Enterprises are gearing up for online sales during the 2014 Holiday season. According to an article in the Daily Mail, 82% of British internet users regularly shop online, the highest rate among the 28 EU member states. In 2013, one in three online sales in the UK took place via mobile devices. And with an estimated 70% of UK consumers now owning smartphones, m-commerce is also on the rise.
However consumers’ interest in shopping online can be sabotaged by the user experience. Heavy transaction loads can lead to delays in system processing, causing customers to abandon a site before purchase or to unwittingly order out of stock merchandise, not to mention system crashes and possible data loss. According to Forrester, last year 15% of online holiday shoppers didn’t receive their packages on time due to the inability of IT systems to handle increased volumes of orders.
Systems integration is a critical component that is often overlooked when deploying e-commerce and m-commerce systems. These storefronts don’t stand alone. They need to be integrated with the company’s backend systems and external services to support the complete process from inventory management, payment processing, to shipping and returns, customer service and even analytics.
Many organisations choose point-to-point API or data-based integration as an afterthought, rather than strategically selecting a robust process-based integration that knows how to deal with peaks and tremendous load in a secure fashion. By using a robust application integration tool, businesses can ensure that their e-commerce solutions are robust, secure and scalable to manage even the highest transaction loads, so they can maximise holiday sales…
So prepare for the holiday season by making sure your integration platform meets these five critical requirements:
1. In-Memory Data Grid (IMDG)
Once affordable by only the largest organisations, today IMDG technology is accessible to even small and medium-sized businesses. By storing data and business processes in-memory, providing dynamic scaling, co-location and write behind, IMDGs transfer data much faster and provide robust failover capability that can guarantee message delivery in the event of a node or system failure. To increase resiliency, failover and performance throughout the customer’s sales journey, not only is IMDG the preferred underlying technology for your integration platform, it is also recommended for your website, mobile app and all systems components.
2. Vendor Agnostic
No integration solution exists in a vacuum: by definition its value lies in its ability to connect different systems. A vendor-agnostic platform allows you to implement a best-of-breed strategy to connect your ERP and CRM along with a wide range of third-party services, including exchange rates, credit checks, and order fulfillment services. Make sure that your integration solution provides optimized connectors for your specific ERP and CRM systems and can manage and control APIs for all of your relevant systems. Middleware solutions that rely on one specific type of integration architecture can lock you into manual programming at times when you most need to be able to maintain and adjust system integration flows.
To handle the expected increase in traffic, systems need to be able to grow quickly and affordably. An in-memory computing architecture provides the needed computing power to handle peaks in traffic. As processing requirements increase, the management system automatically recruits more nodes, adding scale elastically when it’s needed.
4. Hybrid Cloud Architecture
Commerce systems often involve sharing data and automating processes between systems that reside on the cloud and on premise. Thus your integration platform should support integration between the systems involved, regardless of where they physically reside.
Real-time updates enable your entire system to run smoothly, providing a better shopping experience, with more satisfied customers and less demand for customer support. For example, with real-time system updates as opposed to batch updates at the end of the day, a customer is less likely to order out-of-stock merchandise. An integration platform that uses In-Memory Data Grids allows multiple processes to run in parallel, ensuring that the latest information about product pricing, availability and delivery dates is accurate and readily available. An integrated process workflow running on an In-Memory Data Grid architecture can easily access, process and present real-time business information since it is not dependent on the data processing of any one system.
A system integration ecosystem with the necessary built-in flexibility and capacity can help you maximise online sales by enabling you to successfully manage the data deluge this holiday season and as your business continues to expand. A robust integration platform will not only enable rapid integration between all the applications, services and databases in your e-commerce/m-commerce system (regardless of where they are located), it will also make sure that the entire system performs optimally, so holiday orders will be fulfilled successfully and companies will have happy customers earning repeat orders down the road.