19 Dec Ecommerce and 3PL Fulfillment: IT System Integration Strategies
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an established business, selling consumer products across multiple online storefronts and managing the subsequent order fulfillment operations is no simple task. Dozens of shopping cart software solutions and third party logistics (3PL) fulfillment providers offer many features to choose from. How do you know which shopping cart and 3PL combination will work best for your business? And once you do, how do you integrate them for optimal performance, especially as your business grows?
A recent white paper by Excelsior Integrated provides insight into the choices. We analyzed published feature and integration information from 33 randomly chosen ecommerce storefront solutions and 30 3PL fulfillment providers of 50 listed at www.internetretailer.com. Shopping Carts evaluated included: Amazon, Magento, Shopify, Volusion, Bigcommerce, Infusionsoft, Netsuite, Ultracart, Google Checkout and more. Our analysis shows significant variation in how storefront systems communicate with 3PL systems, and vice versa.
Our analysis of 33 ecommerce storefront systems’ ease of integration with 3PL providers is summarized in Figure 1. We find a significant lack of data communication capabilities across the key functional areas of integration, especially within inventory and shipping data fields. Figure 2 looks at 30 3PL fulfillment providers in the ecommerce industry* and their publicly stated integration capabilities. The majority of companies—53%—claim to offer integration with ecommerce storefronts via API, while 10% have pre-built integrations through their SaaS package. More strikingly, however, 37% of 3PLs make no public mention of integration capabilities with ecommerce storefronts.
Many factors go into making the right choice of shopping cart and 3PL systems. Choosing any software solution always begins with a thorough evaluation of your business requirements and clear statement of business objectives. Features and functions provided by various packages and 3PL services should be mapped to business objectives and requirements. Integration should always be among these feature considerations. Prebuilt integration “connectors”—typically provided by the vendor—can minimize time spent integrating specific functions. This saves time and money. However, they can also limit the functionality either today or down the road as needs evolve. This dependence on the vendor should be evaluated against the time saved utilizing a pre-built solution.
Well written APIs combined with a skilled developer can allow you to more closely map your specific business objectives, requirements and metrics to the functionality you’ll end up with. However, if you don’t have access to development resources you trust—either your own or the 3PL provider you select, it may be better to stick with pre-built integration solutions. Finally, choosing a solution with limited or no API access at all should be done with caution and a recognition that the solution may only be temporary relative to growth objectives.
To schedule a free Excelsior Integrated assessment of your product fulfillment operations, please click below. Assessments include analysis of existing fulfillment operations, gaps in process procedures, recommendations, estimated cost savings, and an Excelsior Integrated proposal when applicable.