eCommerce Digital Transformation: More Than Just a Cool Website

ECommerce is a part of everyday life. The number of transactions that occur online is significantly higher than the number of transactions that occur face-to-face. It has become an essential function of businesses, particularly amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

ECommerce is a part of everyday life. The number of transactions that occur online is significantly higher than the number of transactions that occur face-to-face. It has become an essential function of businesses, particularly amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

What is eCommerce?

Ecommerce companies have the unique ability to establish a software storefront while leveraging other parties to make, stock, transport, and deliver their products. Typically, eCommerce companies are thought of as businesses that sell a majority of their products or services online. ECommerce businesses differ from pure wholesale distributors, manufacturers, or retail stores while retaining traits of each of these legacy industries. They may rely on third parties for their manufacturing needs and may not have their own warehouses, shipping trucks, or inventory. To make matters more complex, eCommerce businesses may be a combination of the above, making some products, while sourcing others; stocking and fulfilling some products while relying on third party logistics or vendors to stock and fulfill others; some may have a brick-and-mortar location and still others “stock” their inventory inside of big box stores until the point of sale.

Digital Transformation for eCommerce Businesses

ECommerce digital transformation should be more exciting than scary. Many businesses can explore digital transformation possibilities with eCommerce functionality. While digital transformation may seem like it is meant to ease work for business users, it really is framework for reimagining customer experience, and that usually starts behind the scenes with better software, including eCommerce and ERP.

Digital transformation facilitates company-wide knowledge and understanding of the processes that are taking place across the organization. Within a digital environment, staff can leverage real-time information for enhanced decision-making across core business processes. As for the customer, digital transformation may be as simple as upgrading shoppers’ access to products across all your channels in one shopping experience. In this scenario, eCommerce website software as well as inventory, accounting and ordering must all integrate seamlessly to ensure a great customer and worker experience.

But digital transformation for eCommerce businesses isn’t reserved for product-based companies. Service businesses can enjoy the benefits of digital transformation, too, even if they don’t have a product to manufacture, ship, and deliver. Offering reservations for attractions, accommodations, vehicles, or restaurants via a website or app broadens a company’s reach while enhancing the customer’s ability to do business with you. Yet there must still be an integrated software interface that presents available options in an elegant way that your customer will want to interact with. Layering an eCommerce application (like AirBnB or Uber) over the top of a traditional service (like vacation rentals or taxis) can transform a legacy business into a brand-new enterprise capable of reaching new markets.

The Unique Needs of eCommerce Businesses

Software vendors and implementation partners are accustomed to working with traditional manufacturers and distributors with traditional manufacturing and distribution business models. A growing eCommerce business finds itself in the difficult position of navigating software that was not primarily developed for their business model when undergoing a digital transformation. Simply buying a best-in-class ERP to integrate with their eCommerce site will not solve their inventory, order, and accounting woes.

The typical software ecosystem for an eCommerce company minimally includes the following business processes:

  • eCommerce orders
  • Purchasing
  • Inventory system
  • Order fulfillment
  • Third-party logistics
  • Accounting

Depending on whether the eCommerce company is serving consumers, businesses, or both adds an additional layer of complexity into the ecosystem; wholesale businesses may involve a variety of scenarios for order and inventory management. Managing the flow of data out of the eCommerce site is not necessarily as simple as setting up an integration platform to the new ERP or order management tool.

Be upfront when considering which digital transformation route will provide the best outcome for your business. This involves setting a clear strategy by coordinating with all key stakeholders. If you don’t do this, one of two things may happen: you might pay magnitudes more than you actually need for software; or conversely, you may vastly underestimate the technology underpinnings to successfully transform disjointed inventory, order, and accounting processes and lose your job for buying technology your company cannot afford to deploy.

Digital Transformation in eCommerce Businesses: Our Advice

Our greatest piece of advice for contemplating digital transformation in eCommerce is to know what you want. ECommerce businesses need to be absolutely sure of what they are looking for prior to the search. It is far too easy to get lost in the variability of the solutions in the market; however, it is possible to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Still not sure how to approach the digital transformation process? We’re here to help. Contact ERP Advisors Group to set up a consultation today.

Get Expert Help From Our ERP Consultants

Juliette Welch: Thank you everyone for joining us for today's webinar: Digital Transformation for eCommerce Businesses.

Shawn Windle is one of our speakers for today. Shawn is the Founder and Managing Principal of ERP Advisors Group based in Denver, Colorado.

Shawn has over 20 years of experience in the enterprise software industry, helping hundreds of clients across many industries with selecting and implementing a wide variety of enterprise solutions. His podcast The ERP Advisor has dozens of episodes with thousands of downloads and is featured on prominent podcast platforms such as Apple and Spotify.

Carly Schube is our guest today. Carly is a consultant at ERP Advisors Group. She has brought her background and experience in accounting and customer service to our team.

On today's call, we will discuss best practices for eCommerce businesses undergoing digital transformation projects as well as share our recent work with eCommerce business selections and implementations.

Shawn, Carly, thank you so much for joining me today.

So, diving right in, nowadays eCommerce is just a part of everyone's everyday life. But in regard to digital transformation, it may seem dry and boring and not necessary for most. But really, it's an essential part of a business’ success and ultimately to their survival.

So, with that, Shawn, can you give us an overview of what digital transformation is exactly as well as a description of what eCommerce businesses or eCommerce business does?

Shawn Windle: First off, I have to say Happy Veterans Day, which is amazing.

Juliette: Thank you for recognizing that. It's great.

Shawn: Yeah for sure. Both my grandfathers were vets — both in my past, but there were stories that I never got to hear which is kind of sad. So, if you've got folks like that in your life that have served and been out there, it's good to find out what they went through because it could be tough. But anyway, Happy Veterans Day.

But digital transformation — basically you can think about it like you have a business, an organization, a nonprofit government agency — let's just say an organization and that organization does things, and if you have individuals doing things back and forth, work is passing back and forth, that’s great. The individuals know about it, but can others find out what's going on?

Well, if you can digitize what people are doing or reflect their actual actions in a digital environment, then other people can see.

That's a really simple example, but you can think about something like accounts payable and if we're sitting there writing manual checks, that's going to take a long time. So fine, let's write checks out of an ERP that somebody then has to go sign. That's better.

But hey, what if we can do our payments out of our ERP that gets sent directly to the bank? And then the bank can pair vendors faster if you want that.

That's sort of an example of digital transformation, you're saving manual steps, doing more work digitally, but it really doesn't replace people. It never will.

I know there's people out there like, oh my God, the robots are going to take over the world. The robotic process automation is never going to happen. There's way too much value that people bring to processes.

But for those things that aren't that valuable if we can digitize them, that's the goal of business of digital transformation for a business or organization.

Juliette: Well, it's almost — I mean it as simple as digital — defining digital transformation is like if instead of writing on a piece of paper your notes with a pen, you use the notes app on your phone, right?

Shawn: That's exactly right.

Or even going to the next step, which is you dictate into Siri and let your notes come and then you can have machine learning on the back end that gets to know you and your processes and what you say in your business and everything else and it can basically write something for you.

It's really exciting, like, I'm glad to be in the position that we are now. We're not like big like hey, let's go digitally transform everybody. That's not our thing…but it kind of is.

And what's really interesting then, is when you get into eCommerce businesses, right? So almost every organization or business has some piece of eCommerce to it, right? You could say a website is eCommerce.

Well, when we got a website, you go there, you can't do business with us through that website but not yet ­­– soon we will have the ability to get content on a subscription. I'm not sure when that is.

I just sort of realized I've been promising that for a long time and haven't delivered. But you go in for it for a certain amount of a subscription per month, you can get access to our new work and what we're saying about vendors and all that stuff.

And you go to the website, you pay, and that's an example of — certainly eCommerce, but what we're really going to talk about today, definitely with Carly on who's been through a lot of our projects, especially recent, are organizations that are really built on eCommerce business model.

So, they can have a product that they sell online. Now could they also sell that product through wholesalers or big box stores or distributors? Sure, right? But it's a channel to get from the manufacturer to the end customer, right?

That eCommerce interaction where it's not just a shopping cart with promotions. And here's the prices. And if you buy a bunch, you save. No, it's more about an interaction and a relationship with the end customer digitally.

So, we can get to know these customers. We can put them on certain experiences with us. And so then what's also interesting, too, is that you have businesses that are really truly pure eCommerce — all they do is sell stuff online like unicorn T-shirts, right?

I mean that could be something that somebody would do online. Bless their souls. We need Unicorn t-shirts. And they don't even have a retail shop, or they don't even sell through something else, right?

Or on the other extreme, some of our clients are actually doing sort of configured products using their website — very complex analytics to get a product together.

This is exactly what we want to buy. Send it over to a fulfiller who then sends that to the customer to complete.

There's lots of different business models around eCommerce companies. But when we think about eCommerce companies, we really think about organizations that are selling quite a bit of their product — their goods and even services online.

Is there a specific percentage? No. But it's really sort of the commerce side — the selling and the buying and that transaction happens electronically online. That's a good way to think about eCommerce businesses.

Juliette: And what about companies that aren't online but want to be able to start selling their products online like how hard is that?

Shawn: Great question.

And that could be that digital transformation project that that company goes through, right?

We've worked with many companies in the past where they've been in existence for 50 years, right? And they're looking at going online.

We were talking to a company today that has devices that are out in people’s homes, and they were talking about sort of how they've had the internet of things, IoT.

So, they have these devices that are in people homes around their pool. And they are — they've built apps, right? That people can interact with their devices that are at home, right?

Could be anything from a thermostat to a pool pump to lights. And folks are — they're interacting with it on their phones, like literally, you could change the temperature or whatever it is.

Juliette: Or close your garage door. I've definitely seen those.

Shawn: Yes, for the garage door or sprinklers even.

Like this whole concept of like eCommerce is really expanding very quickly because the interoperability of systems is far greater than ever.

I remember in 1996 when I started with Accenture. This is a funny story then we should definitely hear from Carly.

But we were doing this training based on Michael Hammer’s business process reengineering. It was amazing, it was some of the best training I've ever had other than ours.

And as we're going through the topics it was like, I think there was like an example like how do you transform this business and it was a natural gas distributor. And we were like, well it would be great if on each of the tanks there was a little device that could tell the mother ship basically what the amount of natural gas was left in the tank and when it hits a certain amount, just roll the truck out — just a truck just comes out shows it, fills it up, and moves on back.

Back in the day we didn't have that ability, but now you know I have two different kinds of thermostats and they both tell me when the filters need to be changed — like it's crazy.

So, because systems can talk to one another and the technology is so easy for somebody like me to use on my thermostats it's really a whole new world, and so that's that kind of transformation that a company like you said who's never done eCommerce before can quickly bring something to market that can really make a change.

Juliette: Well, with that said, Carly, Shawn mentioned that you have a lot of experience working on different several eCommerce projects, can you tell us a little bit about the different types of eCommerce solutions in the market today that you have worked with?

Carly Shube: So, I mean, there's really — I mean, there's a ton, right?

For every ERP there's an inverse of big eCommerce solutions, right? The vendor, the software itself, the platform that it's going to be built on. And you have the kind of the well-known Shopify that is now advertising on TV for people to make their own website and you can sell your own Unicorn t-shirts like Shawn said, right, to the big Magento's of the world, right?

So, there's kind of big commerce and several others that are all just in the market, and you have to look at them from my like — the first step is what functionality do I need out of my eCommerce website?

Am I just selling T shirts that I made make at home that I with my silk screen and you know — one after the other? Or do I need to like have it so that people can click here and click here and click here and click here and click here and now have a whole new product? It started off as A and then it up as Z. Or 123 or whatever, because people get to choose it.

So, you have the amount of functionality. How much interaction do you want to be able to have with their clients online, right?

It goes to that whole omnichannel experience — do you have a storefront that you want to mimic in the eCommerce? Do you have a certain reputation for always responding to your help chats in 20 minutes or less or something, right? These are all like functionality things that you have to look at.

I mean all the way from kind of that very upfront aesthetic — like what do I want them to see to what information in the background do I want the website to capture?

The carts where they if you leave a cart abandoned. And like emailing people like, oh, I saw you have this in there, do you want it?

See how many times somebody logs in and buys their product and gets you those metrics so you can start going, oh okay, like this type of area’s who I want to market to.

So, those are the kind of functionality questions to get answered up front.

And then what costs are associated with this, right?

Get those, get that core foundation laid and then decide okay, how I want it to look?

The aesthetics of it — what colors do I want? Whether my picture is — whatever the branding. That's a whole different topic. Those are your agencies. Then you have a dime a dozen of those. Just more than you could — you can go into a little bit of like analysis paralysis just looking at them and trying to find somebody but it is doable. It is very doable.

Just keep in mind what kind of company you are and how you want the experience — their experience to match your experience.

So that not just personalities, but you know, do we have experience in your market? Do we have experience in adjacent markets? Do we have too many of your same customers and that could create a conflict of interest?

There's a lot of different things that come along with it, and then there's also the factor of some regulations. Some industries don't — the platforms don't agree very well with some industries, so you have to look into the T's and C's up front.

Do you let me sell my widgets? Or things like that.

Juliette: My gosh that sounds a little overwhelming.

Carly: Start with one step at a time.

Juliette: Walk, roll, run — is that how it goes, right? Yes, my gosh.

Well, Shawn, let me ask you like, I guess maybe the wording traditional business versus eCommerce business — how do the software needs of an eCommerce business differ from the needs of say, like a manufacturing or a wholesale distribution company?

Shawn: Great question. I think there's a couple different angles I could take here.

One of them is one of the major differences is the software vendors are used to working with manufacturers and distributors. That's software vendors and implementation partners.

So, if you do have an atypical business model — let me think these sell shoes online and you only sell them online, right? That's a little atypical. It's not anymore, but when I first did my first e-tailer a long time ago, like say 18 years ago. That was a sort of a new model, right?

Nobody bought shoes online — like I'd never heard about these people. Why might I buy shoes from them?

So, a typical, let's say manufacturer, would buy all the raw materials and then they would do work orders, manufacturing, execution documents, like getting a bunch of shoes made and then put the shoes in their warehouse someplace, maybe put in a distribution center, right?

That's sort of what a manufacturer does, right?

Then they look for sellers — mostly distributors — to sell their shoes, maybe some retailers, right?

Then you have a wholesaler that buys materials, puts it on the shelf, and then tries to sell it to somebody for higher cost.

Basic business models there. A shoe basically designer, a shoe e-tailer really doesn't even usually make the shoes — they don't buy the raw materials per say. They may buy the finished product, maybe the shoes are so expensive because they're there, they only do an order for a specific pair of shoes, right? That's kind of a crazy idea. I don't know, but I'm sure they're out there.

But more likely that the e-tailer or the eCommerce business doesn't have the traditional manufacturing requirements may not even have the traditional distribution requirements because they're usually relying on other parties for manufacturing. They're relying on other parties for distribution like a third-party logistics provider, right?

So, we worked with a eCommerce company this year. They had manufacturers all around the world — very specialized manufacturers that would put product into a third-party logistics provider, 3PL, and then when we get an order in from say a retailer, the order would go direct to the third-party logistics provider who then would ship the order and just let us know that all this stuff happened. We never touched the product.

But that particular client is so good at design and marketing and understanding what the market wants and finding the right sourcers to put together really fine materials in a specific way. And that's what their value added was, and they were able to build that business very quickly because the cost of the business is pretty low.

They don't have the inventory, they don't have all the logistics, they certainly don't have their own shipping trucks and everything. They rely on others for that. They don't have their own warehouses, so that's a big difference and I think a lot of the software vendors don't understand that.

As a matter of fact, we just got called by a pretty big eCommerce company. They called us and said, hey we bought blah. We won't say what blah is — and it's not going to work and we want our money back, but we're not — we don't know what to do. Like we're just not sure what to do. Can you help us?

And we said, I don't know what's happening and we just said, yeah after learning more about their situation, we are helping them and basically the implementation firm really didn't understand how the company should use the software before they sold the software with the software vendor.

They just said, oh yeah, you're this kind of business, here's the kind of software you need, and then they bring in their implementation people who start doing it. And the client’s like, that's not what we want.

And the software vendor is like, well, this is what we do. This is what you bought and they're like, oh, I got it, but that's not what we want. That's not going to work for us.

Okay, what do you want?

We're not sure, says the commerce company.

So, they have to hire people like us to go in and say, okay, well what are the options here? What's going to cost? What problems are we trying to solve?

It's not just about regulatory reporting and compliance, but it's also about automating business processes and giving us better views and visibility of profitability and business performance across the entire value chain.

Wow, I should be a consultant. If I can say that that fast. But it's true, right? And so that is a big difference is that the eCommerce companies requirements are always atypical.

They very rarely buy stuff, make stuff, put it in a warehouse, and sell it. There's something along there — and this is a more of a product company. There's something in there. Their chances are they're not going to do. They're going to rely on the third-party for that.

Now, of course, there's other models, too. There's digital content providers or there's people that — there's a guy that I follow, I need to follow him a little bit more because I've kind of gained back some of my poundage from being on keto.

So, I'm not on keto but I followed a guy, Doctor Berg, who was great. And he had an eCommerce model basically where you could get his downloads of his materials and stuff and then you can buy his vitamins and stuff online, right? So, he doesn't make that stuff. But I'm sure he doesn't even have a warehouse up and he's got peeps that do that.

I mean Amazon does that for people as everybody knows. You can have your own Amazon store and that's the idea is that you just — the products get sent to Amazon and they fulfill when an order comes in.

So, it's just a different world but I think what ultimately is the most important thing is — and it goes back to what Carly says is you really need to understand what you want if you're an eCommerce company, because you can go out and buy the same thing for ten times more money than what you really need when it comes to enterprise software for eCommerce companies.

So, you have to be careful, know what you want then start talking to vendors about this is what I want, can you do it? Wow, why is this one $5 million and this other options like $30,000? What's the difference here?Find out what the differences are because there are differences.

Juliette: Well, that's bottom line of everything that we've discussed — that all of this is just knowing your business and knowing bottom line what you do and what your needs are.

Shawn: Yep, it's true. Especially in this area though, because it — just because you're even a clothing — we're talking to a company that's a clothing company that's online, well okay, but they make their stuff and they have stores. And they have a very rich interaction with their end users, to the point where the end user can shop and say I want to try on these five things at this store at this time, like that's pretty cool.

Versus a company that sells — versus Nordstrom’s, right? It's a huge product catalog, right?

Two different the — same kind of business, but two totally different requirements sets for eCommerce companies as we call them.

Juliette: My gosh, Carly.

I'm going to ask you this, but maybe both you and Shawn can speak to this, but what role does an ERP play and how important is it in a company in an eCommerce companies digital transformation?

Carly: Yeah, that's a very good question.

So, the ERP handles all of the company transactions. And then you have the eCommerce up here handling the website transactions.

So, you have — when you have a website sale, let's just get really simple, right?

You have a website sale, and that sale needs to communicate to the ERP create a sales order in the ERP and move it through the fulfillment process, whatever that fulfillment process is for that ERP.

It could simply just be, okay alert our 3PL. Or do the whole shebang of pick, pack, ship. And then invoice — now granted you captured the payment most of the time up front in a website.

So again, then you need to have a piece that all that payment information come down into your accounting module in the ERP so that you have the full picture of what just transpired online in your ERP. Because at the end of the day, everything is about money, right?

The books — you need to see where you're at so it needs to communicate with your ERP for your inventory, for your sales orders. What money did we receive, right?

So, the communication there, but then also, the ERP will ideally speak back to the website in terms of if you're the one that's tracking the inventory saying, hey, we have ten more t-shirts of size medium in the warehouse available, put that on the website so that when someone says, oh, I want to order 100 of these, it's whatever your business rules, right?

Whether you can't or you do, but you put it on back order or whatever, it notifies the customer of exactly where we're at so that they know.

It's just a more — it's just another relay point to communicate to the client to your end customer what you have and what you don't have.

Do you have X number only X number of digital downloads for your ebook? Because that's what you — how you keep it exclusive — things like that.

So just the communication back and forth is vital and most of the time if you're using well-known products on both sides, you'll be able to generally get them to communicate, and there's already a lot of things built out, but that is also something to look at when evaluating your software — your eCommerce software.

Juliette: Well, I don't — I mean, I am very ignorant.

I don't know about this so let me ask you, is the ERP mostly on the back end for the eCommerce business or does it also include the front end for the customer?

Shawn: Good question, yeah, and it's probably the former from what you said — the first thing where usually you're a piece on the back end fulfillment application.

But again, there's so many varieties — so the way that the eCommerce and ERP normally work together is exactly what Carly said eCommerce — think of it as your storefront up where front the order gets placed and order gets fulfilled in your ERP system, right?

We're implementing right now an ERP system for a company that that sells knives, right? That's exactly their model that they're following.

The eCommerce site will capture the order, go back into the ERP, the ERP creates all the fulfillment documents loop, and the knives get shipped out with and then invoiced or paid upfront.

It could be an individual knife, or it could be thousands of knives that they sell to different distributors.

But it could be different, too, it could be that the product that they sell up front is so specialized on the website that the website does the order configuration, and the website may send that here's the order.

We want a manufacturer root may send it directly to a fulfillment company right from the website and then the fulfillment company comes back and says okay, we shipped it, and so their website to the third-party people can be an integration, too.

Now you've got your ERP over here who's like, oh, that doesn't really matter. I don't need to know about it, except if you want to do financial statements and report your financial results to investors.

They don't know — the investors don't know what's happening here in the eCommerce site, the ERP system into your financials, your general ledger — that's the purpose of the general ledger is to track what's happening so we can get data, usually from an eCommerce engine and we can bring it over to a GL and we can do journal entries, but then a good auditor is going to say, how do you know those journal entries are correct?

Oh, that's the downloads from the from the website.

Okay, well, how did you get those downloads?

Oh, we manually put them in the journal entries.

It leaves room for error versus like Carly said the integrations of an eCommerce engine to a financial system just leaves more or less room for error and more room for accuracy.

So, the back end the ERP really does sort of kind of the world ERP in an eCommerce firm — it really does change, it's different. It depends on what the requirements are, but I think what we try to do is just try to simplify as much as possible to platforms.

So, there's some ERP companies that also have eCommerce engines. And that integration is very tight.

If you're an ERP company and you're writing eCommerce, that's kind of a different area. That's really hard, so you might not do it that well, so fine, maybe you do go with the best of breed eCommerce best of breed ERP.

And again, like Carly said, there's integrators those people have written. The channel where data can flow back and forth back and forth a relay like she said, which is spot on. So it really does depend.

But the tricky part again is when you're talking to the vendors and you say I'm an eCommerce company and I want a new ERP, they think one thing, but like we said, a million times you need to tell them this is how I want my ERP to work with my ecosystem, tell me if I should do something different, but this is what I'm thinking.

Oh, that's what you're thinking, well, let me let me that's going to be a different solution.

Juliette: So, going to them and then just laying out the basic foundation and then things can grow from there like they can bring things to the table and give you ideas maybe that you didn't even know you need it as an eCommerce business, right?

Shawn: Yep. I think that's spot on.

Juliette: So, Shawn let me ask you this, how does a fast-growing business know when it's time to invest in an eCommerce ERP versus a new ERP system.

Does that make sense?

Shawn: Umm, that makes perfect sense.

We talked to a food company recently that's going through a ton of growth, right?

They're trying to figure out what to do and it's — I'm trying to think through a couple different requirements, right?

That's ultimately what it comes down to is what is your strategy for how you're interacting with your customers, with your vendors, how you want to be and operate as an organization? There's technology to support anything.

I'm thinking of another company worked with many years ago and they were very much about getting their products in the big box stores — very specific big box stores — and so they when they did, they had outgrown QuickBooks, they couldn't get the financial reports that they wanted anymore — lot of manual stuff.

They needed to have internal controls and some other things that would’ve led them to a new ERP anyway or financial system.

But when we really got in there and sort of dug around, what we realized was there is a ton of electronic data interchange, or EDI transactions that they're having to receive and send to the retailers and the wholesalers that they were selling to that they were doing manually.

Like a Walmart —when you do business with Walmart, you're going to do it the way Walmart says or Nordstrom’s or whoever it is — all these organizations have requirements.

If you're going to do business with this you're going to transact EDI. And if your system is not set up to transact EDI you have to do it manually, like you have to go into the EDI system and type in your orders and stuff. And it's crazy.

So, for them, all of the product design and development and recipes and everything — this was a biopharmaceutical company so kind of a health and beauty company. All of their recipes, and their really their secret sauce stuff, not even touching ERP at all, right?

ERP was just about transactions of financial reporting and operational reporting, so for them, we optimize the system to be very integrated with these EDI systems so that an order would come in from a customer, hey, this is what we want, we want 5000 of these.

Great go check inventory, just like Carly said, we got 10,000 okay we can do five. Go ahead and release the document. Basically, to pick, pack and ship just like Carly said, send it.

Here's the advanced shipping notice that comes across. Here's the invoice all electronically. So nobody even had to touch that order like it was optimized for that kind of environment.

So — and that was the goal, right? Was for them to grow as fast as they could and basically get bought by a bigger brand name, which is exactly what happened.

So, the strategy behind what this e-commerce company is trying to do is the most important thing over the solution because that strategy is going to drive what they do with the solution.

I mean another company we're working with, they're really trying to create a direct relationship with the consumer, who's likely right now to buy their product through retail stores.

They want that consumer to go directly to them. But they also trust and respect the retailers, and they don't want to take business away because that's how they've grown.

But they want to have a one-on-one relationship, hey, you bought our product, you know, let's make it — we want to make you part of the family, literally. And here's the experience that we're going to have.

I bought a mountain bike from a company that’s like — they're really about, hey, you know we love you and here's what we're doing for rides and a lot of interaction, all digitally. That was part of their strategy, too.

So, strategy is the most important thing. The technicalities of it are easy. If these systems are so flexible, you can literally make almost anything happen.

Juliette: So, that sounds like they capture your information once you've purchased something, and then they continue to keep you in their database to send you information to engage you further, right?

Shawn: Yep, it's smarketing.

I think I heard at a conference this year instead of sales and marketing, it's marketing. It's smarketing.

Juliette: That’s a good one. Carly, let me ask you this quickly.

You mentioned, like you know on the front end, like with the on the customer side like letting them know there's ten knives or sweatshirts left, what about like — can you also customize it to where on the businesses’ end they can say there's ten left in inventory and time to reorder? Can you customize like that, too?

Carly: Yeah, absolutely. You want to be able to — it's just about any system, right?

The idea is that you have better access to your data, better automation, better alerts, right? How do I handle things? Take away the manual, not crucial things that like hurt doing, right?

You're like, oh, I literally have to take this piece of paper and put it next to this newspaper and go do the match. Take those things.

It'll be like, oh look, this number matches this number and the system does it all for me.

So, the idea is that if we're running low in stock as a business, and we say, oh gosh, we have to — I want an automatic alert to our threshold line, right? Does tell me boom pop-up here, little pop-up window.

I need to order more t-shirts or I need to produce more. I need to get on top of my silk screening. Whatever you need to do to make more of whatever you are selling.

So, it's also, hey, customer, we'd love to sell you ten, but we only have five in stock. Let me order it, send you five, back order five, and we'll send you five later. Or, customer, okay, we only have five, you can only order five.

So, there's that side, but then there's also hey, business you need to make more, do more, buy more of this.

Shawn: That's important to the outside, right?

But I do want to say something because what Carly said is like that is the crux of why you really need a strong ERP if you're an eCommerce company, because that logic min, max, reorder points, even combine just in time — how ever you manage your inventory is a very known, like been done forever in ERP's for 50 years.

I'm not that old, maybe I am, come on. Almost, not quite.

But literally from like the 60s and the 70s building into systems the manufacturing requirements, planning, MRP, is there and it's been there and it's really strong. And it's good, right?

ECommerce companies. They're not good at that. That's not what they're made for. So, they're made for a really rich experience with customers.

Show the product catalog and all the information and click here for reviews. And you know alternate items if this one out of stock suggests this.

When all that kind of stuff shopping cart experience is like Carly said. Abandoned shopping cart logic and send an email and all that, right? That's hard stuff.

The people that do inventory optimization and planning are not the same people that do the eCommerce and customer experience and shopping online merchandising basically.

So, you bring those two together, and that's where you can really see like whoa, like you can really create some really powerful things for customers.

Juliette: Well, this is maybe a little off script, but how we saw that a lot of companies had to pivot during the pandemic. And how did the pandemic affect digital transformation for eCommerce businesses if it did? Like you know whether they were pulling reports remotely or they were having to sell different products or what, can you speak to that maybe how it affected eCommerce?

Shawn: I can. I could talk to it a little bit.

Like we talked to a company that was in the home weights industry — basically home fitness. They made weights and bar and barbells and dumbbells and all that kind of stuff.

And their demand went from here way off the top because people couldn't go to the gym anymore. So, they grew very quickly, so now all of a sudden they need to get their website to make it easier to do business with them was the first thing.

Then once we get the order the website, how do we get that into our order fulfillment system faster so that we can fulfill orders quicker versus doing exactly what Carly said, which is print out the — here's the order from the website on a piece of paper and now go over and type it into your fulfillment system.

Why not just have those talk? But then, also, how can we give our materials providers or raw materials provider more insight and warning on when we need things? Because that's the other thing that's happened, especially now is those ships are being prevented from coming into Long Beach. There's all that raw material stuff sitting off on the on the coast.

I think it's getting better, but it's still crazy, so an eCommerce company and being able to get that kind of visibility and faster and operational more quickly, again, based off the demand going up I think even some food companies we've worked for their demand went super high, right?

So how do they take all the silly things, right? All of that kind of redundant work manual work. Yeah, you know. Swivel chair in this system. Swivel chair to this system. You know, get all that out of the way so that new orders can flow through and we can get to our vendors faster.

I mean that was a big thing that happened, but there also was the piece of getting a system that you can only access in your office — now all of a sudden you have to access it from your home keeping that secure.

We've talked a lot about the security thing. I'm still kind of shaken from that last conversation with James my God I was in the same spot.

But the bottom line is a lot changed. I think the world sort of was already going through digital transformation and I think CIO's and CFO's had the plans to do it then they had to do it.

I don't really like that, because it took away a piece of human interaction that maybe now we can do online.

Even Zooms like this, but it's an inevitability and the way that we all have all these devices and everything that we can transact things faster.

But what it can do though is it can give you that experience. Like my wife and I finally broke down and got a peloton for working out. And so now we actually — it's actually enriched our lives a lot, having that digital experience and being able to go through that, we ordered it and it was like there, like in two days.

And so, talk about a great digital experience. What they have in their digital content and their libraries and everything so. It betters life for sure.

I think what organizations had to go through, but I think there'll probably be another three or four or five years of companies really catching up with those initial investments to really get the ROI from them because they sort of had the ready, fire, aim a lot of them.

So yeah, even that the company I mentioned earlier that we're working with, I think that's one of them.

Juliette: Well, I think we're coming to the end of our time, so I just want to give maybe Carly, do you have any parting words on e-commerce digital transformation for businesses that you want to share with those joining us today?

Carly: I would just want to reiterate what I said which is let's just know who you are, know what you want out of the system because you will get very lost in the variability.

I mean literally like Shawn wasn't exaggerating $5,000,000 versus $30,000. For like — yeah you can get a lot out of this one, but if you don't need or want it, you won't get that out of there and you'll be using it when you could have been using this.

So, know what you want, understand that, and communicate that to those platforms, and really find out what's the right fit for you.

Juliette: Perfect. Shawn, any final words from you?

Shawn: I think Carly said it, I think that was perfect.

Juliette: Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate it.

And as always, thank you for sharing your valuable experience with us.

So, thanks again.

Shawn: You're welcome, thank you.

Juliette: Thank you everyone for joining us for today's webinar. Please let us know if you have any questions. If there's anything we can do to help, we're happy to answer any questions. You can call us, email us, whatever works best for you.

Join us for our next webinar which is scheduled for Thursday, December 16th. It's a free CPE event where we will be focusing on Avoiding ERP Implementation Failures. Please go to our website erpadvisorsgroup.com for more details and to register.

ERP Advisors Group is one of the country's top independent enterprise software advisory firms. ERP Advisors Group advises mid to large sized businesses on selecting and implementing business applications from enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, human capital management, business intelligence and other enterprise applications which equates to millions of dollars in software deals each year across many industries.

This has been The ERP Advisor. Thank you again for joining us.

RELATED