You are reading this article because you'd like guidance on integrating your client's business processes and backend systems with their eCommerce platform. For specialized eCommerce integration consulting, you can get the details on my homepage.

Level: Intermediate

What does your client's backend software need in order to integrate with an eCommerce platform?

A rundown of how to connect popular eCommerce platforms with examples from popular ERP and CRM systems.

Author: Dima Volo
Head's up: if you're not familiar yet with what an API is, or why/when you'd want to use the ones provided by your eCommerce platform for integrating with other systems, then you can definitely start with my intro article, What is an API and when would I use one?

It's no secret that Amazon and Shopify (and to a lesser degree WooCommerce and Magento) are eating the eCommerce world.

But your clients also rely on other systems to keep their business organized, such as ERP, CRM, and custom backend systems.

Almost every major backend system offers "API Access", which means they can accept your eCommerce order and inventory data and start acting on it

These are all disparate systems, and their data formats are often completely incompatible.

For example, some deal with 'manufacturers', others deal with 'vendors', and others with 'suppliers', which may or may not be interchangeable terms for the exact same field.

What all these systems have in common is that they open a door for programmers to rapidly stream data in, via an 'API'.

A competent programmer can use an eCommerce platform's API to grab order data and inventory data, and pass that info to, say, your client's ERP system's API.

Then your client's ERP system API takes over: it accepts that eCommerce data and lets their team members and customers work with it exactly as if it was transcribed there by hand.

Different backend systems offer different APIs, with varying capabilities

There are ERP (enterprise resource planning) system APIs like:

Or you might be thinking of opening a door from your prospecting pipeline into eCommerce via a CRM (customer relationship management) system API like:

And in 2019, there's even more to consider: perhaps your client would like their inventory numbers from their ERP to automatically update into their eCommerce platform's inventory numbers

In that case you might integrate with popular eCommerce system APIs like:

And then on the other side, when you want to bring data into another system, like Sage ERP, their API documentation may or may not be comprehensive and complete.

Realistic Example: Sage ERP's API Version 1 vs Version 2

In Sage's case, the documentation for the V1 API is spartan to the point of confusion.

Can you see that 'body' field? It is meant to contain the details of the product being created.

The problem? Sage's V1 documentation doesn't tell us what those body fields should look like.

Which product fields are required? Which product fields are optional? Should dollar values be passed in with decimals (e.g. 987.55) or without (e.g. 98755)? Even programmers need examples.

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel: for Sage One's latest V2 API, the documentation is a pleasure to read and use.

Key take-away: your third-party software needs a comprehensive 'API' to integrate with an eCommerce platform, and that API needs clear documentation.

It's no surprise that it takes an experienced developer to determine how to re-work eCommerce API results into a format that other systems, like ERPs (Sage, SAP, etc) and CRMs (Infor, MS Dynamics, etc), will correctly accept.

Are your clients thinking of integrating an eCommerce platforms with a specific backend system, either from my list here or from your own?

If you require expert counseling on this, click here for 1-on-1 help.