Remember your first business plan? The one you drafted on a napkin in a café during your lunch-break? The prospects were vague still the hope was grand. Your business has witnessed a dramatic growth since then. Your company enlarged and now you face the need to keep it under control.
Good for you to know it. Now you need to pave the way for the change. Your business grows and you start planning its transformation into a systematic and coherent one. That’s when resource management (ERP) and sales management (CRM) spring to your mind. Usually we deal with ERP and here are some stumbling blocks you may come across:
Fact #1. Nobody is happy about it.
That’s stark reality. Your staff got used to piling up spreadsheets. It’s absolute mess, but it’s a familiar mess.
- You need to persuade them that their efforts will result in time-saving later. But first they will need to enter all data in the systems.
- You need to train them too. All departments so that everybody could use these systems efficiently.
Fact #2. Apples and oranges apart!
Whatever system you choose CRM or ERP or both of them, avoid temptation of overloading it with all the data you have. Otherwise you will lose the only reason you’ve decided integrating them at all.
That is, ERP system must contain such data as SKU’s title, identifier, price, balance, inventory, etc.
The description of a website, any additional characteristics, filters and video and media data must be stored either:
- at the web-application, that is, in e-commerce project related to company’s products;
- or at the external cloud which is accessible to all participants involved.
Fact #3. Fast & furious
You must act fast. Nobody cares for your perfect product if your client has to wait for half an hour for processing his order while you’re updating your balances. He just won’t care to come back again.
So, now you are ready for a leap into the unknown and first goes ERP system.
ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning
What is it?
In brief, it’s a system which is sure it’s the principal actor at stage. As it integrates business processes, such as customer relationship management, inventory order management, accounting and human resources so that they all could use and exchange the information any time they need it.
Why would you need it? Because it provides for
- Payments processing automation;
- Managing inventory better;
- Timely update of orders;
- Timely update of balance;
- Taking care of accounting and account receivables;
- Taking care of resource management;
- Taking care of stock management;
- Taking care of order fulfillment;
In fact ERP must be your rapid response team. And as its work is based on intra-system exchanges we’ll show you what exactly must be done to transform it into one.
Speaking of e-commerce projects top popular is SAP, then goes Oracle. We’ve been mainly dealing with Microsoft Dynamics, Onebox and 1C. We also occasionally worked with Tend ERP and Parus.
Frequency of updates:
- Real-time: each time the order arrives. It helps to avoid stock-outs or back orders. But not all information is intended for such updates;
- On-event: when the order is made or balance is to be updated, during some actions, etc;
- Scheduled: they are mainly related to nomenclature exchanges (by users) or commercial offer’s creation.
The latter can overload the system by creating a cache version and by optimizing a media content for the web. It means that we get the link to the original image and when we apply to this page we re-edit media content in the format and resolution we need.
So, e-commerce projects are generally resource-intensive that’s why it’s better take some precautions not to overload the system. First, use monitoring systems and various external or internal services, for example such tools as Zabbix, New Relic. They help to analyze the unexpended infrastructure resources and make a decision as to their rational exploitation. In such a way you can check when the server is using his minimum capacity and schedule such types of activity as creation of commercial offer for this time. Usually it’s 2am-5am. After you make it then reload all modules related to cache. In the morning at peak activity users get feedback from server of already cached pages with generated media content. Thus, you unload the system and the user gets the content at the moment of peak activity.
Volumes of exchanges:
- Full – it means exchanges between all warehouses, by all inventories. Sometimes there are about 1 000 000, 00 SKU and it lasts for ages. Its speed is also limited by hardware’s capacity. As a rule, shops start with full exchanges at the very beginning when they download the database. Total price or content revision may also be the case. But well-thought architecture will result in fast transferring to partial exchanges.
- Partial – it is when there’s been changed only the balance of some goods and only these changes arrived to you in JSON or XML. Then you send them to ERP and they are entered in the database. There can be a lot of such exchanges, may be 1000,00, 2 000,00, or even 10 000,00 but they all are simple and they don’t impede the capacity of the application itself.
Exchanges by mediadata:
Media data: in case we have it in ERP system, we store it at the separate hard drive. Then we’re given a link to it so that we could read from this storage. It is an external hard drive and our ERP system, our production version, live-version, demo-version and even our programmers have an access to it. And such approach simplifies it all.
Prioritize your exchanges:
1. Your top priority is what brings you highest profit: the exchanges by orders. As you’ve invested great deal of money in advertising for attracting the customer. He’s made an order. And now your task is to do your best to keep him. That’s why exchanges by orders must be realized right away to ensure that business will derive maximum profit from them.
They can be:
- One-way – this is when only we transfer and the changes are made in our system;
- Two-ways – this is when the changes of order’s status are made in ERP, the order comes to us and is changed in our system;
2. Next point is exchange by clients. It’s not less important than exchange by orders and it must be done as fast.
3. Exchange by nomenclature is important still it occupies the third place. As if a client makes an order we’d better process it immediately. Nomenclature exchange can wait 2-3 minutes.
To enhance its effectiveness even more you should integrate the delivery system in your website so that your client could track down his purchases from payment till its delivery. Delivery can be provided either by you or your vendor. Whatever case is yours your client will appreciate fast access to his order status anyway.
So when your inventories and customer interactions are managed properly the icing on the cake could become.
Integration of payment systems:
That’s what can increase your sales proportionally to your client’s content. Your task here is to make him proceed from choosing a purchase till check-out with a blink of an eye. Your efforts will be rewarded by his satisfaction and further coming back to you.
To achieve it you need to choose your partners properly and integrate their payment systems into your ERP. Each business has its own payment procedures.
In some businesses you first get the order, then you see that these goods are ready for shipping and you assign it an appropriate status, for example “Ready for payment”. After you change such status the web-system generates a special mail notification which is sent to the user. It says that he can enter “My account” page and make payment.
On the contrary, e-content does not require checking whether goods are in stock and so payment can be done any time. Some types of business also allow payments any time as they initially sell only in-stock goods.
So any e-commerce project needs to define for itself which status is assigned when the client makes booking of goods and what can be allowed for payment.
There is also such special category as high-load projects. So their specifics is that they are highly resource-intensive so first their exchanges especially nomenclature ones are made in a special internal base and then they are sent to production with re-edited and cached content. All the sales are made at a separate server which already has some traffic generated by marketing department.
To sum it up the more you expand the more peculiar your choice of technologies must be. Otherwise you will end up riding a bike while your competitors will launch a space rocket through the stars. The space missiles for your business now are ERP and CRM systems which can drive you to the brighter future of skyrocketing sales and grateful clients.