Case Study

Integrate ecommerce platforms and related systems within a single customizable architecture

Written by Keith Karlick, Principal at Mercutio

  • Keith Karlick
  • Keith Karlick Principal - Mercutio

With modern online businesses being driven from an ecosystem of technologies, integrations can be the linchpin that keeps the business running smoothly. The website is one piece of the puzzle, with other systems (ERP, CRM, ESP, etc.) providing functionality for the customer experience and digital marketing. Strong integrations enable engaging customer experiences as well as the ability to keep customers up-to-date with order status, availability, pricing, etc..

Imagine a hub and a set of spokes. Within many companies, the hub is typically an ERP system, the metaphoric heartbeat of the company, controlling inventory, skus, shipping, pricing and a host of other services related to the daily operations that keep the company running. The spokes are various applications serving the business — ecommerce application, email marketing, CRM, etc. Having these systems talking with each other is a critical part of allowing automation within the business and digital marketing to happen.

The most reliable integrations are narrow in scope and ideally agnostic of any business rules. The individual platforms should be opinionated with how data serves functionality, integrations pass data between systems providing automation.

Impact on teams provides a great measure of why reliable integrations are important. Hiccups in data or manual tasks put negative pressure on customer service and IT teams. Customer service teams fielding additional call volume or IT teams being forced to make manual adjustments to data can cause a reduction in conversion equivalent to a poor customer experience. Automating manual data entry, allows the people on the teams to focus on their customers and/or supporting other internal teams creating higher value with their work efforts.

A successful integration project starts with having a keen understanding of what benefit the integration will provide the business and the specific data that needs to be transacted between the systems. From there, detailed requirements can be created, outlining the mechanism of data transfer, the format of data, and an architecture diagram providing a top-down view of the entire system.

SaaS-based ecommerce applications—such as BigCommerce and Shopify—bring additional requirements, in that they have well-defined APIs and are highly opinionated about how they send and receive data. This is great, as it reduces the level of effort required to build that end of the integration as well as making the integration portable. Additionally, these regimented APIs have clear definitions around format of data, process for operations and are well documented.

Enter Knect. Knect was born out of the need to standardize integrations for modern ecommerce applications such as BigCommerce, Shopify, Magento and others, while also providing a SaaS solution intended to be used with other cloud based services. With Knect, order, customer, product and inventory information can easily be communicated between ERP and ecommerce platforms. The architecture of Knect uses plugins for common ecommerce platforms, allowing implementations to be quick to market.

Troubleshooting issues with integrations has always been a challenge. Many integrations are black boxes without much reporting or error handling. Diagnosing issues typically involves a developer making stabs in the dark until y stumbles upon the issue. With Knect, every transaction is logged, so if a task gets hung up, we know exactly when the process stopped. This often points us to the culprit bad data, allowing the issue to be resolved quickly.

Looking at a real-world example, when we started working with SOG Knives, their site was using Magento 1.x on bare metal hosting with a custom integration to their Great Plains ERP system. The integration was a complete black box with zero reporting. When issues arose, which was often, diagnosing the problem was a challenge because there was little information available to go-on; IE lack of logging, error handling, etc .. This had ripple effects across their business, as the issue then involved many people on both client and Mercutio teams.

Moving to Knect created stability throughout the ordering process, not just with the technology, but also by reducing the amount of manual, non-automated work.

Bringing this all together

  1. SaaS-based ecommerce is the culmination of various services/technologies.

  2. All the technologies need to be integrated.

  3. Troubleshooting issues with integrations can be time consuming and frustrating.

  4. Mercutio’s Knect product provides a SaaS-based integration platform customizable for specific business needs.

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