From Production Line to Online: Making the Move to eCommerce

The increasing transition from traditional sales channels to eCommerce isn’t breaking news for manufacturers. It’s a strategic move you’ve likely pondered over countless meetings and budget reviews.

There’s also the lingering concern: “Are we just too late to the game?”

Over the past three to five years in particular, more manufacturers have identified or accelerated their eCommerce plans. As recently as 2021, survey data reveals that 98% of manufacturers have, are, or are planning to implement an eCommerce strategy. Compelling motivators include contending with a complicated supply chain, aligning with growing customer expectations for self-service, and the omnipresent need to squeeze dollars from tightening channel margins.

Transitioning to a digital commerce platform that integrates with your ERP can enable you to meet customers’ self-service requirements, unlock new revenue sources, and deepen customer engagement and loyalty.

eCommerce challenges for manufacturers

As you contemplate the transition to eCommerce, a number of apprehensions and anxieties probably come to the surface.

  • Integrating complex product configurations: Manufacturers typically deal with products that come in various configurations, options, and customizations. Translating these complexities into an online product catalog where everything must be clear and selectable can seem daunting.
  • Keeping track of inventory and order management: Keeping track of inventory and managing orders across multiple channels are major challenges, particularly when existing systems are not equipped for real-time updates or integrated operations.
  • Meeting customer and fulfillment expectations: Providing prompt and accurate service and fulfillment in an online world demands a much faster operational pace than traditional B2B sales channels, meaning most manufacturers need to find another gear.
  • Unifying data across silos: Often, critical business information resides in separate, siloed databases, complicating the task of unifying data for online sales. The lack of integration between these systems can hinder the accuracy and availability of data needed to support online orders effectively.
  • Blending new and legacy technologies: Integrating new eCommerce technology with existing ERP systems and infrastructure can feel overwhelming, especially when compatibility and data consistency issues are considered.

These challenges are very real, but they are not insurmountable. An eCommerce solution integrated within an ERP system can provide the framework needed to address these issues.

How an ERP solution can help with online selling

ERP systems with integrated eCommerce capabilities can address the end-to-end needs of manufacturers:

  • Take control of your product catalog: ERP systems integrate various aspects of business operations, including product catalog management. This centralization ensures that product information is consistent across all channels, reducing the risk of errors and confusion for customers. In addition, with a well-structured product catalog, eCommerce platforms can offer enhanced search and navigation functionalities to customers. This means customers can easily find products they are looking for, leading to a better shopping experience.
  • Synchronize orders and inventory: Automatic synchronization between the eCommerce platform and ERP ensures that sales data and inventory are always current, reducing the likelihood of order inaccuracies. Improving your rate of successful transactions bolsters margins and preserves customer goodwill.
  • Streamline payment processing and tax compliance: Tight integration between your ERP and eCommerce platform allows you to securely handle transactions and stay compliant with regional tax regulations, reducing administrative burdens and enhancing customer trust.
  • Optimize shipping and logistics management: When your online sales are directly linked with an ERP system, you can more completely automate the shipping process. By integrating directly with carriers, calculating shipping costs, and tracking shipments within a holistic system, you can reduce operational costs and improve delivery timelines.
  • Get visibility into data for forecasting: By analyzing eCommerce information, you can gain a host of critical insights. For example, you can easily identify and predict market changes in order to change your product mix and develop new offerings faster than competitors.

Strategic advantages of eCommerce for manufacturers

Integrating eCommerce with your ERP system offers you multiple strategic advantages:

  • Enhanced operational efficiency: Centralization of eCommerce and ERP functionality can reduce redundancy and errors, leading to significant improvements in efficiency and productivity.
  • Superior customer experience: Real-time updates and integrated customer service functions ensure that customers receive accurate information and prompt service, boosting satisfaction and loyalty. Customers can now view shipping status, track account information, query inventory, check pricing, or access important documents on their own, at their convenience.
  • Informed decision-making: Shared and harmonized data offers access to detailed analytics that helps you understand market patterns, optimize operations, and anticipate customer needs—all of which is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.
  • Seamless scalability: As business needs evolve, an integrated system can scale to handle increased transaction volumes and complex business operations without compromising performance. ERP and eCommerce capabilities grow in lockstep, unhindered by multiple systems.

Onward to digital commerce

The digital jump can seem like a giant leap, but with an integrated ERP and eCommerce solution, it’s more of a manageable step forward. It’s about enhancing what you already do well — manufacturing great products — and expanding how and where you can sell them. By aligning your production prowess with integrated eCommerce and ERP capabilities, you’re not just catching up — you’re getting ahead.

It’s time to break down the barriers that held you back and embrace the possibilities that await. It’s not as costly or complex as it might seem, and you’re definitely not too late to see substantial benefits.

If you want to learn about how ERP and eCommerce platforms work together, you can download our Digital Commerce infographic.

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