doesn’t have these expenses
Traditional retail relies on having warehouses relatively near their retail outlets, and may have to pay high rents for these. In online retail, however, you choose a low-cost area for your warehouses. You may also be able to save considerable money by optimising your processes. With the help of an integration platform, for example, you can compare the stock in all your warehouses in real time. Are some products almost sold out in warehouse 1, but still readily available in warehouse 2? An integration platform can make this information available to anyone who needs it. If you are doing drop shipping, where goods are delivered straight from the manufacturer to the end customer, bypassing the online shop, you can integrate the manufacturer’s warehouses with your online shop.
You may wish to pass on the costs you save to your customers as a price advantage, and increase customer satisfaction (see point 4). This makes e-commerce particularly attractive to start-ups that have yet to establish themselves in the market.
2. Better customer orientation
Shop opening times are Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. with a lunch break 12 p.m. – 3 p.m., Wednesdays and Saturdays morning only. These shopping hours, still quite common in European countries, no longer appeal to many customers in 2022. Now that we are used to more flexibility in our work and private lives, we expect more flexibility in when we can shop, too. These days, we expect to be able to browse and order outside of a narrow time frame, and from anywhere.
Online retailing makes it significantly easier to clearly present your entire product range. Customers can use search terms to find their desired products and solutions quickly and easily. Compelling product images are then the icing on the cake. If, thanks to automation, you have been able to offer your visitors a smooth digital shopping experience, punctual delivery and, if necessary, a hassle-free returns process, then congratulations. You have just gained another happy customer.
3. Faster order and invoice processing
Many processes in e-commerce are automated. This saves a lot of time, particularly in processing orders. However, it’s not only the customers who benefit from an improved ordering experience. The operator of the online shop also benefits from the automated integration of a warehouse management system or an e-invoicing solution which fully automates a number of necessary yet time-intensive steps. If you integrate and automate, you can process far more orders and invoices within a given time frame and with significantly less effort. The number of documents you can process is no longer limited by the man hours you have available.
If, for example, you use an ERP or a product information system, you can integrate these with your online shop and automatically update the information online.
4. Fewer errors
Routine tasks are completed more efficiently in e-commerce as these can be automated and the data automatically transferred to other systems. You no longer need employees to manually enter the data for each task from order confirmation to invoicing. This removes human error and typos from the process. Last but not least, transparent, well-defined processes help prevent behaviour such as maverick buying (when departments bypass the central purchasing unit and buy items themselves)
5. Greater flexibility
A powerful e-commerce platform can map the standard solutions that every company needs, such as payment systems, as well as specialist industry solutions, such as a warehouse management system for a logistics company. The portal can also make updated master data available to the other users. If a customer changes his contact details, for example, the new data record is immediately available to all connected systems with no intervention required. The same is true for changes in user roles and updated article numbers. With the help of a CRM system, your customer data is always up to date and you can pass on updated details straight to your suppliers.
6. Optimise marketing potential
Further marketing activities particularly used in e-commerce are cross-selling and upselling. In cross-selling, customers are encouraged to add products to their shopping cart that match products they have already purchased or researched. In upselling, particularly for services, customers see information on upgrades or a more powerful version of items they have already bought. One of the great advantages of using an integration platform is that you can digitalise and integrate all your sales channels. Any information that the customer enters into the web shop can flow seamlessly and unhindered across systems. All the information and documents you need to process orders can be accessed in real time by any party involved using electronic data interchange (EDI).
7. Potential for global expansion
If your business is doing well, the idea to expand quickly comes up. E-commerce makes your product range visible to customers abroad who you would not be able to reach with a classic bricks-and mortar shop. Consider if your website also needs to be available in another language to appeal to your target group. Don’t forget, an online shop is open 24/7 and is an opportunity to attract international customers in other time zones and break into new markets.
Once your business starts growing, you may need to integrate further modules behind the scenes such as a payment or CRM system. These can be easily connected to a business integration platform by API or even with SEEBURGER ready-made connectors. This makes them easily available to your e-commerce system. It is also easy to connect up new suppliers in your supply chain with SEEBURGER’s automated onboarding.
If you use an integration platform, you do not have to list all the systems you may want to connect in the future. Instead, just start with what you need now. Then, scale as needed, flexibly connecting or swapping out further systems – whether in-house and external.
How can SEEBURGER help you make a success of e-commerce?
The SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) is an integration platform which easily connects and integrates all your systems to benefit from the advantages above. It connects in-house systems – such as a product master data system, online shop, ERP or warehouse information system – and external systems from partners – such as a supplier’s ERP, warehouse management software or a 3rd-party payment system. It digitalises and therefore speeds up communication with your business partners.
We have a huge range of connectors to quickly connect your various systems to the SEEBURGER BIS and get them running smoothly together. This frees you up to concentrate on your core business.
The SEEBURGER BIS comes in a variety of models, from a classic on-premises build or your own installation in a public cloud, to fully managed cloud services and even a hybrid of the above. This gives you a high degree of flexibility, simple maintenance and easy options for expanding your shop with minimal work. BIS also contains a multifunctional adapter so data conversions look after themselves.
An e-commerce business can only work if you connect various systems and applications to one another. Benefit from our expertise in e-commerce and take a look at the SEEBURGER BIS!
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Written by: Rolf WesselRolf Wessel has been product manager at SEEBURGER AG for software applications and services for electronic business data exchange since 2010. His focus is on solutions for SAP, electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) and innovations for the digitalization of business and technical business processes. The Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland (FeRD) appointed Rolf Wessel as an expert. As project manager at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), he develops international trade facilitation and establishes standards for electronic business processes. Furthermore, he represents the German delegation of the FeRD at the Franco-German workshop with the Forum National de la Facture Electronique (FNFE) and thus supports the government initiative for international standardization and harmonization of e-invoicing processes. He is a member of the working committee "Electronic Business" at the German Institute for Standardization. (DIN) and Association for Electronic Invoicing (VeR). Rolf Wessel graduated in business informatics (FH) with a focus on financial management and production planning. After working in the electrical, financial, consumer goods, software and mineral oil industries, he had been a systems analyst and IT project manager in the retail and logistics sector from 2003 to 2010.