Ecommerce for Finance and the CFO: Your Basic Checklist for Success

Business is money, and money is the Finance department’s specialty. From financial planning and budgeting to auditing and accounting, Finance is responsible for managing the business’s money and issuing accurate and timely financial statements.

The unique opportunities (and challenges) of managing an ecommerce channel create a specific list of requirements that Finance teams and the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) look for when choosing a solution. Finance’s ideal ecommerce platform leverages an existing financial system, allowing the finance team an easier transition to the new sales channel. It maximizes security and efficiency, while minimizing errors and ensuring a first-rate customer experience.

Think of it as an ecommerce finance department checklist for success.

ERP Integration

One of the chief roles of the Finance department is the optimization of the order-to-cash process. That is, how quickly (and efficiently) money from new orders converts to company revenues. They are also responsible for accounts payable to suppliers, consultants and other creditors.

It should come as no surprise that Finance prefers an ERP-integrated e-commerce solution. Without ERP integration, finance staff has to copy every new order over to the ERP. Then, after invoicing the order, they have to copy it back into the web store.

For small orders with only one or two products, this might not be a problem. But when a large order comes in, this back-and-forth copying of orders and invoices becomes time consuming. And if the company gets a large volume of orders, their success can actually become a bottleneck that stalls order fulfillment, damaging the customer experience and ultimately holding back growth.

Equally important is integrated pricing data. B2B companies in particular often have highly complex product lines with multiple intricate pricing structures. As the company acquires new clients, grows and adjusts its strategy, price data changes.

Having to coordinate pricing updates across two systems doesn’t just cost the company a lot of time. It also carries significant risk of expensive human error. With an ERP-integrated e-commerce solution, updates made on one system synchronize to the other automatically. This way, customers are guaranteed accurate pricing data at all times.

PCI Security

Finance is keenly aware of the risks posed by a data breach. Credit card security is a top priority for companies that do business online. A data breach can be catastrophic to an e-commerce business. Over and above any financial losses the company suffers (and the potentially irreparable damage to their reputation), they can be liable for any damages suffered by their clients.

PCI Certification is the only way to guarantee the security of credit card data. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is a set of requirements that the major credit card companies have established to ensure the security of online transactions. PCI Certification is issued to products and systems that prove they meet these requirements, which are updated every year to stay current with the latest threats.

However, obtaining PCI Certification is a long and expensive process—one that needs to be repeated every year in order to retain your Certification.

That’s why smart Finance departments look for an ecommerce provider that undertakes annual PCI Certification of their own platform. This allows the company to benefit from the security of a PCI Certified solution without the time and cost of obtaining the certification themselves.

Controlled user access

Ecommerce websites have a variety of users. On the front end, you have customers (with accounts) and guests (without accounts). On the back end, you may have marketing users who update website content, sales and support users who place and modify orders, executive-level users who approve orders, and admin users who manage the whole site.

Clearly defining the levels of access for each of these user groups is critical both to business security and to overall strategy. For example, one business may allow customers to request product returns on the website. Another business may want to restrict this ability so that customers have to call in. So a Finance department will choose an ecommerce solution that lets them define these permissions easily.

In particular, B2B companies often have detailed purchase rules governing the sale of their products. For instance, clients may have to order a minimum quantity of a certain product. Or they may be limited to a maximum quantity per order.

If a client wants to place an order outside of these purchase rules, it will require approval. With a well-configured ecommerce solution, a company can define levels of approval for each purchase rule. They can also escalate each case as needed on the web store’s back end. This creates a smooth, easily-tracked protocol for orders outside the normal purchase rules.

Self-service features

Businesses without ERP integration lose an enormous amount of money on post-sale service calls, almost always for simple issues like order status updates.

This might seem hard to believe at first. But every phone call to your company requires a member of your staff to answer the call and retrieve the customer’s information. In the event of a back order or delayed shipping, a customer might call multiple times.

Let’s assume that your company spends $5 per order taking order status update calls. With even 100 orders per week, you’re spending $26,000 per year on order inquiries alone. That’s over and above other routine calls like change of address or a new payment method.

As Finance departments are always looking for ways to lower operational costs, they want an ecommerce solution that lets customers manage these tasks themselves. Instead of calling your office, customers can log in and check the status of their orders, update their address and add new payment methods.

Not only does this save your team a lot of time and money, it greatly improves the customer experience. As with placing orders, your customers enjoy having the autonomy to manage their own accounts. This autonomy ultimately translates into long-term customer loyalty, in addition to major cost savings for your business.

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