The global impact of COVID-19 on businesses is unprecedented. With lockdown measures stopping all foot traffic to traditional ‘brick and mortar’ stores, both B2C and B2B organisations must look to eCommerce to survive. Faced with this sudden transition to pure online selling, businesses may find themselves in one of two situations:
You may have never had an online presence and are now faced with the urgency to start an eCommerce channel from scratch.
You already have an online presence, but your current eCommerce channels cannot support the recent spike in demand.
Both of these situations have put many businesses at a severe disadvantage. Primark for example, who relied solely on their in-store sales have now lost £650m due to lack of online presence.Companies in the second situation like Next and TK-Maxx, have been overwhelmed by the uptake in online orders and now must enforce a daily order limit – turning away business.
It isn’t a completely lost cause however, and to say that sectors such as retail will not survive this disruption is short-sighted. If these businesses embrace a more agile systems integration strategy, they can take advantage of the fact shoppers are now spending 10-30% more online and emerge with a “crisis-proof” online business.
In this blog, we will look at how to ‘crisis-proof’ your online business, using an API-led integration strategy.
Avoid “quick-fix” point-to-point integrations
Developing an effective eCommerce offering is more than just setting up your website with a product catalogue; it requires organisations to rethink about complex back office, inventory, online and in-store processes, spanning various on-premise, cloud and 3rd party systems - from Order Management and Point of Sale, to payment processors and social commerce.
The “quick fix” for many of businesses has been for years a point-to-point integration approach, which is partly why today they are facing so many challenges adapting to the new digital environment.
If your eCommerce platform is built with point-to-point, hard coded connections, it can lead to a brittle architecture, where systems become tightly coupled together - making it difficult to integrate new applications or leverage data from existing applications for new projects. Such infrastructures hinder not just speed and performance, but also security.
API-led connectivity – a flexible and scalable approach to ‘crisis-proof’ your online business
To avoid a situation further down the line where your eCommerce channel is overwhelmed by increased demand, and to “crisis-proof” your online business, an API-led integration strategy would be most effective in enabling seamless connectivity across the supply chain.
API-led connectivity is an integration approach that allows businesses to connect the entirety of their data sources (on-premise or cloud, legacy or new), as well as securely expose data to third parties, via their APIs. The advantages are many:
Creation of a truly connected and automated environment and removal of rigid processes
Efficiency and innovation enablement across the supply chain
Speedier onboarding of new partners
Faster project delivery and time-to-value with reusable APIs
Elimination of data inaccuracies and faster access to business-critical information
True omnichannel enablement offering consumers a consistent experience across channels.
The digital transformation of retail businesses is not a new topic and we’ve discussed the benefits and the necessity in previous blogs in the recent past. During a period of crisis such as COVID-19, there are even more areas where these benefits translate into a business-critical advantage. Many businesses with existing eCommerce channels will already have an established network of preferred suppliers and delivery partners. During a crisis, this dependency could mean the business comes to a stand-still if those partners are unable to deliver due to the various restrictions. An API-driven, agile integration system means fast onboarding of new partners and suppliers, supporting the continuity of the business.
Another roadblock faced by many retail businesses during the crisis is running out of stock, as well as delays and inaccuracies on inventory availability, leading to complications in accepting and fulfilling online orders. An API-led integration would give you a clear view of available inventory at your warehouse, SKUs and stores in real time, updating at the same time your eCommerce platform with the latest counts. This visibility means that you can place your orders to your suppliers when stock runs low in the warehouse, and even procure the available in-store inventory to fulfil your online orders.
As connectivity is critical in satisfying the ‘on-demand’ behaviour of digital customers, businesses that increasingly rely on online revenue, can use APIs to create a seamless digital experience that meets the needs that brick and mortar stores no longer can, and effectively “crisis-proof” their online business for now and the future.
If you would like to find out more about how API-led integration could help you "crisis-proof" your online business, give us a call or email us at Salesforce@coforge.com