Seamless data integration key in differentiating e-commerce customer experience

*Written by Kerry Hope

Online spend is forecasted to grow to over R53bn by 2018 according to the PayPal and Ipsos third annual cross-border commerce report. Their research states that 58% of adults in South Africa with internet access shopped online over the past 12 months, amounting to an estimated total spend of R37.1bn.

E-commerce is making steady progress in remote areas of South Africa where traditional distribution channels are too costly to establish and operate. Traditional retailers have also established a web presence to compete with foreign mail-order companies, many of them from China and the US.

Although e-commerce presents a massive opportunity for South African retailers, success is dependent on providing differentiating services. Here are some great customer experiences that rely on ensuring sharing throughout the customer journey.

Self-service

Today customers want real-time status of their orders, and to access this information when it’s convenient for them without relying on a phone call to a customer service call centre. Customers can monitor the status of their order online from the receipt of the purchase requisition to product delivery if data flows through several systems including e-commerce, payment processing, CRM, raw material handling, assembly and logistics systems. This data may need to be imported from third party logistics systems, such as DHL and other local couriers.

Option to order online or from sales rep

Some purchasing agents prefer to buy online rather than depend on one-on-one meetings and personal relationships with sales representatives. This is especially relevant where a small number of sales reps cover a large geographic area, and customers want the convenience of placing an order online rather than waiting to make personal contact. ERP and e-commerce systems need to be tightly integrated to enable customers to track orders regardless of whether or not they were placed online or through an authorised representative.

Personalised orders

Customers want the convenience of customer-specific catalogues and pricing. When B2B buyers were asked in a recent survey which capabilities they’d most like B2B suppliers to offer, over half (54%) cited personalised recommendations across interactions. Personalisation was second only to “price and product transparency” as top factors influencing repurchase. This capability requires CRM, ERP, and e-commerce integrations.

 

Mobile ordering

Real-time inventory and pricing data made available to sales and customers online provides for well-informed purchasing decisions and a shortened sales cycle. There are solutions that offer a mobile order writing component for sales reps on desktop and mobile devices, including the ability to receive customers’ electronic signatures. Orders placed online and in-person are synced to ERP systems to enables both types of orders to be tracked from receipt to fulfilment. 

Better customer qualification

Salespeople need access to more customer data in order to better qualify their customers, most of it collected by marketing during the awareness and consideration phases. Integrated data sharing between the sales CRM and the marketing software provides a single view of the customer that marketing and sales teams can share. Sales can benefit from many data-gathering technologies including input from e-commerce systems and audience segmentation data from data management platforms. 

A recent SAS survey revealed that although companies have made progress in linking back-end processes with front-end services or interfaces, data from these processes is not highly integrated or delivered in real time. The problem is that custom integrations are typically costly and require several full-time IT employees to ensure they run correctly. Integration platforms can dramatically lower the cost of these connections providing a much more favourable return on investment for development costs.

A data-driven customer journey can be a competitive differentiator, but seamless data integration is a must to create excellent differentiating customer experiences.

Read more about Magic xpi Integration Platform 

Published first at BizCommunity

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