Practical Ecommerce

How to Integrate Cloud-based Platforms

Ecommerce businesses increasingly rely on cloud-based applications, such as hosted shopping carts, analytics platforms, cloud-based accounting, customer service tools, and more.

To operating smoothly, a merchant’s cloud-based apps should integrate with each other, to save time and to otherwise prevent data loss and ensure accurate reporting.

It’s important, therefore, to have an integration mindset when choosing and using software-as-a-service solutions.

Here are tips to help.

Check the Company’s Integrations Page or API

When evaluating a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, first determine if it integrates with the platforms that you’re already using. Pre-built integrations will save much time. Alternatively, if a company has an application programming interface (API), use it to integrate the app with your existing systems.

If you can’t find the integration you need or if you want to avoid the API option, contact the vendor directly and ask if it can make its platform sync with your existing solutions. Don’t underestimate the power of reaching out to your vendors. At Retention Science, my company, we’ve connected our platform with others simply because a client asked us to do it.

Use Cloud App Integration Services

Another option is to use SaaS integration services. You have plenty of choices, depending on what you need to connect. If you just need to integrate two apps, like Dropbox to Gmail, for instance, you can use IFTTT — “If This Then That” — a service that lets you assign triggers and actions to each app through a drag-and-drop interface. When one program does something, it will automatically trigger another app to perform an action. For example, you can create a “recipe” wherein all your Gmail attachments are automatically saved to your Dropbox folder. IFTTT is free to use, to integrate up to 80 apps.

A similar service, Zapier, lets you do the same thing, but on a larger scale. It supports more than 250 applications, including Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Xero accounting, Campaign Monitor email, and more. Zapier is free for five integrations. It also offers Basic, Business, and Business Plus plans that cost $15, $49, and $99 per month, respectively.

IFTTT and Zapier work well to integrate two cloud applications. However, if you’re running a combination of cloud and on-premise applications, or if you have an ecosystem of apps and data sources that have to connect and exchange data, you need more sophisticated options.

That’s where services such as Dell Boomi and SnapLogic come in. Like IFTTT and Zapier, these solutions use a drag-and-drop interface, but at a larger scale. They connect multiple combinations of cloud and on-premise applications.

SnapLogic

SnapLogic can connect cloud and on-premise applications.

Use Free Trials

Always test-drive your apps or integration services. Most SaaS platforms offer free trials. Take note of user-friendliness, functionality, and observe how they function with programs you already have.

Ask Around

As with evaluating any vendor for your company, go beyond the company’s website. Ask the vendor about other customers. Get references. Contact those companies and ask how the platform is working. Is it easy to set-up? Does it integrate seamlessly with other apps? How long does it take to transfer data from one app to the other? These are just some of the questions you need to ask when evaluating an app.

Also check social media sites for any discussions pertaining to the program. Read what people are tweeting. Check relevant LinkedIn groups.

Jerry Jao

Jerry Jao

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Zet Priston April 10, 2014 Reply

    One more service for data integration – Skyvia (http://skyvia.com/). It has released the beta version recentrly. Among the functionality: Salesforce data loader – http://skyvia.com/solutions/salesforce-integration.html (data export and import), data replication and data synhronization.