Web Based Integration via the Cloud Can Help Improve Online Sales

October 29, 2012
By guest blogger - Lisa Steinhart

The cloud has provided companies with cost effective, easy-to-use applications such as web stores, CRM solutions and other business solutions from email marketing to word processing (think Google Docs). The cloud can now be used by companies to connect software systems together in an affordable new model that opens up new possibilities for all types of retailers.

8 Ways Cloud-Based Integration Impacts Retailers:

1. Giving Customers More Choices
The world moves more quickly than ever. As business climates change, retailers need to be more adaptable than ever. Cloud based integration strategies give retailers the flexibility to choose new eCommerce solutions, upgrade POS solutions, or add channels like eBay and Amazon giving them more choices that don’t have test the hands of time. Cloud-based integration uses “connectors” or pre-configured apps that link two systems together. Using connectors, you can quickly connect Point of Sale to ERP to eCommerce and more. You can even use cloud-based connectors to connect your systems to suppliers or wholesale customers too!
Web-based integration delivers a unified, multi-channel customer experience, enabling retailers to meet customer demands, which can ultimately drive sales. It allows merchants to conduct business across multiple touchpoints while providing merchants with a comprehensive understanding of their customers, transactions and financials.

2. Reducing the cost of integration
Integration services can be costly to build and even more costly to maintain and support. Making a change to one of your systems can break expensive integrations. In some cases the integration may need to be redone entirely to accommodate upgrades or changes. Web based integration can often be updated automatically to accommodate upgrades or can even adjusted for changes such as new fields faster and cheaper than traditional integrations. Installation and ongoing costs are lower with web-based solutions which allow retailers to improve the customer-service experience as well as the bottom line.

3. Reaping Benefits Faster
Web based integration can be implemented faster than traditional integrations. Using web-based connectors integration can take minutes versus weeks enabling retailers to gain valuable time and reducing down time as well as disruptions.

4. Scalability
An integrated system can grow as you grow, from a single location to a nationwide chain, and it can accommodate multiple franchises or brand concepts under one system. An integrated solution should enable various parts of the enterprise to share a common base of information throughout the entire value chain. Central management of all shared resources allows for common business rules enforced system-wide. The goal is to have everyone in the enterprise using the same set of real-time data to support business decisions and activities.

5. Flexibility
Manage transactions regardless of customer touchpoint (brick-and-mortar stores, online, smartphones, tablets and call centers). Web-based integration addresses the limitations and complexity of first-generation commerce systems, enabling businesses to streamline business processes, grow relationships using built-in marketing tools and immerse customers in an interactive and intuitive shopping experience, all with the benefit of a central system to manage transactions with consumers and other businesses.

Typically, a cloud-based system allows for greater flexibility, improved information management and greater data security. A cloud-based system offers maximum flexibility for a variety environments with the ability to communicate with all locations at once. The merchant can access his data and configure his systems in the cloud. He can also track customer history and, accordingly, launch e-marketing campaigns to his customers.

6. Support
With an integrated solution, a retailer connects the POS to other enterprise systems like ERP, to allow for real-time data reporting and management. An integrated POS system can feed payments, fulfillment, inventory and purchasing systems as well as provide detailed management reporting and monitoring. An integrated system also can support multiple sales channels so that in-store sales associates can access the same information that may be available from a website or call center. Integration extends across sales channels, including online, call centers and physical locations.

7. Efficiencies
An integrated POS system should enable various parts of the enterprise to share a common base of information throughout the entire value chain. This integration can extend across sales channels, including online, call centers and physical locations. The goal is to have everyone in the enterprise using the same set of real-time data to support business decisions and activities.

8. Security
The notion of the “cloud” may raise questions about data security, but in fact a cloud solution can provide a greater level of security than an on-premise solution. Employee access to cloud solutions is easier to restrict – we’ve all heard stories about disgruntled employees with access to business systems. Data stored in the cloud or remote servers maintain a high level of security, such as virus protection, data backup and the ability to move servers to other locations should a data center go down or experience disruption.

Author Bio: Lisa Steinhart is the VP of Marketing at nChannel, which provides an easy-to-use, cloud-based platform that enables retailers to cost effectively synchronize and exchange sales, customer, and product data from transactions that occur at the register, in the warehouse, or via a web-store. nChannel helps to synchronize eCommerce, POS, and Accounting/ERP systems, enabling these solutions to work together seamlessly so you can increase sales, improve customer service and optimize inventory.

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