Brands are finding direct-to-consumer or eCommerce sales increasingly more valuable. While the bread and butter for most brands is to still work through retailers, dealing with consumers directly helps brands understand consumer needs and desires first-hand. You know directly from the end user, what they want from you. And that helps you design products and styles in keeping with consumer demand. Every sale made direct-to-consumer is at the retail price and hence at a higher margin. For these reasons, you want to increase your direct-to-consumer sales as much as possible.
Larger brands typically have a few brick & mortar retail outlets in big cities but most brands focus their direct-to-consumer efforts primarily on eCommerce. Having a strong web presence is important for various other reasons too. Some of the popular eCommerce platforms for small to medium brands are:
Magento and WooCommerce are open source and may be excellent choices for a brand that needs extensive customizations and can engage a development team. Shopify and BigCommerce are SaaS platforms and hence easy to get started and to maintain. I recommend Shopify for all small and medium brands that do not have a ton of custom needs due to their large presence, their growing popularity and their large number of third-party apps. I can vouch for the popularity of Shopify from the fact that over 70% of the brands on Stitchex are using Shopify. Stitchex has integrations with Shopify and WooCommerce and may develop integrations with other platforms based on demand from our brands. Our Shopify integration is much more elaborate and richer than our WooCommerce integration, just based on the fact that a significantly larger number of brands are benefiting from it.
What do you want in your integration?
If you have the increased focus on eCommerce, you want your primary management software (let us call it Enterprise Resource Planning system or ERP) to have good integration with your eCommerce platform. At a minimum you want the configuration to be simple and quick. You should be able to connect your products across the two platforms and keep the inventories in sync and accurate available to sell inventory across both your ERP and your eCommerce platform. To reduce effort and to increase efficiency, you may want more functionality in the integration. Let us take a look at some features Stitchex users find useful.
1. Pull products from eCommerce store into your ERP
This ability is useful only for new users of the ERP and does not have ongoing value. I find it very useful for new users as they are getting started with the ERP. They can get started importing products in a file but it generally takes a little effort organizing your data in the format required by the ERP system and actually importing the file. It may be easier for the new user to click a few buttons and let the system do the rest.
The other benefit of pulling from the eCommerce store is that you do not have to perform the next task of connecting existing products.
2. Connect existing products
This is a cumbersome process but may be unavoidable if you have been using both systems without integration. You do not want to start this way but many find themselves in this situation. If you are there, don’t fret it. You only have to do it for one season. Your ERP and your eCommerce platform both have the same products but they do not have any knowledge of each other’s products. In that case, you will have to manually and painstakingly connect each product.
You may like to organize products in your ERP with each product having multiple color variations. This is easier when working with sales, production, inventory, etc. Your retail customer may like to see each color as a separate product. Your integration should offer that flexibility.
3. Push products from your ERP to your eCommerce store
You have been designing, developing your products in your ERP and have been selling to your wholesale customer but now you are ready to get them on to eCommerce store to start selling your new season. Wouldn’t it be great if you can click one button to send all products from your ERP to your eCommerce store? Of course, you want all of the detailed well-formatted HTML descriptions, multiple images for each variation, prices, product weight, customs and other shipping information to be pushed also without having to enter that information again on your eCommerce store.
Just as described in 2. above, you will want the ability to send your product as is or each color as a separate product.
4. Pull Customers and Orders
This is essential if you fulfill your retail orders from your ERP. Even in the case where you ship your eCommerce orders on your store platform, you may want the ability to bring customer records and all your retail orders into your ERP. Your ERP should have a clean way to separate your retail orders and customers from your wholesale business. You want your ERP to be able to provide a comprehensive overview of your business – both retail and wholesale.
5. Automatically sync inventory
This is basic and mandatory and I am assuming that any eCommerce integration will include the automatic sync of “in stock” or “available to sell (ATS)” inventory between your eCommerce platform and your ERP. When an eCommerce sale happens, the inventory is reduced on the eCommerce platform and the same reduction needs to reflect in your ERP. Returns and cancellations should similarly affect inventory on both platforms. If eCommerce ATS is reduced on the ERP due to any transaction, the new ATS inventory should immediately reflect in the eCommerce platform.
7. Advanced features
Multiple stores: This may not be needed by small brands but I do see several brands having separate eCommerce stores for different regions, such as a US store and a Canada store. This may be due to the need to support different languages, currencies, etc.
Multiple warehouses:If you have multiple warehouses, you want your integration to have the ability to accurately affect inventories in the appropriate warehouse.
How does Stitchex do it?
Stitchex is not an ERP. It is a lean, user-friendly, complete management system for managing your brand operations. Find out more about Stitchex. Sign up for a free 14-day trial, no credit card needed.
See how Stitchex integrates with eCommerce platforms:
What do you think?
Did I miss something important? Let me know in the comments below.