So, you might be wondering, what does Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Application Programming Interface (API), and web e-Commerce all have in common with managing complex customer relationships? The answer: Communication. EDI is a set of software standards that allows business partners to send documents and data electronically and fluidly to each other using strict industry standards. It’s typically integrated with the traditional on-premise IT infrastructure. API is similar in that it also electronically sends information, but it’s the more modern option allowing for an easier custom integration between two solutions. The most recognizable of the three is web e-Commerce. This is designed to handle commercial transactions between suppliers, partners, and customers. It can be hard to know what the differences mean in terms of your experience with them, and which option would be best for your company, so we’re going to help with that.
Why Companies are Choosing to Integrate with their Partners
Managing your customers and partners effectively and efficiently is fundamental to owning a lucrative business. These days it’s a lot easier if you can automate that communication between you and your external business partners and is almost essential for your clients to buy or order from you online. EDIs, APIs and e-Commerce web solutions are dependable applications used to transfer and seamlessly deliver information and data. They help electronically automate critical business transactions such as purchase orders, shipments, and invoicing, to name just a few. They provide better management of B2B and B2C interactions and are a necessity if you want happy customers, streamlined business processes, effective supply chain management, and increased overall profits.
If implemented successfully, EDIs, APIs and e-Commerce solutions are extremely cost-efficient. Since business transactions are done electronically, the cost-savings come from less paperwork, reduction in human errors, better utilization of staff, improved efficiency, accuracy, and transaction speed. For example, in a logistic company requesting spot quotes through an API eliminates hundreds of calls and emails that take place on a weekly basis.
Benefits of API
With the high number of businesses moving to cloud computing, API users are increasing. Many businesses are choosing to directly integrate with their customers and suppliers using web-based tools or direct connections to their respective networks because it’s the cloud-based and more flexible option. The API approach is more adaptable, than EDI or e-commerce which are standards-based, because the two partners are writing their own programs to exchange data directly rather than using industry-accepted standards. This method can be quick and inexpensive but can also present its own challenges since the lack of standards can lead to miscommunication and failed implementations. If the two partners can’t agree on a set of standards on how to communicate and share data, you’ll have a problem. While a lot of solutions tout having an open API as a great benefit as then you can integrate with anything, it also means you’re responsible for that API integration and its cost. With needing to reinventing the wheel to build each API integration, the cost & complexity of development should be factored into the decision of whether to go this route.
Benefits of EDI
EDI is the most common integration solution as more than 300,000 companies worldwide use EDI in daily business transactions. While this is encouraging, EDI is considered less flexible or slow when comparing to it API. EDI is less responsive as it stores and then sends data and information, resulting in a delayed process. However, these disadvantages may be offset by its reliability and accuracy as it abides by set industry-accepted standards. EDI follows these pre-established standardized formats, so you and your business partners don’t have to develop your own which sometimes results in an unfortunate outcome if you can’t agree on a standard format for your transactions. The standardization can makes integrating with EDI a simpler and possibly more cost effective option, but there may be limitations compared to an API integration so you need to weigh the pros & cons for your specific situation.
Benefits of Web e-Commerce
Online business is growing so quickly that e-Commerce is expected to serve a staggering 2.14 billion people in 2021. Businesses are clearly utilizing e-Commerce solutions to manage their B2C relationships. Customers want a user-friendly, quick, secure, and easy way to purchase their products & services online, and in the comfort of their own home. With more and more people shopping online, businesses need to adapt to the demand innovatively. E-Commerce software offers the perfect solution to customers and businesses, and at a reasonable cost. E-Commerce is appealing to companies because of its dependability and minimal effort to set up and manage. It also allows businesses to track data, like customer’s spending habits and behaviors, more effectively since it’s all captured digitally. All of this leads to a better-quality of relationship between your business and its customers.
At the end of the day, it’s obvious that managing complex customer relationships is imperative to your company’s success. It’s up to you, as a business owner, to decide how you choose to manage them and which option is best for your partners or customers. We’ve helped many clients choose & implement an EDI or e-Commerce solution, or create their own API integration, so if you have questions, we can help guide you into making the best decision based on your goals for you and your company.