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Integrating systems for better customer service

It is very important to integrate e-commerce with the existing structures of the business. This is called the back-end system. Initially the back-end information system was developed on the intranet (within the business and for internal purposes only). For integration purposes we must look at the electronic commerce platform and the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

Traditionally, the planning, manufacturing, warehousing, accounting, finance, sales, marketing and human resources departments of a business would each have their own individually tailored computer applications. The advantage of this traditional approach is the high level of customisation made possible in each department’s applications. The major drawback to this approach is the inability to capture data once and then share the data across applications.

For example, under the traditional approach the data from a customer order might have to be a number of multiple times: once for the sales department, then for the warehouse, and again for the accounting department. As you can imagine, this duplication of labour is expensive and time-consuming. The traditional approach also had a negative effect on customer service. A customer calling the finance department to arrange new credit terms would most likely be told to call back and speak to someone in the warehouse to determine if a recent order had been shipped.


Nowadays, most businesses have abandoned the traditional approach in favour of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which allows different functional areas of the business to share information.

The term enterprise is used to define organisations of all sizes, but especially large organisations that use computer networks to interact with employees, vendors and customers. ERP is a term used to refer to a system that links individual applications (for example, accounting and manufacturing applications) to a single application that, in turn, integrates the data and business processes of the entire e-business.

ERP software refers to a category of software used to integrate core business processes, from planning to production, distribution and sales. The providers of such programs include SAP, Peoplesoft, Oracle, Baan and J.D. Edwards.

The marketing importance of ERP is demonstrated in the fact that ERP is viewed by many practitioners in the marketing and IT industries as the foundation for a good CRM implementation. CRM is seen as the application that can be used for differentiation to attain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Many argue that without a strong ERP backbone, CRM might not work as it is designed since businesses cannot serve their customers effectively without a sound transactional database.

Marketing deals with the satisfaction of the customer needs, and it is therefore essential for the business to gain knowledge and an understanding of the needs, desires, attitudes and habits of its customer. A product’s online consumer is not necessarily the same consumer for the same product. In fact, there are important differences that the marketer must take into account in the online marketing approach. Customers react differently online and offline, which must also be taken into consideration.

A very important benefit of online marketing is the possibility of personalising the marketing effort and applying the principles of one-to-one marketing, which is a significant refinement of the practice of applying market segmentation.

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