Whether you're a startup or veteran ecommerce company, it's likely that one of the first challenges you'll encounter is putting in place the right systems to run your business.
You want your website to effectively communicate your brand, and the best way to do that is through:
- A modern design and a robust feature set.
- An easy and intuitive shopping experience for your customers.
- The flexibility to adapt the website features, functionality, and capabilities as your business model evolves.
Behind the scenes, your back-office software should be your workhorse. You want:
- Accurate and timely data that allows you to make important business decisions.
- To know who your customers are and what they are buying, so that you can efficiently manage and control your inventory.
- Your fulfillment team to have easy access to order information, and a clear pick, pack, and ship process, with easy to follow steps for fulfilling your customers' orders.
The dilemma many ecommerce companies encounter is that the best of breed software for your ecommerce website isn't necessarily the same as the best of breed software for your back-office accounting and order management system. Knowing which software will best support the ecommerce and back-end requirements of your business, and which combination will allow for the greatest integration and future growth, can be a difficult and time consuming evaluation process.
One combination that works well is to use NetSuite for the back-office, inventory, and order management, and Magento for the front-end ecommerce website. This is an effective combination because:
- NetSuite is powerful for inventory and order management, customer relationship management, and accounting.
- Magento is a scalable ecommerce platform that allows companies to build exceptional websites with optimal shopping experiences.
- Both platforms are web-based solutions that have a very accessible Application Programming Interface (API), which allows the two systems to, in effect, talk to each other to integrate data and eliminate manual re-keying of information.
Why use NetSuite for Inventory and Order Management?
NetSuite is an Enterprise Solutions Resource Management (ERP) package for Medium Business businesses. It's great for inventory management, order management, and a full accounting system for businesses that are too big for Quickbooks but too small for Oracle or SAP. NetSuite also has a full Customer Relationship Management (CRM) feature set. This eliminates the need for a third system such as Salesforce.com for your customer support team, and ensures all your data — customers, orders, inventory, support, and accounting — live under one roof.
However, NetSuite is not as strong when it comes to ecommerce. Though the company is making investments in their ecommerce strategy, the tools currently offered are only now catching up to platforms that are quickly outpacing NetSuite's commerce capabilities.
Why use Magento for ecommerce?
Magento is built from the ground up as an ecommerce platform that allows you to build rich, unique websites for both desktop and mobile. The platform scales well, and provides a rich set of features and capabilities. Magento offers both Community and Enterprise Solutions Editions. The Community Edition allows the "DIY-ers" an entry point to the platform without the bells and whistles, while the Enterprise Solutions Edition gives businesses with established needs a starting point with a built-in feature set that requires less custom development.
Magento is less capable for order processing and accounting. The (very active) development community has created a number of modules that can be purchased and added to Magento for better tracking, but at the end of the day these are not full accounting solutions. Your financial data should reside in your financial system, not just be partially replicated in a second system.
This positions NetSuite as a best of breed inventory and order management software with weak ecommerce, and Magento as a best of breed ecommerce software with weak inventory and order management. When combined, however, these two platforms represent an excellent solution for ecommerce companies: Power, flexibility, and scalability, for BOTH back-office and ecommerce websites.
Integrating NetSuite and Magento
At some point in the ecommerce growth cycle, the manual re-keying of customer and order data between systems becomes burdensome: Before the fulfillment team knows an order has been placed, a user has to export the data from the ecommerce site and import the data to the order management accounting system. Changes to customer address and contact information need to be manually updated. Inventory levels become difficult to keep in sync, resulting in items being improperly listed as in or out of stock on the website. And when a correction is made, it has to be done in two systems instead of one. The process of manually keeping these systems up to date is time consuming, error prone, and a drag on overall operational efficiency.
This is where the combination of NetSuite and Magento really shines.
The powerful integration capabilities of NetSuite and Magento include traditional SOAP and XML, as well as more modern and lightweight RESTful methods, giving NetSuite and Magento many ways to communicate. Every company's integration needs are different — some prefer real-time updates, some prefer nightly batch operations, some prefer to only synchronize a subset of data — so the potential variety of options is as diverse as the types of businesses transacting on the web. With NetSuite and Magento, companies are given a spectrum of integration options that will ensure their needs can be met, and that the communication between the systems is effective, efficient, and eliminates the need for manual data entry.
A great example of how the exchange could work
A potential customer arrives at your site, and is presented with an offer to sign up for the company newsletter in exchange for 10% off their first order. The visitor thinks this is great, so they sign up. Magento can make a real-time "call" to NetSuite and "push" the information for that customer into the NetSuite CRM. Whether they purchase or not on this visit, they're now available in the NetSuite CRM for future marketing efforts. Let's say the customer subsequently browses the site, adds items to their cart, and checks out. During this process they provide their billing and shipping information, which also gets synchronized automatically to NetSuite so the two systems share the same picture of who this customer is. The customer places their order, which immediately flows to NetSuite and alerts the warehouse and fulfillment team that a new order is ready. When the order has been picked, packed, and shipped, NetSuite sends Magento the fulfillment details so the customer can track the status of their delivery as updates are made.
Behind the scenes, the inventory manager has real-time information on product sales and re-ordering information, including lead times, reorder points, and seasonal sale adjustments for inventory forecasting. As orders are placed and fulfilled, and purchase orders received, the system maintains one overall picture of the company's inventory availability. This provides the business intelligence necessary to order the right quantity of the right items at the right time, providing better cash flow management and more relevant availability of items for your customers.
Pair NetSuite and Magento for the best ecommerce experience
By integrating NetSuite and Magento, an ecommerce company can present a best in class experience for their customers, while maintaining a robust back-office system for order and inventory management. Time spent manually keeping disparate systems in sync can be eliminated, which frees those employees to promote the core offerings of the business, better merchandise products, and more effectively interact with your customer base.