For many manufacturing companies running on Acumatica, eCommerce is an integral component of their business model and growth strategy. As Paul Dabrowski, Senior B2B Channel Manager at BigCommerce, a leading open SaaS and composable eCommerce platform, said during a recent webcast, we’re seeing a digital shift “where B2B online sales are projected to outpace offline channels,” and many manufacturers have struggled to meet the “digital desire” of today’s B2B buyers.   

Whether you’re just beginning to look at eCommerce, are currently building a B2C store or B2B partner portal or are looking to extend or enhance your eCommerce capabilities, we asked a panel of experts to share their best practices for a successful eCommerce implementation. 

Read on to hear their real-world recommendations on how to grow your business online and enhance your Acumatica Cloud ERP system with integrated ordering, payment processing, and shipping. 

Getting Started with eCommerce – Where to Begin 

For manufacturers that have not yet implemented an eCommerce platform, it can be daunting to know where to start. Implementing an eCommerce solution is a complex undertaking that touches all aspects of a manufacturer’s business. You can’t underestimate the scale and scope of the project, and careful planning is required to avoid pitfalls and unwelcome surprises.  

“If you’re thinking about moving into eCommerce, it’s not the same as just adding on the fixed asset module to your Acumatica environment,” said Jim Gross, Client Account Manager at NexTec Group, and former CFO of a manufacturing firm. “It’s way more involved, and you’re going to want to make sure that the right team members are on the call together at the same time.” 

Gross said everything starts with the discovery call: “If you’re thinking about launching an eCommerce solution that has payment and freight integration, you need to get all the players on a discover call together to really understand the requirements and what type of phased approach you want to take for the project. That is probably the most important thing you can do to start things off right. If everybody’s on board, they can all provide their expertise in each of their functional areas to assist in putting together a tight project plan.” 

“The warehouse folks, the shipping folks, the accounts receivable folks, the order entry takers, they need to be involved because they’re the ones who, at the end of the day, are going to be implementing this. They’re going to be doing the day-to-day stuff,” Gross added.  

“When we see companies struggling with an eCommerce implementation, it’s primarily because they didn’t take ownership of the project. If the client has only taken responsibility for setting a project plan and scoping out the requirements, we’re missing some very key details.”  

“The devil is in the details,” said Shannon Vaillancourt, CEO and Founder of RateLinx, a Gartner top-ranked Transportation Management System (TMS), recommending that companies think about the full scope of the project and talk upfront about future growth, not just the next six months. “On the shipping and transportation side, for example, maybe you’re not doing anything internationally yet, but you want to. So, from an integration perspective, do you have the fields that are needed?” 

Vaillancourt stressed the importance of having a plan not just for the here and now, but one that can accommodate potential future growth or expansion: “That way there are no surprises.” 

“I’ve worked on plenty of digital transformations from small scale projects to multibillion-dollar entities, and one of the best practices that I’ve observed is just meticulous planning and preparation,” said Paul Dabrowski of BigCommerce.  

“The first step is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of current processes and systems to identify areas for improvement and any potential challenges,” Dabrowski explained. “Once your assessment is complete, you should define clear objectives and requirements for that eCommerce integration and focus on streamlining your workflows, automating processes, and ensuring accurate data entry.” 

How to Deploy an eCommerce Solution  

To ensure a smooth eCommerce implementation and avoid any disruptions to your business operations, all that upfront planning must come together with sound execution. What is the best approach to deploy an eCommerce solution, in parallel (sometimes referred to as the ’big bang’ approach) or staged? 

“At NexTec, we have many manufacturing clients who have successfully transitioned to eCommerce,” said Jim Gross. “The ones that have done it with the least business disruption have taken a phased approach. You know, they brought in one segment first and got that working and then brought in the second segment and then the third. It’s a lot to bite off all at once, not only adding that complexity to the system but training your team in a whole new area.” 

“Best practice is a phased approach to the transition rather than attempting to move your entire business model online at once,” said BigCommerce’s Paul Dabrowski. “Start with a subset of your products or services. This allows you to iron out any issues on a smaller scale and make necessary adjustments before a full-scale launch. That’s where we’ve seen the most success with companies. It’s like, shoot for the moon, but don’t trip on your shoelaces. This the best advice we could give today.” 

“It really comes down to understanding what you can take on at your company,” Gross added. “I just left a company last week that has really downsized, and they have one functional person in each area. To bring on a big solution like this is going to take a lot of their time. Those people have full-time jobs, so they really need to understand what’s the most important thing that they need to bring on first.” 

Best Practices for Secure Online Payment 

Okay, let’s assume you’ve implemented your eCommerce solution, and everything is up and running. Now that orders are pouring in, you’re going to need to get paid. What does a secure payment system look like, and what does a newly transitioned eCommerce business need to be aware of in processing online payments to avoid fraudulent charges and minimize refunds and chargebacks? 

“In eCommerce, you don’t always know who’s on the other side of that keyboard, and so there are definitely some things that a merchant can do to protect themselves,” said Angela Stillwell, Microsoft Partnership Lead – B2B at Heartland Payment Systems, which provides payment processing for more than 275,000 business locations in the US. “Knowing your customers is key. For the most part, in the B2B space, a customer is going to have a fairly consistent order, not a huge fluctuation in amount or timing. So, if you have a customer that averages a thousand dollars per transaction, and all of a sudden, they’re running a $20,000 order, that should raise a flag for you.” 

“Another important practice to adopt is to make sure that all fields of a transaction are completed,” said Stillwell. “So that means making sure that they’ve got the address in there, the verification code on the back of the card, and making sure that, if it is a corporate card, the additional layers of information that our system will prompt your customers for are always filled in. The idea is all of that information would not be able to be grabbed by one person who shouldn’t have it.”  

BigCommerce’s Paul Dabrowski added that, while credit cards may seem to the most convenient method of payment, “They’re not perfect in the sense that they’ve got transaction limits, maybe higher processing fees, and have increased strain on the AR department, and maybe on the procurement department, and their surcharges typically with it. So, B2B buyers today prefer to buy with either your trade credit, or net terms, so invoice terms. And they want flexible payment terms.” 

Dabrowski noted that inefficient “semi-manual” back-office processes can create payment pain points for buyers including invoices that are just incorrect and slow buyer onboarding due to manual background checks. 

Heartland’s Angela Stillwell offered this advice on how to avoid business disruption when implementing eCommerce: 

“One tip that I will tell every person transitioning from one payment processor to another is do not turn off your payments before your new solution is up and running. Because I’ve seen so many times where the merchant is really gung-ho. They shut off their old processor, but their new solution isn’t quite ready. And now they have no way to take payments, which freezes everything. And then it’s a scramble, and it’s stressful. So don’t turn off those payments until you know that your solution works exactly how you need it to.” 

Logistics, Order Fulfilment and Transportation 

Of course, an order is not complete until it reaches the customer or partner. A complete eCommerce solution must include logistics, order fulfillment, and transportation management. With multiple carrier solutions offering different rates based on package size, weight, destination, and contents, what is the best way to manage an eCommerce order? 

“Nowadays, with shipping how it is, there is constant change,” said RateLinx’s Shannon Vaillancourt. “Carriers are making different rules. They’re adding different surcharges…. You know, you’ve got to worry about lithium-ion batteries. Is that in your product? How can that ship? Can that only go ground? It can’t go air.” 

“You have to make sure that you’re capturing all the right details on your items because that will make a big difference to how you’re going to ship that product out,” added Vaillancourt. “And if you’re charging for freight or even if you’re not, you still want to manage that spend because you don’t want your parcel costs to get out of control.” 

Vaillancourt also advised manufacturers to not forget about returns: 

“Do you want to print a return label with the shipping label, or do you want to handle that differently, and only deal with it as it comes up? Again, all these things are going to be new when you’re getting into eCommerce because transaction counts are much higher. So, what used to be a small problem now can become a much bigger issue that you have to make sure to account for.” 

“We’ve got many high-volume customers that do hundreds of thousands of packages per day, across many different locations and product types. Usually what we see when we come in is they don’t have all the details, so they end up shipping product out the door with a much higher cost than they thought.” 

Summing Up 

Implementing a successful eCommerce solution has a lot of moving parts. By following the best practices outlined here, and partnering with an experienced Acumatica implementation consultant who can guide you through the complexities, you can optimize your eCommerce transition and set your business up for long-term success. 

Watch Our On-Demand Webcast 

To learn more about how discrete manufacturers running on Acumatica can successfully implement integrated order and fulfillment in eCommerce, view the on-demand webcast below and reach out to us if you have any questions. 

On-Demand Webcast: Better Together with Acumatica: Integrated Order and Fulfillment in eCommerce – NexTec Group 

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