A couple of months ago, we wrote about the post-pandemic “new normal” in eCommerce. One of the emerging trends we saw at that time was the need for tighter integration between eCommerce and ERP platforms.
In the past, most companies could live with the fact that the product data contained in their ERP or financial system may differ from product data residing in their eCommerce system. This may have caused an occasional conflict or hiccup, but it was manageable.
eCommerce Imperfections are Magnified
With many stores still closed – and ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic, election, social unrest, and the fragile economy, it’s harder to ignore hiccups in the eCommerce channel. Now, more than ever, your eCommerce presence is a direct reflection of your brand.
I experienced one of those hiccups recently – I was searching for a hard-to-find piece of camping equipment and found it at a great price on one of my favorite sites. I ordered it, paid for the overnight shipping, and breathed a sigh of relief. An hour later, I received an email informing me that the item was out of stock and had been placed on back order. I’d get it in October. I cancelled the order – not that big of a deal, but it was the first poor experience I’d had with that retailer. I went on to purchase the item from a competitor, who is now on my radar for future purchases.
Tight integration of your ERP and eCommerce systems helps you avoid these types of hiccups by providing accurate, timely data to your eCommerce clients:
- Current stock levels and product availability
- Current pricing and delivery times
- Up-to-date product information and specifications
- Product relationships
Integration Turf Wars: Who Owns Product Data?
The past six months have certainly revealed weaknesses within the eCommerce channels. We’ve spent a lot of time with clients, hashing out requirements, and designing integrations. Those conversations have uncovered some additional issues:
- Finance teams LOVE their ERP. They believe that the ERP is the single source of truth, and all product information should be managed there.
- Marketing teams LOVE their eCommerce platform. It contains product information that has been augmented to meet the needs of the consumer. Product data contained in the ERP is incomplete and “thin”.
As the old saying goes “He who has the gold makes the rules”. The Finance team usually ends up winning this debate – and rightfully so. The ERP is supposed to be a single source of truth. But ERPs are designed – first and foremost – to meet the needs of the Finance team. They are typically unwieldy for marketers – and Finance doesn’t want Marketing messing around in there anyway.
That’s a problem. Most eCommerce marketing teams are already spending about 40% of their time managing product data. It’s a non-stop spreadsheet rodeo as they struggle to keep up with new products, retire old products, and manage categories, promotions, etc. Even if Finance granted them access to the ERP, they don’t have the time or patience to work with it.
The turf war often settles into an uneasy truce:
- Master product data will reside in the ERP
- The ERP integration will synchronize changes and augmentations made to the data in the eCommerce system with the ERP system.
- If there are any conflicts, the finance team will resolve them within the ERP.
As you can imagine, this creates more problems and complaints for both sides:
- The finance team has control over the data, but must manually resolve conflicts between ERP and eCommerce product data.
- The marketing team can continue managing product information “their way,” but must deal with the fallout and rework when their information is questioned by Finance.
In the end, management openly wonders why they embarked on an effort to integrate eCommerce and ERP in the first place.
PIM Settles the Product Information Turf War
There are no good guys or bad guys here — Both the marketing and finance teams have valid business reasons for wanting to do things their way. Marketers can’t sell with the finance-centric data contained in the ERP, while finance while. And finance teams can’t run the business with marketing data.
When companies arrive at this type of impasse, we strongly recommend that they look at a Product Information Management (PIM) solution.
We’d describe a PIM system as “Switzerland for Product Data”. It is a neutral platform that allows different business units to collaborate and manage product information efficiently. It allows the marketing folks to create product information “channels” that serve relevant data to their eCommerce platform and other applications. It also allows the finance team – and others – to create channels to meet their needs.
Data from all channels is aggregated and can be routed to the system of record (e.g. ERP). Conflict resolution rules can be defined, removing the need for “data police”.
Akeneo is a Great PIM for eCommerce
Akeneo’s PIM can be a particularly potent weapon in your eCommerce arsenal. The experiences you provide to your customers are crucial for success in eCommerce. If you can offer superior product information to your customers – at the right time, right format, and within the right context – you’ll be hard to beat!
Akeneo puts you in a position to deliver the emotional connections and experiences that your customers crave. If you’re looking to move beyond a “good enough” customer experience, Akeneo PIM can help you create these compelling experiences.
Other retailers, like Europe’s leading retailer of outdoor and camping equipment, Obelink, have used PIM to create dynamic product experiences that help them extend their great service and products far beyond the walls of their flagship brick-and-mortar stores.
Take a Look at Akeneo
The departmental turf wars and spreadsheet rodeos are annoying, unnecessary, and harmful to your brand. Akeneo is a win-win for everyone: Your internal stakeholders can manage data “their way” and your external customers and partners see what’s most important to them.
Why not try Akeneo today? Here are a few options: