Growing from B2B to D2C commerce with an integration platform
The B2B model has long been the cornerstone of the manufacturing industry, where products are supplied to distributors and wholesalers, who in turn supply to retailers that market and sell the products to end customers. The advent of the digital age and e-commerce began an inevitable evolution of this model. It provided B2B business owners the convenience of setting up their own online store-front to simultaneously sell their products “direct-to-consumers (D2C)”. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, having such a D2C model started to evolve further from an added advantage to a future-proof requirement for manufacturers.
What is D2C commerce and how is it different from B2B and B2C?
Direct-to-consumer (D2C or DTC) commerce is a model where companies sell their products or services to customers without any intermediaries (wholesales, retailers, or third-party businesses). It is unique in comparison to purely B2B models, where products are sold in bulk to distributors, and even B2C (Business-to-consumer) models, where products are sold directly through various channels such as retail stores, online marketplaces, and other third-party sellers. In other words, D2C commerce involves manufacturing, marketing, selling, and shipping products directly to consumers.
A key misconception here might be that manufacturing businesses need to now choose to be either B2B, B2C, or D2C. Yet, businesses can choose to develop all three sales channels at the same time as part of their digital transformation journey. However, the real question is: why should manufacturers forgo their focus on simply building their products and distributing their efforts towards selling as well? The answer is e-commerce automation.
According to Statista, “In 2022, organizations worldwide were using an average amount of 130 software as a service (SaaS) applications”
The advent of many new e-commerce SaaS and cloud apps such as B2B and D2C e-commerce platforms, PIM, CRM, WMS, POS, Marketing Automation, Marketplace channels, and many more, aren't just helping manufacturers rapidly build D2C e-commerce experiences, but they are helping them automate them as well. However, implementing these applications to grow B2B and D2C commerce is a smaller part of the story; the larger part of the digital transformation challenge this presents is integrating all of these new applications and SaaS solutions to ensure seamless data exchange.
The Integration challenge for the D2C business model
Manufacturing businesses already have ERP systems that help them manage their supply chain, internal logistics, inventory, finance, operations, and other processes. Thus, in order for businesses to establish an effective D2C commerce experience, they will have to integrate the e-commerce platform (whether it is BigCommerce or Shopify) they choose as their storefront with their ERP system. However, building this e-commerce to ERP integration as a point-to-point connection with custom code, or adding additional SaaS integrations in a similar manner, isn’t just time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to maintain, but it also leads to data silos in the long run.
Since traditional middleware solutions aren’t scalable enough to build or manage ecosystems of commerce integrations, businesses are now turning to a next-gen cloud-based solution called the iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service). Being API-driven, the iPaaS enables real-time data exchange between all connected applications and thus serves as the ideal strategic catalyst for manufacturers to orchestrate all their B2B and D2C integrations, streamline processes, synchronize their inventory and orders, and develop sales channels.
Automating D2C growth with an integration platform
What is the iPaaS? The integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a cloud-based middleware that helps connect multiple systems, SaaS, applications, or data sources, without custom code and by enabling real-time data exchange. It provides a user-friendly web interface to create, monitor, and manage all integrated systems, along with the data and services they exchange. Advanced iPaaS solutions like Aumio provide developer-friendly features to flexibly transform data and build workflows to automate business processes across all integrated systems. Most importantly, the iPaaS enables data synchronization across all integrated systems.
Embracing the D2C model requires manufacturers to realign their focus from simply streamlining processes across the Value Chain towards optimizing how the Value Chain integrates with online sales channels. Let's delve into how manufacturers can leverage the iPaaS to simplify, streamline, and grow their D2C business in a scalable manner:
1. Unifying data management and inventory optimization: ERP and e-commerce
The heart of any D2C venture is the e-commerce platform, while the ERP system remains the brain behind the operations. Thus, integrating these two systems plays a pivotal role in growing a D2C business in a future-proof way. E-commerce platforms handle customer orders, product details, pricing, and transactions, while ERP systems, on the other hand, manage inventory, supply chain, financials, and more.
Advanced iPaaS solutions like Alumio provide native connectors or plugins to simplify the integration of legacy ERP systems like SAP or Microsoft Dynamics 365 with e-commerce platforms. After helping integrate e-commerce with the ERP system, the iPaaS acts as a bridge that ensures product information, order data, and pricing details are constantly and consistently updated across these systems. When a customer places an order online, the iPaaS synchronizes this data with the ERP system, updating inventory levels, triggering order fulfillment, and maintaining accurate financial records.
2. Enabling multi-channel D2C e-commerce: Connecting marketplaces like Amazon
By enabling businesses to integrate with applications like Channel Engine and Channable, the Alumio iPaaS enables D2C marketing to list their products for sale directly on popular marketplaces like Amazon.com, Bol.com, eBay.com, Etsy.com, and more, as well as on social media. Helping seamlessly integrate these Marketplace management tools with the D2C e-commerce platform and ERP, enabling a seamless order fulfillment process. The iPaaS helps accurately update inventory data and product information on these marketplace listings in real-time, while streamlining order data and customer information that comes in from them. Shopify recently launched its global commerce solution, Shopify Markets, which enables businesses to sell their products in multiple countries from one store. These multi-channel integrations using the iPaaS don’t just help D2C businesses expand their market reach, but they also provide cross-channel analytics on sales trends, customer behavior, and channel performance.
3. Automating D2C Marketing and Customer Support
One of the biggest advantages of B2B businesses is that they could focus all their investments on developing their products, while retailers or B2C businesses would market and sell the products. However, using the iPaaS, businesses looking to go D2C can seamlessly integrate the latest CRM SaaS solutions and Marketing Automation software to automate their customer support and marketing efforts.
Integrating marketing automation platforms like HubSpot and Marketo helps D2C businesses streamline and personalize their marketing efforts by automating repetitive tasks and orchestrating customer interactions across various channels. Integrating these marketing automation platforms with e-commerce platforms and the CRM systems through the iPaaS helps segment and automate targeted promotional emails, offers, and product details based on customer preferences.
Consistency across channels is pivotal in D2C success. Integrating Marketing Automation software with your e-commerce, CRM, and ERP using the iPaaS, helps your marketing efforts seamlessly span various platforms – email, social media, SMS, and more – while maintaining a consistent brand voice and message.
Apart from these three advantages that building D2C commerce integrations with an iPaaS provides, there are a plethora of SaaS and cloud apps that can be integrated to enhance your D2C business. For instance, by integrating commerce personalization tools like Tweakwise using the iPaaS, D2C businesses can personalize their e-commerce user experience with improved site search, merchandising, and recommendations.
Read more on how the iPaaS helps improve B2B automation with commerce integrations →
Integrate your B2B and D2C growth with the iPaaS
In conclusion, the fusion of B2B and D2C commerce with iPaaS is a strategic move that can significantly evolve and elevate your business. The seamless integration of systems, enhanced automation, and personalized experiences offered by heiPaaS pave the way for accelerated growth and sustained success.
Most importantly, the iPaaS offers businesses the flexibility to grow both their B2B and D2C sales channels simultaneously. By integrating all B2B business systems and data with new D2C commerce SaaS solutions and cloud applications, ensuring real-time data exchange, the iPaaS helps both business models to work in parallel, unlocking the scope for unparalleled digital growth.