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The eCommerce Software Integration Cheat Sheet for Non-Technical Project Managers

Sound well-informed when talking to clients about eCommerce integrations by using the right technical terms in the right context

Author: Dima Volo

You need to know the terminology when talking to clients about integrating between systems like Hubspot, Salesforce, and eCommerce platforms, like Shopify, WooCommerce, Big Commerce, and Magento. We've got you covered.

List of common eCommerce integration terms and meanings:

How do you get the technical language and definitions right so that:

  1. You ensure you're talking about the same things as your clients, in the same way, without confusing apples for oranges
  2. You speak with precision, so when you say 'we can do X', what you really mean is 'we can do X' (not some fuzzy variation of X)
  3. You come off knowledgeable, capable, and respectably educated/informed on your prospect/client's technical requirements, even if you can leave the details up to your programmers

API

An API is a door that companies intentionally open into their systems, for other systems to connect with. Every website and platform can decide whether they want to offer an API, and what is/isn't included. Some companies will decide to let you read information. Others will let you read AND write. For instance an eCommerce platform might have an API that lets you get a list of all products in it, and another API that lets you create a new product.

Don't worry about what API stands for, no programmer will ever expand it. But it stands for 'Application Program Interface'.

We're connecting to Version 1 of the Big Commerce API but our developer told us that Version 2 lets us do more.
The client was an early Big Commerce user, so when their systems were first set up, they were made to connect to the original version of Big Commerce's API. Since then Big Commerce added tons of new capabilities to read and write information and called it version 2. The client wants their systems to talk to version 2, with the goal of getting more detailed info from Big Commerce into/out of their other systems

CRM

A 'Customer Relationship Management system' is a fancy way to organize all of your client's customers, flag accounts that need to be contacted soon, and let multiple sales people and project managers keep track of where they are in the sales cycle (i.e. Sales Pipeline). Most major companies use either a stand-alone CRM system, or more likely one that is a part of a larger ERP system. Popular CRMs include:

CRM systems can be simple or super-complicated, and there's tons to learn. Salesforce has a whole academy on the topic.

Our eCommerce platform can export order data, but our CRM system can't parse it.
Parsing data means accepting and digesting it, with a solid understanding of what it all means. In this example, the client is saying their CRM system can't understand the data that their eCommerce platform is giving them. This is typical, because eCommerce platforms think about customers and orders, whereas CRM systems think about prospects and their positions in the sales pipeline. That's when custom integration projects come in handy.

ERP

An 'Enterprise Resource Planning' system is the behemoth software and database which serves as the electronic brain of most medium and large companies. It contains modules for everything from CRM to inventory management, payroll... everything a company does may pass through its ERP. Every internal report or spreadsheet may rely on data from its ERP. Popular ERPs include:

ERP Consultants are among the most sought-after outsourced experts. Projects can be budgeted in the millions of dollars. The closer you can get to offering support and value related to ERPs, the more lucrative your projects become.

We want to manage inventory in our ERP system. Can you get that data into the eCommerce platform?
One of the many modules an ERP system provides is supplier/inventory management. Your client doesn't want to be responsible for manually updating inventory numbers in one system and then in another. That's a recipe for human error, unfulfillable orders, and worse. So they're asking you if their staff can keep inventory updated in the system they already know (ERP) and have the eCommerce platform pull all its information from there. This is a textbook example of the kind of work we do..

Integration

Integration means what it sounds like: integrating two or more systems by making connections between them. Sometimes this goes one way (unidirectional = system A writes data to System B), sometimes it goes both ways (bidirectional = System A writes data to System B and vice versa). Usually integration is accomplished by way of an API, but there are other methods. For instance maybe the systems you're trying to connect each have import/export functionality. In that case you can create an export file in one system and import it into another system.

Why don't most people simply export and import files most of the time? Because importing and exporting files requires that both systems have a common language: i.e. strict adherence to a common data format. Say if System A calls a field 'vendor' but System B calls the same field 'supplier', then you start to get into conflicts.

We want to integrate our eCommerce platform with our CRM, so that customers who place orders go into our Sales Pipeline.
The client is looking to maximize their CLV (customer lifetime value) by bringing any customer who makes a single purchase into their Sales Pipeline, so they can be contacted and encouraged to make more, larger purchases.

Mapping

When System A and System B both have the same fields, but call them by different names, then during an import process you'll need to 'map' one to the other, to give both systems a common language.

Many systems have built-in options to help you 'map fields'. Say you import a file from a French-language system to an English language system. During that process, the receiving system might ask you which field contains the product title, and give you a dropdown with options. You'll select the 'produit' field, telling the system that field holds the equivalent of 'product' in English.

We've run into trouble with import files because the mapping is never 1-to-1 in both systems.
The client has been trying to import from one system to another but they've hit a wall. For example System A has a price field that looks like '$19.99' but System B has two fields for the same purpose: 'Currency Symbol' and 'Amount'. They can't really map System A's single price field to System B's two separate price fields. And that's why they've come to you.

Need a white labeled eCommerce specialist to help you on a project? We offer expert guidance and implementation for eCommerce integrations.