If you have ever wondered how to organize the flow of data and operations of your eCommerce business, you may have come across the acronym ERP. Can an ERP application be the solution to increase the efficiency and quality of your service? In this article we examine:
- What is an ERP
- What an ERP in eCommerce is for
- When an ERP is necessary for an eCommerce store
- How to connect an ERP to a shipments tracking software
What is an ERP
ERP is the acronym for Enterprise Resource Planning and relates to the set of resource and business processes planning activities. The acronym is almost always followed by software or management system, so when we talk about ERP we usually refer to the program used for these functions.
The expression was coined by Gartner in 1990. ERP applications were created to aggregate the information of the management programs used by the different company departments since the 1960s. They were initially called MRP (Material Requirements Planning) and concerned the production phase for the most part: planning of orders from suppliers, warehouse and stock management, control of material arrival time and production start-up. When similar applications came up to coordinate sales, customer relations, human resources and more, the need for comprehensive ERPs arose, with the aim of providing up-to-date and unambiguous information to all departments.
However, there is a difference between ERP and management systems. The management systems are typically intended for data collection and processing, to make them available to the entire company. ERPs, on the other hand, have the main purpose of offering solutions based on the collected data and automating the workflows of the various business areas.
What an ERP in eCommerce is for
There’re several reasons to adopt an ERP software in an eCommerce business:
- alignment of all departments with essential information inserted in a single program;
- reduction of mistakes and time required for data recovery;
- warehouse management, with updated information on items in stock, deadlines and automation of processes like reordering from suppliers;
- complete and accurate reports creation, including all business processes and highlighting the KPIs you chose to monitor;
- in-depth insight of costs and revenues and simulation of the economic impact of potential decisions (for example, application of discounts, change in shipping costs, etc.);
- estimation of lifetime value of each customer;
- automation of operations that can be standardized such as sending order confirmation emails or updating the number of available items on your website.
An ERP makes this whole set of functions more efficient, but it doesn’t clearly apply to what requires creativity or a strategic decision. If you choose to assign measurable and automatable operations to an ERP application, you will have more time and resources to dedicate to everything else.
When an ERP is necessary for an eCommerce store
When is it necessary to adopt an ERP for an eCommerce store? We could simply answer that it’s necessary when controlling all operations and coordinating the various departments is no longer sustainable without any “information collector“. Therefore, one might think that only large stores actually need it or can bear the costs. The truth is that no eCommerce platform is able to provide complete statistics on all business processes nor it communicates with accounting programs, email marketing platforms or CRMs used by the assistance team. Keeping information in non-communicating “silos” can only burden and slow down activities and therefore make growth unsustainable. If you already work with many Google or Excel sheets, you can understand the advantage of having everything organically collected on a single panel.
Today there are ERP solutions that adapt to all situations: our partners ABAS ERP, MDP software, X-plain are great examples. Aligning the management, the marketing department, customer service and the warehouse immediately have an impact on the perception of service quality from the outside: you will avoid selling products that are running out, you will be able to retrieve the data or history of a customer, you will give accurate information on delivery times.
How to connect an ERP to a shipments tracking software
Among the workflows that you should automate in your eCommerce store you should undoubtedly include those inherent to the shipping phase. Software such as Qapla’ allow you to configure an automatic process of courier labels creating and printing and tracking notifications sending to recipients via email, SMS and WhatsApp. The program is integrated with courier systems and eCommerce platforms and provides updated information on the progress of all deliveries, including any problems and alerts and allows you to intervene in a snap (for example, to release stocks or notify customers about delays).
How to connect your ERP to a shipment management software in order to monitor this phase on the same panel? You can integrate via bidirectional synchronization: the 2 systems are updated simultaneously with the same data. In this way, the information continues to coexist separately on the different applications. Another method is aggregation, with which data is taken from multiple sources and entered into a single application, in this case the ERP.
There are solutions such as the Qapla’ partner Semplisio that reduce any integration effort. Platforms like this are like “bridges” to connect multiple business programs via API (eCommerce platforms included). Any information modified or added by one of the connected software is automatically communicated to the others, mediated and “translated” by the platform. Thanks to the shared APIs, there is no need for any manual intervention. By also integrating Qapla’ with the company ERP, the online order circle is closed, with shipping and delivery communications under the full control of your team.
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