Step Up to World Class Standards (1,745 words)
A warehouse management system not customized for direct marketing fulfillment will have a hard time meeting the demands of direct commerce, whereas a comprehensive direct-commerce solution will have all the appropriate functions designed in.
A major challenge for direct merchants who manage both a contact center and a Web site is to coordinate critical data between them. The information may reside in three databases: customers, inventory and orders.
If a customer already has placed orders with the contact center, orders from that same customer on the Web should not result in creation of a duplicate customer record. Orders entered on the Web also should be visible in the call center in a timely fashion for customer service follow up.
Inventory master files set up for the catalog shouldn't be duplicated for the Web (where changes would also have to be duplicated). In addition, although it's acceptable to allocate some of your inventory for Web sales, the "holy grail" of inventory management is real-time access to inventory from the Web site to indicate in-stock positions. Even if you don't want to display items that aren't in stock, a real-time or near-real-time update of inventory positions with your e-commerce platform is still a requirement to facilitate timely removal of the item from the site's inventory selections.
Another consideration: It's highly advantageous to have a single repository for business rules regarding prices, discounts, shipping/handling, sales taxes, etc. While there may be variations specific to e-commerce, for the most part it makes more sense to manage these critical issues from a single business rules engine.
Virtually all catalog management or direct-commerce systems will provide these kinds of unified, integrated features and functions. While many offer bundled e-commerce servers and shopping-cart modules, nearly all have application programming interfaces (APIs) that support integration with most standard Web-commerce platforms.