A clear trend within e-commerce today is an increase in the use of different types of integration. More and more online retailers integrate their e-commerce with erp-system, transport administrational systems (ta-systems) and wms-systems. A recent study of businesses within e-commerce regarding their handling of shipments shows that smaller online retailers also have a lot to gain from using integrations.
E-commerce under great change
The Swedish e-commerce industry is growing rapidly, 14 percent during 2012, and each day more and more actors enter the market. Many of the smaller online retailers start of with an idea, the thought of something that can become something bigger.
When orders start coming and business gets up to speed the need for gradually investing in systems to simplify the work progress rises, investments that normally need to be carefully evaluated. This reality often differs from larger business starting with e-commerce. With a stable cash-flow, a recurring client base and a pre-set establishment on the market, investments in simplifying systems are seen as elementary.
Historically smaller online retailers have handled their different processes manually whereas larger online retailers have hired consultants to integrate their systems and drastically improve efficiency in work processes as well as order flows. This is a reality that is now about to change.
The online retailer can save a lot of time by integrating a ta-system with the e-commerce platform.
The relatively new online retailer Proteinbolaget.se is a clear example on the change that is happening. They have been open for less than a year but have already invested in an integration between their e-commerce and a ta-system. A ta-system is basically a system to administer, book and print freight documents. Shortly after the implementation Proteinbolaget could recoup the investment and see how it paid of in several ways.
- There is no reason for handling the bookings manually these days. Not when there are such easy systems that can handle it for you at a very low cost, says Adam Gillberg from Proteinbolaget.
550 online retailers
In a recent study we see that this is not a one-off but rather a change in the market. More and more online retailers choose to invest in different systems to improve efficiency and to invest in different integrations. The study also shows that this is something that online retailers can gain from, even with low volumes in sales and shipments.
In the study about 550 smaller online retailers have answered questions regarding their handling of shipments and their time spent on this. The study shows distinct differences between those who use ta-systems integrated to their e-commerce business' and those who don't.
49 percent of the smaller online retailers without integration to a ta-system spend up to five hours every week on booking and administrating shipments, some even more. For most, time is one of the most valuable instruments in developing their e-commerce business' but it is most often also in short supply. Even if time is difficult to measure in strictly monetary terms it is easy to calculate that five hours per week spent on activities that are not directly value adding are expensive minutes for all within e-commerce.
550 online retailers participiate in a survey about how they handle their logistics.
Looking at online retailers who have chosen to integrate their e-commerce with a ta-system we see that as much as 80 percent said that they spend less than one hour every week on booking and administrating shipments. This shows a considerable difference from online retailers without integration to a ta-system. Interviews have further on showed that many see integration to a ta-system as a prerequisite for growing and handling more orders from their e-commerce business.
No expensive implementation projects
Implementation of integrations to ta-systems has historically been a relatively extensive project where online retailers were in need of specialized consultants. This is however not what reality looks like anymore. As the demand of integration grows, so does the range of fast and easy solutions.
Actors within the ta-industry are working with facilitating integrations and most ta-systems are able to set up so called standard integrations within hours from order. Webshop suppliers have also realized the need for fast and easy connections towards ta-systems and many have ready plug-and-play integrations solutions.
Integration and re-reading
Integrations today are mostly focusing on automatically transferring information given by the customer in the webshop directly to the ta-system. This saves time, decreases the need of doing the same thing twice and minimizes risks. Some ta-actors are also working with reading information back to the webshop. This is often information regarding shipment numbers, price, statuses etc. Due to the re-reading of the information back to the webshop, the online retailer can easily have control and overview of all their shipments.
The demands regarding what an integration should be able to achieve are growing as the users gain knowledge and experience from using different solutions. When the most basic needs are fulfilled, more and more requirements for advanced functionality arise. Today there are several advanced functionalities available such as return handling, one-document solutions, re-reading etc. What all these have in common are that they create efficient workflows with the purpose of simplifying for the online retailers as well as for their customers.
Efficiency and simplicity
Looking forward at new integration functionalities the theme is the same; efficiency and simplicity. A clear example of this is a new black-box integration towards the ta-system where all transport administration is handled directly from the webshop. The online retailer never has to log in to a separate system to print freight documents or something else since all functionality is completely integrated to the web shop.
In short, as an online retailer you have a lot to gain from integrating your webshop to a ta-system, no matter what solution you choose.