What is system integration?
The governing principles behind system integration are unity and simplicity. All the various subsystems that make a business run – such as sales, stock, marketing, finance, etc. – are bundled together into a single, streamlined system that offers a superior level of accessibility and communication. The custom software development behind system integration can be complex, but the principles of simplicity and unity remain the same.
Retailers stand to gain more from system integration than one might expect. Not only does system integration ease the complexities of multichannel selling, but it enhances financial returns through productivity and communication.
In the age of Internet sales and mobile sites, good system integration keeps products available for sale on a website in sync with the items actually sitting in the warehouse. Such a system also speeds the process of adding new merchandise and updating the database with an accurate count of stock. The current market practically demands multichannel selling. The benefits of system integration become more apparent when multiple channels are considered. When a retailer is dealing with a website, an app, and a store, it’s easy to check the wrong data from the wrong subsystem. It isn’t impossible to juggle three separate systems while monitoring the same catalogue of stock, but it is far less reliable than referencing an integrated system with data from all channels and a real-time count of what is on the shelf.
Practically speaking, system integration helps prevent a second customer from purchasing an item that has already been sold through a different channel. By bringing customer service and stock management under the same roof, system integration improves customer relations, avoids costly selling point errors, and builds an excellent reputation for the retailer. Together, these elements build a foundation for rising sales and prevent errors that cut into a retailer’s profit.
In addition to providing real-time visibility for every part of a business – including the nuances of sales, billing, and payroll – system integration saves labor and maximizes employee efficiency. Rather than digging through overlapping databases from multiple systems to compile reports, employees can access a single system. As we discussed above, an integrated system helps manage multichannel selling, and while this improves sales, it also frees employees from time-consuming manual corrections.
System integration opens to the door for many new systems as well. Electronic shelf edge labels can use a store’s Wi-Fi to update prices, mark sales, and show weekly specials. This automatic process reduces the cost of honoring outdated pricing and sale tags missed by employees. It takes an integrated system to make this possible.
Just as there is a simple concept behind the complicated reality of building an integrated system, there is a simple concept behind improved communication. A retailer that does not use an integrated system must play a game of telephone whenever one employee needs to relay information to another. Like the children’s game, the more people hear and relay the message, the more likely it is to be corrupted. The same is more or less true of technology. It’s difficult to convince different systems to share information, and anyone who works with computers knows the pain of realizing the program you are using is incompatible with the type of file you need to access.
At the very least, an integrated system allows workers to access information much faster and without the risk of looking in the wrong system. It’s all about efficiency. Rather than sending a request to another department or simply hoping that the information they received an hour ago is still accurate, workers can use a single system to access whatever they need.
Thanks to the variety of shipping options customers have come to expect, communication is now tied even more closely to customer service. Many stores now allow customers to do their shopping via smart phone or computer before coming to the store and picking up their purchases at the front desk or register. Curbside delivery is another popular option. An integrated system can handle the confusion of processing an order from a website that offers ship-to-store, home delivery, and rapid pick up options so the merchandise gets to the right place by the right time. Every store, item, and shipping method is part of the same system.
Getting the whole picture
Few investments offer the same widespread, immediate returns as system integration. Customers can enjoy the benefits of multichannel shopping without the inevitable confusion and error retailers suffer when using separate systems to sell from the same pool of stock. System integration provides superior communication between departments, systems, and functions. Information is made easy to access and labor time is saved for more important tasks. System integration also opens the door for smarter technologies as they develop. The future may be fast-paced, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. System integration ensures retailers are ready for the next step forward. To prepare for that next step, be sure to find the right custom software development services to design an integrated system that will serve your business for the long run.