Hi everyone. We’re recording another chapter of the BOA story and topics that we want to talk about.
And today, we’re going to talk about integrations. Essentially - what are integrations? And why do you need them? And who needs them, perhaps? Not everyone today uses integrations. It’s very very dependent on the size of the business and its makeup. I think it’s possible to say, in a general sense, that really most businesses that need this topic of integration connection are mid-size businesses, large, or those that have physical stores, that behind the physical store, there is a cashier system that maybe needs to create sales, customers club, things like that.
And then you need to integrate your e-commerce, your online store, to the physical store. This can also apply to inventory, this can also apply to finances, this can also apply to customer management. But again, the bottom line, the topic of today is integrations, relevant specifically to those who information management systems.
|Amos:||And if you want to see more content, we are constantly publishing new videos. We turn them into podcasts. You’re welcome to like, subscribe, both here on Youtube and for our podcasts. And you’ll be updated every time we post a new video.|
|O:||Perhaps to begin, this way I’ll introduce Amos, who is also sitting with me. And maybe I should have done this at the beginning. But today we’re talking about a little about integrations - so Amos Shacham, CEO of BOA Ideas. Nice to meet you.|
|A:||Nice to meet you, Oren.|
|O:||How are you?|
|O:||Let’s talk about integrations.|
Shopify Integrations: The Basics
Yes. First of all, you laid it out very correctly. Not everyone needs integrations. Despite the need rising, even among smaller clients. Because e-commerce is gaining so much momentum, and even smaller clients are dealing with more orders, more issues with inventory, of course, like you said, those who have physical branches.
And essentially, it’s less comfortable for e-commerce to be stand-alone. Even if it’s Shopify, which is a very advanced system - you know we really love it. In the end, if it doesn’t connect with other things I do for my business in general, it will be less comfortable.
One of the benefits of Shopify is that, first of all, part of the connections to the systems that are the most popular, even here in Israel, already exist with the configuration of a plug-in or Shopify application that you can just install, set and use.
And from the other side, there are things that are not yet defined and don’t exist, and there is quite a bit here in Israel because we’re a small country and Shopify doesn’t focus much attention on us. The development ability that Shopify enables for us is very very advanced and powerful and we can develop from them an integration for almost any system. Usually, the bottleneck is not on the Shopify side but on the side of the other systems.
So that’s an introduction to connect with what you said. And to your question - so really we do all types of integrations. Ones that we’ve done in the last few years, it could have been for all different types of ERP systems, which are very heavy and large systems to manage your business in general.
|O:||You’re talking about systems like Priority, like Comax.|
|A:||Comax is also a cashier - we’ll talk about that also. But Priority, Oracle, SAP. And also ERP systems with less recognized names.|
|O:||Comax is also an ERP.|
|A:||Right, Comax is also an ERP. You’re right - it’s a cashier and ERP. Right. But really in the world of cashiers also, which is an important point. Because many times, a small business that needs a cashier in a branch, doesn’t really need an ERP. But because it needs a cashier, from the cashier, they get the entire system of the ERP. It can be something like Comax, like Verifone, like Retalix. And then it needs this connection. Edea, we didn’t mention. It needs the connection between Shopify online and what there is in the branch.|
|O:||Bottom line, what does this connection help with? Let’s for a minute simplify it for someone…|
What do integrations do?
So in the ERP world, really the connections, how they give to the day-to-day functioning of the business, is, first of all, the inventory connection. The ERP, or even the cashiers, manage the inventory, know how much inventory there is of each product, and Shopify also needs to know that. Before I enter new goods once here and once there, or when a customer buys from me in-store and I go into Shopify and reduce the inventory. Oftentimes they do it at the end of the day if it’s an Excel file. This business can work automatically.
And from the other side, when someone orders online, I automatically mark for myself that the inventory is reduced so that the branch will know that the inventory is designated for the customer and not to sell it so that you don’t have to deal with refunds. So that’s the first thing.
The second thing - order management. An order came in now to the business from Shopify. And I want to gather it, to package it, to send it. In general, with ERP systems, they manage this process also. Even on top of that, also the connection to shipping companies, etc. So I’ll do it in the ERP. The order enters from Shopify automatically. I do the collection from the ERP. The update goes back to Shopify with the tracking number, and the email that gets sent to the customer happens from Shopify. And the systems will be synchronized and then I’ll have all of the reports and all of the information and all of the analytics in one centralized place, which is the ERP.
Shopify as an ERP
|O:||Essentially, if I want to for a second simplify despite the fact that there is maybe someone who already uses the integration who knows, but for those that might not. At the end of the day, the ERP, okay, which is essentially the same system as the information management, is like the Shopify system, except what happens is, until now or until a few years ago, it was preoccupied with offline. Compared to Shopify which is preoccupied with online. That means that also Shopify is a type of ERP, largely speaking. And essentially what we do with integrations is connect the two worlds - the world of the internet, e-commerce, with the physical world. And so that everything speaks in the same language and automatically. So that you don't need to do all of the manual work that in general uses up manpower in the business. And there’s also an economic element. And of course, the margin for error is larger with a person than with a machine that does everything automatically.|
But I will say that, in continuation of what you’re saying, that it’s important to remember that Shopify really is not just a platform for building websites, and it sees itself and gives the tools of a small ERP. Inventory management, order management, customer management. And a lot of tools that are already connected to it in a very simple way that allows you to expand these capabilities. Acquisition management, employee management, etc. And we very strongly encourage, even cashiers in physical branches, POS. Which is Shopify POS, there are already two Youtube videos you can watch, including a demonstration.
Specifically in this field of ERP and cashiers, oftentimes when a client comes to us and want an integration, first we check if it’s worthwhile to work just on Shopify, even in the physical world. But there are of course businesses that it’s not relevant for. They’re very big businesses, they also manage raw materials, and production floors, they really need the ERP. Or if they have a lot of branches, it’s not relevant to switch all of the cashiers and all of the branches. So then it’s preferable to do the integration.
But when we’re talking about integrations, ERP is really the crown of this world. But it’s just one. We can do integrations between Shopify and mailing systems, so that everyone who is listed in Shopify, including if you want to call it, a customer club, will automatically receive emails, SMSs, sales, coupons, etc.
Connecting Shopify to All Types of Management Systems
We know how to connect Shopify to shipping systems. For many of there, there is already an application we developed in Shopify for something like 24 companies. And the number gets bigger with every video that we do. But also if a client comes to us with a company that we haven't worked with yet, we can connect.
|O:||Also for warehouses.|
Warehouses, correct. Warehouse management systems. There are companies like E-Gold and others that take the inventory from the business owner and stores it by them. And they deal with gathering and packaging. We also connect to them.
Again, for a number of places, we already did an existing addition for Shopify that you can simply install. And for the others, we can develop specifically if needed.
Other examples - systems for customer service. So if someone calls and I surface his details in the customer service system, for example, Zendesk. For example, Wix answers. I can see within Zendesk all of the details of the order of that customer, to be able to do a refund from there. So that my customer service representative doesn’t also need to go to Shopify to enter and manage it from another system.
That’s really just the tip of the iceberg. There are even sometimes all different types of systems, even weird ones, that they need to connect to.
And everything else, from the other side, from the side of the system, there is something called an API, which is the way information is passed between systems. We can develop this, including exactly catered to the needs of the client.
Why Integrations Can be so Complex
So that’s it - that’s exactly the point of what I wanted us to talk about. A lot of clients come and say, “Okay, so I need you to connect me to system X. How much does it cost?” Or, “I need you to connect me to system X, let’s go.” A lot of clients come and say, “But you already did a connection with a system like this, so why don’t I benefit from this connection? So why can’t you install it and copy-paste?”
So here let’s talk about it for a minute. What is so hard for clients to understand at the end of the day, that we’re not talking about “copy-paste” here?
And this really connects to the work process that we’re talking about when it comes to integrations. Essentially, first of all, they need to understand what needs the integration is supposed to serve. If there’s someone, for example, we spoke about an ERP that needs to be connected. It’s possible that he will decide that it’s more comfortable for him to do the gathering of the orders from Shopify. For those who don’t know, it’s a very comfortable system, it connects to shipping companies, prints shipping labels, inventory management, all of these things. But it’s important to him that the ERP will be updated. So the integration is different. Now we have to update the ERP every time there is a delivery and not the opposite.
Or there are those who say, “Listen, I have a huge warehouse, everyone works here on the ERP or on the WMS, warehouse management system. I don’t want to teach them how to work on Shopify.” So the integration is different. So, first of all, it’s just an example, that every integration can be different from others. And even if we’ve done ten integrations for one system or another, it doesn’t mean that the eleventh integration will be the same thing. It does mean that we already have experience in all of the different types so we can also recommend and advise on what’s correct and not just to do it. And then, of course, after that, to do it.
But we first of all have to understand the goal of the integration, how it’s supposed to serve the client, how the client wants it to work. We have clients that beyond the integration, also want a screen - that we develop for them a dashboard, for example. So they can get up in the morning and see all types of data on the screen of their phone as if it’s an app. That’s something that is a part of the integration but is specific for that client.
This connects me to the work process - where we first do the characterization and gathering requirements stage, where we don’t just gather requirements, we also advise and recommend, give ideas from past projects that we’ve done and saw were successful. And after that, we can plan the work and give a price quote.
The Problem with ERPs
|O:||I want to add onto what you said. There are times where we are going through the process of gathering requirements with the client and we come to a conclusion that it’s not possible. And it’s not less important as a part of the process that we do.|
|A:||I would say maybe “not realistic”. Because everything is possible, but no one will spend... okay thankfully maybe not no one, but most won’t spend millions of shekel on a small connection, let’s say it like that. And if the systems require a very complex development, then essentially we can say it’s not possible.|
|O:||I understand. I just want to say in addition that I hope that after this conversation, people will stop sending us documentation from ERPs and saying “Connect.” Because there really is a big element of personal customization. And every business really works in a way that is comfortable for it, and every business needs the technological and digital help of what we do in development with these integrations. And it’s important to raise the point that every business needs to define for itself what’s correct and what’s not. And it’s also a matter of cost, at the end of the day. Because of course you can throw documentation at us and we will do the integration but maybe ten of them aren’t relevant to the business. So what was it all for?|
|A:||But I’ll also add that even after we know how to define the dream and the idea, in the end, there are two systems that need to work and realize this dream. And they work, sometimes, in different ways. I can give a few examples and I will soon.|
|O:||So give me! Don’t be a cheapskate!|
|A:||I’ll give, I’ll give! So then we need to come and figure out how we overcome this bottleneck, and that also has significance. I’ll give an example. A simple example - ERP systems, you spoke about this before, most are not built for e-commerce. Most were written when there wasn’t even such a thing as e-commerce. And they haven’t yet properly fit themselves to e-commerce. So, for example, they don’t know what shipping fees are. They don’t know. So, okay, of course here the solution is simple. When an order comes in and it has a shipping fee, we make it as if it’s an SKU. But there’s significance to this when you make it as if it’s an SKU as if it’s an item. Because all in all, shipping fees work differently. And if after you want to do a calculation of how much it’s worthwhile for me to raise shipping fees, it gets a little harder when it’s essentially an item. And it’s just a small example. I’ll give you another example.|
|O:||Shipping fees are also an amount that can change.|
Right. It changes and the shipping policy differs. And people come to do self-pickup, etc. And most ERPs or the cashiers don’t know what that is at all, because they weren’t built for it. They were built for a branch that you come and take.
I’ll give you another example. Customer identification. On the internet, as everyone knows, customer identification is email. It won’t help at all - not phone number, not personal ID number, nothing. In these systems, it’s not email. In these systems, you’ll find that you can have ten customers with the same email. And again, it’s two small examples and there are of course examples that are much more complicated, but just so that it’s easy to understand that we need to essentially find a way to overcome it and that we are overcoming but there are also consequences. So now, maybe the client needs to create orders in their customer circles so that they can decide for each email who the customer is. So that they can benefit from a customer club, and sales, and things like that. So this was also important for me to explain.
The Problem with Integrations
|O:||Tell me - do you think that an expert tip, we could say it like that, tell me what are the things or something specific that you can say that absolutely nothing will help, this integration of the ERP with Shopify is not possible? Is there something like that? Does it exist? Is there an Achilles Heel?|
|A:||I think from a technical perspective, the answer is no. But from a business perspective, it’s possible. For example, we also did a video on this, the whole topic of discounts. There are cashiers with discount capabilities that are very very sophisticated and advanced. You can see it at Superpharm, you can see it at Rami Levy, or Steimatzky. It doesn’t matter. All different types of discounts, a multitude of discounts, double discounts, etc.|
|O:||Three for two. Buy five, get one.|
|A:||Things like that, yes. Buy 300, pay 200. All kinds of things like that. Customer club- yes club, no club. Earning points. Birthdays. All of these things are of course something that is very familiar. By the way, outside of Israel, even in the branches, you don’t see this so much. But in Israel, yes. In e-commerce, and we did a video about this and explained that it doesn’t really drive customers who are surfing the website. They don’t have much time to understand all of the different types of discounts and to choose all of the products that are a part of the discounts, etc. And therefore, Shopify doesn’t enable a lot of things like that. We spoke about it in the video that there is the possibility of Shopify Plus but for anyone who is not in Shopify Plus, it’s less. So then when you want to do the synchronization, you’ll encounter a problem. Because a client will say that it’s not normal that in the branch there will be one type of price or a commercial offer and on the website a different type of commercial offer. So, A, I think that it is reasonable, and reality proves it. People understand that it’s reasonable that if they come to the branch, they see all types of discounts that aren’t on the website. And B, it’s simply the technical limit and we need to learn to deal with it. So someone who really rejects this and they have a ton of discounts and wants all of them to be available via e-commerce, even before the integration, it wouldn't be possible, and specifically with the integration.|
Are Shopify Integrations Worth It?
|O:||Tell me - do you think that in light of the fact that Shopify opened, let’s say, its channels of integrations in a broad way, do you think that it’s something that today is reflected in money against other platforms?|
|A:||I think so. Because first of all, they really make life easier. And if you add it onto the much larger layer of establishing a Shopify site, to establish a Shopify store, it’s a very easy and simple action versus other systems. So you’re not paying the “price” for the ability to connect external systems to Shopify. And then, essentially you’re getting a package, including a better solution. And in addition, I think that the thought process of Shopify is connecting to the new world, the world of technology, of what’s called microservices. It’s saying, let’s choose for each need, the specific and correct solution for it. But we will take care to make sure it can talk to all other solutions. So then you can choose and you can also switch. Instead of the invoice management system that isn’t good for you - you can switch. A warehouse management system isn’t good for you - you can switch.|
|O:||Kind of like drag and drop.|
Drag and drop. Exactly. And everything speaks to everything and everything works with everything. It’s an approach that really really saves money at the end of the day. Because you can choose value for money, what is the most appropriate for you, from all of the small solutions without worrying if it does talk with this or doesn’t talk with that. And without choosing a huge system, like Priority, like Oracle, like SAP. And work only with what it has.
So yes, I think that in the end, these capabilities are worthwhile in the invoice at the end.
|A:||And by the way, if you work with this approach of microservices and small connections, then also the interface work, if necessary, because of what I said before that for most of the systems there is already a plugin. So we don’t even need to develop anything. But even if you need it because you chose for yourself some kind of system for marketing with SMS that isn’t well-known and doesn’t have a plugin. Because we work in a format with slender and small things, the integration is also simple to develop.|
3 Main Types of Integrations
I can tell you that for all of the integrations - there are a few ways to execute it. And one of the benefits is that we can use a mix of the approaches and I’ll give an example. Like I said before, there are connections that already have an application. So I can install the application and it will work.
There are connections that I can do what is called the file approach. That means that from Shopify we export a document once every X amount of time, for that matter, with all of the orders. And the second side will gather the file. So this integration is very simple, there are also disadvantages but from the perspective of development, the integration is much more simple. Because I don’t need to be worried about what the other side is doing. And I don’t need to know how the other side works. I just give it an Excel file.
And there’s the approach of the API where I go to the other side in its language and how it expects to get information. This, of course, is more complicated. Because you need to know exactly how the other side works and there can be surprises that can complicate things. But then, I really know that the message went through exactly how I intended it to. So from the perspective of the value of the solution, this is the best solution.
So what’s left? If someone has questions, we’re here.
|O:||You’re welcome to visit us on our YouTube channel under BOA Ideas. You’re welcome to reach out to us, and if you want, other topics that you want us to talk about in-depth or in short.|
|A:||This was also a topic that someone wrote to us that they wanted us to talk about.|
|O:||Really? I thought that was me that wrote it.|
Thank you to everyone and if you liked it, give us feedback.
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