Integrating with marketplaces like Amazon, Aliexpress, or eBay is a growing trend due to their significant commercial relevance today and in the future. Typically, integration involves exchanging data between an eCommerce site and marketplaces (for example, I want to publish all my website products on Amazon) or marketplaces and management systems (for example, I want to see Amazon orders on my management system).
While integration is conceptually straightforward, there may be peculiar pitfalls unique to each case based on your starting condition. Which eCommerce platform do you use, and which version? Which processes do you want to automate? Only product publication? If so, in which countries? Do you also integrate logistics and VAT services such as those offered by Amazon?
Our suggestion is to take this step seriously as poorly coordinated integration can be frustrating and time-consuming (if not economically detrimental due to a stop in online activities). We provide the experience of our solution architects, listing the elements you need to consider, the challenges, case studies, and finally, a checklist to review before activating integration.
The first crucial consideration when contemplating integration with marketplaces is to assess the occasions that justify embarking on this path. This approach may seem unpopular, but when dealing with elements that could represent the "nerve center" of a company's commercial activities, caution is advised.
Conducting this sensible reflection is a must for both the client and the supplier. Based on our direct experience, we have observed two distinct scenarios over the years: professional sellers who manage significant sales volumes and structured companies with specialist teams. Evaluate which category you fall into before embarking on the path to complete integration.
- Professional sellers who handle substantial sales volumes typically have active marketplace accounts that generate at least hundreds of thousands of euros annually. Their mantra is "automate."
- These are structured companies with specialized teams, often multinational, that cannot do without automation. They have the resources (human and financial) to manage complex projects and a vision focused particularly on objectives. Their mantra is "we cannot do without it."Therefore, assess whether your case falls into one of the above two categories before embarking on the path that will lead you to complete integration.
Current state of "As Is" processes
When discussing integrations, we often refer to the exchange of data between software. However, it's important to remember that this exchange is made possible by human activity - people are always at the center. If an integration is impossible to complete, it's not because of software failure, but rather because of human error.
When automating business processes, such as publishing numerous articles on Amazon or eBay, it's crucial to prioritize several factors:
- It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the software, its versions, adopted architectures, and system infrastructure in order to successfully automate business processes.
- It's crucial for both the entrepreneur and all members of the organization involved to have a clear understanding of the processes. Additionally, formalizing these processes is essential for successful automation.
The temptation when discussing integration is to start from scratch with all processes, when in reality automation should focus on streamlining a repetitive activity that is already familiar. To succeed in integration, it is essential to analyze how the organization behaves, who the involved parties are, and what benefits are expected. This analysis is the starting point for success, not revising all processes.
If you haven't had the chance to do so yet, try creating a simple diagram using just a notepad and pen, as shown in the example below:
- "When an order is received from Amazon, the secretary Marta receives a notification via email and accesses the Seller Central to fulfill the order".
- "Marta transfers the buyer's information onto an Excel file to notify the courier and facilitate the shipment."
- "The same file is then sent via email to the warehouse manager, Luca, who prints it out to prepare orders."
A professional analysis must delve into a technical level to ensure that different systems can communicate using a common language, beyond just the processes.
It is common for product coding to differ on various selling platforms, making integration impossible from the start. Therefore, it is crucial to detect this during the analysis phase to ensure successful integration.
Different Ways of Data Exchange
Thanks to the widespread use of APIs (Application Programming Interface), there is a standardized way of exchanging data between systems. APIs are sets of procedures that enable software companies to communicate with developers worldwide, making it easier to share information.
The fact that many software companies provide their APIs to third-party developers means that they are open to "communicating" with the entire world. APIs are like a key that allows developers to access limited functions of the software, similar to taking a bottle of water from a fridge without having the key to the house. This revolutionary use of APIs has made it possible to exchange data between different systems, using file types such as xml or json. However, many accounting and inventory management systems are still using less advanced data exchange methods such as .csv or .txt files, which offer simpler and faster integration but may limit performance updates to once a day.
Pitfalls to avoid
Based on our experience, approaching an integration project with caution is wise.
On a conceptual level, integration may seem straightforward, involving the exchange of data between software. However, from a functional perspective, every integration comes with its own challenges that those with familiarity and experience understand well.
In the document that you can obtain for free by completing the form, you will find valuable information that can help you use your time more effectively and with a focus on your objectives.
The skills required for success in the eCommerce and marketplace realm are closely tied to integration architecture. Our certification program, which is free of charge, begins with your enrollment in the eCommerce Manager training platform. We will ensure that your technical competencies align with the demands of the industry and provide additional support as necessary.
If you represent a company interested in our services, you will have the opportunity to pursue certification through our joint program. However, registering for the eCommerce-manager.org Academy is the first mandatory step towards accreditation.