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eCommerce Shipping Solutions: Finding the Best – Part I

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Running an eCommerce business you have likely realized that shipping can get messy very quickly, especially as you sell more on multiple channels. Luckily, shipping software exists to pull all your orders into a single place, where the can be processed, fulfilled, and have shipping labels printed. There are many choices of shipping software out there, and they should hit key features which we’ll go over in the following sections.

Integration with other platforms and systems

Given the shipping platform’s central role in the eCommerce ecosystem, it needs to integrate with the ecosystem’s many other software components. This allows seamless data flow, real time updates and consistent reporting across all systems.

Here is a list of the most likely integration points to consider and the shipping platform’s integration goals related to each:

Online Selling Platform | Cart

  • Seamless order download to shipping solution with all details relevant to shipping (order details, order status, item descriptions including color/sizes, item weight, customer/gift/internal notes, requested shipping service)
  • New items included in an order are populated automatically to product catalog in shipping solution
  • Real-time order status updates and shipping tracking information back to store

Point of Sale System

  • Shipping solution enables seamless Comma Separated Value (CSV file) upload of POS orders that require shipping
  • CSV Upload process supports one-time mapping that is saved and enables one-click upload after set up
  • Though limited today, as demand for a direct integration grows, leading shipping solutions will integrate directly with leading POS systems

Inventory System

  • Negates the need to integrate individual store(s) with shipping solution—order data is pulled directly from inventory solution
  • Automatically read and download designated orders from your inventory solution to your shipping solution
  • Map order status from inventory to appropriate status in your shipping solution
  • Update inventory solution with status updates and shipment tracking numbers in real time

Accounting System

  • Write order data from shipping solution into your accounting software to create financial transactions; typically select from:
    • Sales Receipts
    • Sales Orders
    • Sales Invoices
  • Order detail syncs to accounting solution from shipping solution, including: Customer Name, Address, Email, Order Number, Product Line Items, Order Date, Date Paid, Order Total, Shipping Cost

Order Management System

  • Seamless order download to shipping solution with all details relevant to shipping (order details, order status, item descriptions including color/sizes, item weight, customer/gift/internal notes, requested shipping service)
  • New items included in an order are populated automatically to product catalog in shipping solution
  • Real-time order status updates and shipping tracking information back to order management system

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System

  • Orders download from CRM to shipping solution automatically
  • Shipping solution uploads the status, shipping method and tracking information back to CRM system in real time

Integration between selling and shipping platforms:
what data elements need to sync?

The purpose of integration between platforms (see table above) is to allow data to flow seamlessly between the systems.  When it comes to your shipping software, here are the main types of data—and associated data elements—that need to flow between the shipping platform and your selling platform.

ORDER DATA: the most important integration between the selling platform and the shipping platform involves the movement of order data; order data consists of:

  • Unique Order Number
  • Customer shipping address(es)
  • Customer delivery service level requested
  • Financial aspects of each order, including order total cost, item cost, discounts applied, shipping paid
  • The unique SKU and description of each product included in the order, including color, size
  • The warehouse or bin location of each product
  • Status of each order (e.g., awaiting payment, awaiting fulfilment, awaiting shipment, partially shipped)
  • The weight of each product in the order, if your shipping system will determine carrier and/or calculate shipping cost based on this (versus the actual package weight obtained as part of the packing process)
  • Customer messages
    • Gift
    • Special delivery instructions
    • Product-related
    • Internal notes made in selling platform

data transfer – how do they sync?

Order data is commonly transferred from the selling platform to the shipping platform in one of three ways:

  • Direct integration: via an application programming interface (API) call or a custom integration, the order data is automatically transferred, in real time or batch, from the selling platform to the shipping platform. Your shipping solution will ideally integrate with everywhere you sell.
  • File upload: the selling platform outputs a batch of order data periodically (e.g., at the end of each day) to a file, typically a CSV file, which is then manually uploaded into the shipping platform
  • Manual entry: a user copies the data for each order from the selling platform user interface and pastes it into the shipping platform user interface
  • Customer data: many shipping solutions will allow a CSV upload of an existing customer address database and then real time additions as new customers are included in downloaded orders

Related Articles & Resources

 

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This article is from The Definitive Guide to eCommerce Shipping

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