When you’re constantly chasing betterment, you’re constantly looking for the next incremental improvement that can help you be just that little bit more. In the world of ecommerce and the technology that makes from click to delivery possible, this couldn’t be more true.
But in the exclusive club of merchants that not only experience enough success to move out of the ‘side-hustle’ economy but who also continue to grow, finding that next step to take to make your business just a bit better is a challenge in and of itself. As you continue to grow your business, you’ll find that less and less of the world is tailored to fit your business’ unique needs — simply because you’re unique at this point. With growth comes complexity, and the ultimately and eventual exit from the world of plug-ins and boxed solutions. It’s an exciting rite of passage, but also a daunting one: once you’re the one blazing the trail, there’s no map for you to turn back to, after all.
But there are great partners who can help guide you along your way.
From Click to Collect: Getting more from your ShipStation implementation and other core applications with data integration
No matter where your business is in its growth cycle, there’s one element that always could use improvement: customer experience. From how your customer first becomes aware of your brand, all the way through purchase, delivery, and subsequent purchases, carefully curating and managing a positive customer experience spans all industries and equalizes the division between B2B and B2C. Since customer expectations and what makes a great customer experience is a target eternally in motion, customer experience is one element that’s never really ‘finished’ and is a great opportunity for your business to continuously capitalize on through refinement.
So how does a great, growing brand make improvements to customer experience?
Well, there’s definitely no app or shortcut around it. Customer experience lives in the applications that form your back-end technology stack, in your front-end ecommerce site, through all your sales channels both in real life and online, and in the spaces between all potential touchpoints you may have with your customers. It’s ephemeral and it’s never at rest, but improving on customer experience is one tangible investment your business can make in achieving that next bit of incremental improvement. And it can be as simple as having great applications that can communicate effectively and efficiently with each other.
ShipStation, one of VL’s valued Partners, is a great example of a powerful core application integral to informing an incredibly important stage of the customer experience cycle: shipping and the ultimate fulfillment of the promise made at the point of payment. A powerful shipping solution that helps ecommerce retailers import, organize, process, and ship their orders quickly and easily from any web browser, ShipStation has a robust directory of integrations and integration partners. Clearly, they understand that the power of ShipStation isn’t in being an isolated, closed system, but rather comes from being an integrated part of a broader technology stack and partner ecosystem. ShipStation helps their customers extend their reach by extending their own reach of their application via data integration (AKA, “Connectors”).
But if you explore ShipStation’s integrations, you may notice that there are actually two categories of Connectors listed on this page: integrations that are natively built into ShipStation’s core platform (sometimes referred to as “plug-and-play”), and integration partners (like VL OMNI). From a broad standpoint, both plug-and-play integrations and integration partners fulfill the same ends: extending the offering of ShipStation into more applications, sales channels, and partners via automated data movements. But if your goal is to strategically improve your customer experience, your choice of integration method can be just as important as core application selection.
So which integration strategy is right for your business and customer experience? It’s a loaded question whose answer is highly dependant on your business’s unique traits, strategy, growth, and more. At a broad glance, there are some major differences between the integrations available at a click, and the ones that need a bit more expertise.
Plug-and-play connectors are great for automating common data flows between applications that are core to the function of the application offering the connectors. With ShipStation, for example, it makes absolute sense to have tight, pre-built Connectors with 3PLs like DHL or UPS. Other plug-and-play connectors also open ShipStation’s data up to other applications commonly used by merchants, like the popular ecommerce platforms Shopify and BigCommerce. These integrations take care of the basic movements most merchants would need between popular applications; a connector between ShipStation and Shopify may automate shipping workflows in a structured and fixed way. For both of these use cases, the data movements are well known and are requested enough by the ShipStation user base to be taken care of by a plug-and-play connector, and the connectors themselves usually offer limited customization to what they can do.
But if your business is rapidly scaling; adding trading partners or sales channels, requires specific business rules to be accomodated in a data movement, looking to move data from a single point to many, or any number of other more complex strategic initiatives, the plug-and-play connectors are not likely to be your saviour. Instead, that’s where the other option for your data integration approach — the expertise of data integration partners — excels. With the right data integration partner at your side to guide you, these often more robust and scalable Connectors can be configured and tailored to your business’ needs and are often built on cutting-edge technologies to best serve more complex merchants and their needs. In the case of VL OMNI, an iPaaS platform and partnered with ShipStation, Connectors can be configured to meet your business’ needs exactly as opposed to trying to configure your business to meet the requirements of a plug-and-play connector.
Since customer experience tends to be a multi-faceted element that doesn’t necessarily ‘live’ in any one application, your chosen data integration strategy can and often does impact your customers’ experiences with your brand. The quality of the connections between your applications can be the difference between your customer knowing that their order was successfully processed, shipped, and delivered with adequate visibility and prompts at each step of the way, or having a customer instead be in the dark — or worse, misinformed — on the status of their order. If Amazon has taught consumers and businesses everywhere anything, it’s that visibility, accuracy, and speed in customer data equate with customer experience. And that correlates directly with your data integration strategy.
So which data integration strategy is right for you? Start by looking at your current strategy, and evaluate its efficacy (even if your version of data integration is ‘manually entering data’). And if you find it’s falling short, good news! You have the opportunity to tangibly improve, and may be able to do so with the expert guidance of an integration specialist like VL OMNI.
Want to learn more?
To learn about the differences and impacts of different data integration strategies to improve your customer experience through data integration.