ECOMMERCE TOOLS   |   8 minute read

Understanding Commerce Ecosystem: Not All Integrations Created Equal

Jason Feinberg’s FCTRY started in 2006 as a simple way for an artist to showcase his work. It was a side project until he sculpted a little someone you may have heard of: President Barack Obama. Suddenly, his products were flying off the shelves.

These days, FCTRY processes over 1,800 orders a week from multiple channels (including Shopify, wholesale and Amazon). To do this efficiently, Jason’s team developed custom-built integrations to best serve their customer needs.

One integration, for example, provides them with shipping estimates by tapping into USPS, FedEx and UPS’ APIs. When a new order comes through, FCTRY employees can see shipping estimates, choose a carrier and apply that to an invoice as a shipping line. Another automates the process to fulfill replacements tied to a product’s lifetime replacement policy.

When apps and systems talk with one another, business operators (like Jason) and employees can eliminate hours of time-intensive and unnecessary manual work. Hours that can be allocated towards making a difference to the bottom line, such as sales, marketing, customer management, multi- or omni-channel expansion.

Why eCommerce SMBs Should Use Integrations: Importance

1. Employees Will Thank You
No one wants to do the same boring job over and over, day in and out. And while there will always be boring, repetitive tasks to accomplish in any job, doing so will prevent employees from thinking critically and doing more creative work. Involving employees in decision making by providing on-demand access to critical real-time information, especially when the decisions affect them directly, is respectful and contributes to employee loyalty.

Be aware of the sentiment caused by stories of automation replacing jobs. When using technology to advance your business, keep investing in your employees with professional development (to wrangle that tech) to keep them engaged and readily skilled for future changes and advancements.

2. Partners Will Trust You More
Manual tasks, given that they are performed one-at-a-time and at a slower rate than an automated task, will cost more. They can also lead to unexpected or egregious errors. And as financial professionals know, trust begins with the numbers. Integrations (a form of automation) do more than just get numbers right.

Integrations can help build trust within and outside any company by setting an example of process and results excellence. 

3. Customers Notice Everything
When your inventory management system and CRM are integrated, for example, you can reduce time and energy from manual entry of catalog data such as item descriptions, images, SEO keywords and product attributes. Accurate and intuitive product classification is crucial in ensuring that consumers find what they are looking for fast.

We also turn to crowd reactions as our barometer for success or failure. If things are going great (more orders and requests), and if they are not (more complaints and returns), you’ll know. The best way to deliver great reactions is to automate and integrate wherever possible.

4. Better Insights, Better Decisions
Business operators have been convinced, tricked, and hoodwinked into embracing big data without fully considering why and how it will be used effectively. Having more data doesn’t mean having better insights. Data must first be processed, prepared, aggregated and organized before information can be extracted. And that information must be analyzed before you can glean insights from it. This is only possible when all your apps and tools are integrated and synced to a central system.

Multi- and omni-channel merchants need to know who’s buying and returning what, when and why actions are taken, what’s trending, historical data, and ways to improve the connection with the customer and their journey, so there’s a lot on the line with getting the data right.

Why continue guessing? With better insights – either as a snapshot or in full detail – come better decisions.

“With so many different shopping carts and marketplaces, not to mention social channels, the Darwinism of ecommerce is most certainly omni-channel. As a result, users will need to derive real-time analytics from all their sales channels,” as reported by Huffington Post in 2017.

These are all possible with the power of APIs. But more on that later.

How to use integrations without writing a single line of code:

There are online tools and services that can connect your favorite apps to automate repetitive tasks without coding or relying on developers to build the integration.

Shopify IntegrationIn 1-Way Sync, files are copied only from a primary location (Source) to a secondary location (Target) in one direction, but no files are ever copied back to the primary location. This creates an exact 1:1 replica of all files in Source to Target. This is typically called IF-THEN triggers.

With a 1-way sync,  you need to configure a direction of the integration and set up a specific condition (“IF”) that will spark/trigger the action (“THEN”) in the other tool. So “IF” something happens in one tool, “THEN” another thing happens in another tool.

Examples of 1-way syncs or triggers you can setup:
• If a new transaction on SquareUp is processed, then create a new sales order on TradeGecko.
 If a returning customer shops on Shopify, then apply tag on InfusionSoft.
 If a new order is created on ShipStation, then apply payment to Xero invoice; or
 Import & Sync products from TradeGecko to Rocketspark website.

By syncing records incrementally in one direction between two applications, it allows the integration to run more quickly and efficiently which in turn allows it to run more frequently to keep systems up to date.

RELATED: How to Connect TradeGecko with Your Rocketspark Website

“I have been using TradeGecko for about 6 months now,” says Stevan Buckman, National Sales Manager, Oobi. “...and part of the reason was that we were already using Xero and the integration between the two platforms had huge appeal to me. The Xero-TradeGecko integration setup was super easy and has made our bookkeeper a lot happier now that invoices and bills between the two systems happen seamlessly.”

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A 2-way (or bi-directional) sync works by unionizing two datasets in two different systems to behave as one while respecting their need to exist as different datasets. The main driver for this type of integration need comes from having different tools or different systems for accomplishing different functions on the same data set.

A true two-way sync situation is when changes to the same record type are made in either of two applications and must be synced to the other application.

Every app–or system–acts as a gateway (or server), through which data can be extracted or “pulled.” In order to pull this data from the app and share it with a different app, you need a middleman, or “client”, such as TradeGecko. This client pulls that data from one API and then transforms and submits this data to the second API.

This is valuable if you’re in a situation where you have two or more independent, isolated representations of the same reality. You can use a 2-way sync to optimize your processes and have data to be closer to the truth in both systems.

Examples of 2-way syncs or triggers you can setup:
• Automatically update Opportunity Status on Salesforce when PandaDoc status is updated.
 When order is received on 3DCart Store, Amazon FBA is triggered and inventory updated.

Why are these syncs and triggers important?

To survive the Darwinism of omni-channel, you need apps, tools and systems to talk to one another. With syncs and triggers, your business will be able to deliver a more robust and inclusive online shopping experience to your customers.

When it comes to integration, not all applications are created equally. Depending on the availability and capabilities of an API and the configurability of the application itself, your sync options may be limited.

What's an API?

APIs (or application programming interfaces) are sets of requirements that govern how one application can talk to another. They allow developers to connect and communicate by the use of a protocol. The protocol allows the connection of both integrated and separate software, the interface being the medium by which the two systems are able to communicate.

To take an easy to understand example of how vitally important they are, imagine if you could not copy and paste from notepad into Google Chrome and you had to re-enter the text by hand; an API makes this happen without wasting time on rewriting your text.

APIs do all this by “exposing” some of a program’s internal functions to the outside world in a limited fashion. That makes it possible for applications to share data and take actions on one another’s behalf without requiring developers to share all of their software’s code.

When APIs Go Bad

Of course, just because an API is available now, that doesn’t mean it always will be. Companies can shut down services and APIs that your applications depend on—or they can go out of business entirely.

In 2013, Google sunsetted Search API for Shopping, which had enabled developers to create shopping apps based on Google’s Product Search data. It was a critical tool used by many businesses ranging from eCommerce merchants and retailers to market research firms. It allowed developers to build highly interactive data-driven e-Commerce applications including barcode scanning apps and shopping comparison sites.

Drop-shipping companies commonly used the Google Shopping API to populate their storefronts with product metadata and set the basic price, allowing them to maintain massive virtual stores, with product catalog sizes ranging in the millions. All of this could be built by just a single developer within a few hours.

Next Steps

1. Ask yourself and your team: Are you or your team spending too much time hand-typing data or manually moving data around? If so, you need to implement integrations. 

2. Understand the type of integration that your business needs. They could be as simple as connecting your inventory management system with your accounting app. This is a “point-to-point” solution where the former is “pointed at” the latter. It’s a great place to start, but can often limit how big you can grow.

3. Adding sales channels and more complex workflows can make things messy. If you’re at this stage, you’ll need a multi- or omni-channel platform (which is what TradeGecko is) to sit in the middle as an operational hub amongst your systems. Ideally, pre-built connectors sync data back and forth between your systems.

4. There’s always the option to build your own integration with your eCommerce platform and any back-end system. This will require development, wait time and a deep understanding of your back-end systems. Custom integrations enable growth at the pace you wish to grow if integrations don't currently exist.

At TradeGecko, we have some of the most powerful integrated apps that successful eCommerce businesses use everyday.

We offer integrations with these types of systems and platforms: eCommerce, Marketplace, Accounting, Shipping, 3PL, POS, and of course TradeGecko. Our most popular app integrations are Shopify (see below), Xero, Quickbooks, WooCommerce to Amazon, FBA and ShipStation.

If you can’t find what integrations you need, we’d be happy to help.

TradeGecko is a powerful platform for managing your commerce business.

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