Integration of online and offline channels in retail

Marcin Połulich
Marcin Połulich
Software Delivery Expert
October 06
5 min
Table of Contents

There are many ways to approach integrating online and offline selling channels. The issue is slightly simpler if you are just starting your retail business – and much more complicated if you decided to add an e-commerce platform to already existing chain of brick-and-mortar shops. Let’s look at some possible ways of performing offline and online stores integration and draw conclusions which solution will be the best for you.

E-commerce and brick-and-mortal shop owners

One of the mistakes made by owners of brick-and-mortar shops was thinking that e-commerce store is a store that does not really exist. Some successful retailers treat e-commerce as an addition to their business, rather than its integral part. That way of thinking makes it easy to ignore problems connected to online selling channel – after all, it may seem that the main part of business’ income is intact, despite anything happening on the shopping platform. Sadly, that is not entirely true – and today, we can see it more than ever before.

Because of the pandemic crisis, many brick-and-mortar shops are closed. For many retailers, it is a huge setback – but for those that do not have a well-functioning online store, it is a disaster. Online stores let business to continue even despite a temporary closure of physical shops. They are a sustaining source of income. Without them, there is hardly anything to do for retailers.

E-commerce pitfalls

The main problem is usually the inventory – or rather, the consistency of the company’s warehouses. In most cases, both physical and online stores share the same warehouses, which creates problems with keeping the state of inventory updated. The perfect solution would be to have one, central warehouse, so the retailer always knows what do they have and what they do not – but it is an expensive luxury not all, especially smaller chains, can allow themselves. In fact, it is not as important how many warehouses you have – as long as you manage to make all your goods be accessible instantly to your customers.

With brick-and-mortar shops, it is simple, especially if you are using resources management software like ERP systems. All changes are processed by the software, and the scheduled chain of supplying the shops is easy to monitor and control. But when there is another selling channel – e-commerce – that exists on the sideline of the main business, things are getting complicated.

Problems with lack of online-offline integration

When there is no integration between online and offline selling channels, orders from the shopping platform are processed outside the ERP system. Each order must be processed individually, and in many cases that means “manually by employees”. What are the consequences? Incorrect inventory state, which leads to:

  • problems with completing the order (desired goods might not be available in the warehouses),
  • problems with supplying the physical stores (because warehouses might have a different amount of goods than ERP system shows),
  • long delivery time (a customer must wait for their order to be completed),
  • increasing employees’ workload (it is your employees who must correct all these mistakes).

All the above causes the customer’s opinion of your online shop and in result your brand to worsen gradually. After all, online shoppers are known to be impatient and to expect the highest level of customer service – and waiting for late delivery definitely does not make their day.

Do you need an integrating software?

If you are struggling with connecting your offline and online selling channels, you have probably seen that there is one solution that is often suggested: integrating software. Many companies advertise tools dedicated to integrating certain shopping platforms (like Magento) and management systems (like inventory or accounting programs).

But if you manage a chain of brick-and-mortar shops, it is certain you already have an ERP system or a pack of business software that help you organize your company’s processes. The question “do you need one more tool?” is completely reasonable. Especially that in case of complex companies using many systems and technologies very often it is better to just integrate existing tools, instead of paying for a new one.

Learn about the methods, types, pros & cons of system integration!

Seamless (and automatic!) online-offline retail processes

Technology today is both advanced and flexible. That means the software used by your company usually gives a lot of possibilities to be connected with other tools and systems. One of the most recognized examples is shopping platform Magento, that can be easily integrated via extensive and good documented API with ERP systems to exchange data about customers’ orders and their demands. The only things needed to perform such connection are a team of experienced developers and a deep understanding of the company business process.

When the entrepreneur decides to integrate online and offline channels in a retail business, they are earning much more than just a way to fix common problems with inventory. They can also benefit from the automation of processes – which will be a huge, positive change for every company that relied on manual handling the online orders! The effects of integrating online with offline may be:

  • automation of processing these orders that come from the shopping platform,
  • instantly updating the inventory state based on customers’ actions on the platform,
  • calculating on-the-spot the most efficient way of organizing the supply delivery from the warehouses,
  • presenting automated processes in an application, additionally allowing to modify them from within this application.

Repetitive tasks – such as remembering a string of numbers and letters and transferring it from one software to the other – are better suited for machines. Taking them off your employees not only makes their work easier but also frees their time and lets them focus on more creative and demanding tasks. One thing that cannot be forgotten – shifting such tasks to the machines basically removes the risk of occurrence of mistakes caused by distraction or tiredness.

Can this way of integrating online and offline in retail help you?

Are you managing both physical stores and e-commerce platform? Do you have pieces of software that help your company in managing the inventory, resources or accounting? Do you want business processes to go smoother and with fewer mistakes? Then it is more than possible that the integration of existing tools is a good solution for you! For more details and our ideas for connecting your software – contact our experts!

Marcin Połulich
Marcin Połulich
Software Delivery Expert
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