Taking your Eclipse ERP powered business online is no small task. There are many things to consider and plenty of unknowns along the way. Fortunately there are a number of good companies who have experience in dealing with these unknowns. But how are you – the business owner, head of marketing, or head of IT – supposed to know where to get started?
This article will take a look at what I refer to as the “adjectives of e-commerce” within the Epicor Eclipse ERP space. These are the key ingredients to building a successful online presence and connecting it with your Eclipse system.
Open & Responsive – The Relationship with your Web Partner
Unless you have your own in-house web development team, the chances are high that you’ll need to partner with an outside vendor. Here are just a few things to keep in mind before selecting your partner: First, if you’re trying to do anything outside of a plug-n-play WOE, the project will not go perfectly. With all the moving pieces involved in an effort like this the web partner often acts as the “glue” that keeps it all together. Make sure your web partner is someone who acknowledges this and is up for the challenge. Make sure they are someone you don’t mind spending large amounts of time with (by phone, email or in person) and can be open and honest with during the many stages of the project. Second, you’ll have more questions and need more access to them than you can imagine. Make sure they are responsive to calls and e-mails. Being responsive is vital so they do not become a bottleneck for making decisions and moving forward. Lastly, understand whether they are a custom development or turnkey solution type company. If you need to get online fast and don’t have a lot of ambitions beyond launching a transactional store front, that’s very different than trying to launch an all-encompassing offering that includes marketing, customer service tools, and customer-specific functionality beyond “add to cart” and “checkout”. Make sure you know what type of company you’re partnering with before you get started.
Expandable & Fast – The ERP Connection
You may be surprised to know there are multiple ways to connect to your Eclipse system. The XML Integration option is not the only way. But why would you ever want to use something else? One reason is speed. With custom Eclipse connectors, your website can be as responsive as Eterm or Solar. When an order is submitted on your site, the order is entered into Eclipse and returns an order number immediately. Another reason is expandability. With a custom connector, you can get access to any data available in Eclipse. You can calculate tax using Eclipse before an order is submitted. You can even include custom fields as part of an order such as sales source. These additions are incredibly handy if you’re attempting to offer more than a transactional storefront.
Flexible & User Friendly – The Product Information Management Software
While Eclipse and PDW often hold a large portion of your product data, it’s rarely a good idea for these tools to house the product data you plan to display on the website. There is a whole industry out there dedicated to building software specifically geared toward housing product data for websites. These tools are often cloud-based and can be accessed anywhere. They are usually subscription-based rather than purchased and installed on a server. They offer multiple permission levels, tools for publishing to a print catalog, fields for search engines, tools for image optimization, and connection points for integration with other aspects of your business. When you research these tools, ask for trials and demos. Make sure the tool is flexible enough to integrate with all areas of your business, not just the website. Make sure it’s user friendly. You’ll be spending countless hours in this tool preparing product data and images.
Accurate & Detailed – The Product Data and Associated Media
Even the greatest looking and most functional website can be rendered useless if your product data and associated media files are inaccurate or not detailed enough. Your website is like a 24×7 sales associate working on your behalf. But it can only advise your customers on your products and services if it has accurate and detailed information in the first place. Part of any e-commerce effort involves a data inventory and cleanup phase. Be sure you build this into your timeline!
Organized & Structured – The Categories, Subcategories and Attributes
Just because you and your customer service team know all the names and locations of your products doesn’t mean your customers do! Take special care to organize, arrange and structure a logical hierarchy to your product catalog. Create 5 to 10 top-level categories, followed by 5 to 10 subcategories. For anything requiring a greater level of organization, use attributes to do the rest. Attributes can be things like size, color, material or anything else that helps describe the product. Working with a web partner on this step can be helpful because they will bring an outside perspective to grouping your products similar to how your customers might think.
Predictable & Helpful – The Searching, Filtering, and Faceting
Once your product data is accurate, detailed, organized, and structured, you are now ready to embark on building a search tool that is predictable and helpful. What I mean by predictable is that as a user begins to type a search query, your search tool should begin making recommendations based on what it predicts the user is seeking. Prediction helps prevent misspellings and offers opportunities to cross-promote items they may otherwise be missed. Next, if a user does not select one of the options presented during the prediction phase, the results page should be helpful in presenting them with options for proceeding. It should display categories, products and other pages from your site that might hold information relevant to their search.
If any of these components of e-commerce are overwhelming to you – fear not! Remember, there are many companies using Eclipse who have taken their businesses online successfully. There are a wide variety of options – from turnkey solutions to custom development strategies – that can help get you up and running. Reach out to Caxiam today, and we’ll walk you through all the details!