Built-In or Custom Integrations?

B2B ecommerce ERP integrations can be challenging. As digital experiences have evolved, they have also become more connected. There are two sides of the coin: commerce platforms offering out-of-the-box, built-in integrations, and strategic, custom integrations to these platforms. Which do you need? Both.

Like climbing a mountain, your B2B business can face two digital transformation goals on the journey to better digital experiences:

  • get to basecamp – or make your eCommerce channel operational and digitally connected
  • ascend to the summit – or innovate buyer and seller transactions across all channels, digitally

Note the distinction of all channels: eCommerce works best when it’s fully integrated into your business. When end-user customers can self-serve on your website to review order status, pay invoices, and connect with sales reps or customer service by chat for their complex inventory management questions, your website moves beyond a sales channel and becomes your entire company’s most important tool.

On the way up the mountain, each goal needs integrated systems, services, and solutions to climb higher. A great sherpa, or a partner like Xngage, can help you toggle between built-in and custom integrations. Where are you on your journey and which do you need? Below are some typical stops on an eCommerce integration journey and some suggestions to help you.

Creating a Robust Transactional eCommerce Website

If you’re reading this and you’re well into your eCommerce channel maturity, this section may not be for you. But it’s a good refresher, and a reminder that good planning begets good outcomes.

Many B2B companies are still navigating the early stages of B2B eCommerce and have added storefronts to their Enterprise Resource Planning (or ERP) systems. They may be considering ecommerce integration software. At this stage talks often turn to “re-platform” options or revamping an order management system to support the eCommerce channel, and in turn all of B2B commerce, as you continue to grow.

At this juncture a content-and-commerce platform with mindful built-in integrations is a great way to get to “basecamp.” Platforms that specialize in B2B needs, not just B2C retrofits, can provide meaningful ways to level up, and built-ins can help you ascend faster. Working with partners can help you to select the right platform with the right built-ins for your business, both today and as it grows into the future.

Let’s demonstrate this with a B2B distributor example. A company currently has an ERP with a bolt-on storefront to manage eCommerce orders. Leaders have decided that, to meet their five-year business goals, they need to re-platform, or implement a more robust content-and-commerce system to deliver modern, digital-first experiences to end-users. A new B2B platform that also includes a base Product Information Management (PIM) system integration helps that distributor improve online merchandising. (Providing the data going in is structured, unified, and cleaned first (see another Xngage blog on this topic.) With better merchandising, the end-user buyer can make better product, cost, and shipping comparisons. That’s a great use of built-ins to help improve buyer’s experiences. The firm continues to basecamp.

Basecamp and summit in digital transformations

Digital Experience Transformations

Upward on the journey to the summit, B2B commerce teams begin to see that the trek becomes more complicated, even when the travelers are seasoned. Conditions require a higher level of scrutiny especially as more teams become integrated into the overall digital system. It is here that clients sometimes begin to experience “valtitude sickness” - or the light-headed feeling of trying to evaluate meaningful system ROI.

How can you gain the value that you need to journey upward? Return to your partner sherpa who knows the B2B landscape, the participants, and where investments provide the greatest return.

Back to the previous B2B distributor example, there comes a time when built-in implementations need more customization to power digital experiences. Thanks to Amazon and Amazon Business, buyers are now conditioned to look at more complex product detail pages (or PDPs) when reviewing product assortments. They expect to see 360° visuals, exploded parts diagrams, ratings and reviews, and open stock inventory positions by geographic locations.

Custom integrations take center stage at this point. With a full tech stack discovery session, your partners can look at business objectives and begin developing plans to support them with technology. While there are certainly well-worn paths up the mountain, sometimes weather can make roads impassable, or the terrain can change when you least expect it. A good guide can customize your journey to help deliver true business value whatever the conditions are today, and as they unfold in real time.

Add-ons to built-in PIMs, including enhanced PIMs, Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems or Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) systems may be necessary to level up your digital experiences. And although implementations may be straightforward, often there are roadblocks that need the work of strategic and B2B-focused customization professionals like Xngage. Working together helps get to the summit faster.

Continuous Ascension

Like every great alpine expedition, there is euphoria at the summit. When a B2B company meets (or exceeds) its five-year goals because of a successful digital transformation, it’s certainly time to celebrate. And yet staying on top of the mountain is its own challenge, too. In the spirit of continuous improvement, digital transformations should be ongoing and not a one-and-done. Certainly, B2B firms who invested in digital prior to the pandemic were positioned better throughout, but new challenges and new innovation will continue to reset B2B buyers’ expectations. That means ongoing digital transformation work.

Built-in AND custom integrations work harmoniously when implemented together. Good partners who are experienced, know the lay of the land, and can offer the right tool at the right time will help minimize digital transformation costs over the long run. So, whether you’re new to eCommerce, have found your way to basecamp, or happily have reached the summit, make a partner and a toolkit an indispensable part of your journey. The steps to the top are never the same way twice, but you’ll be ready for the adventure.

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