Discussion around the evaluation of eCommerce/Accounting integration tools. What to look for and what to avoid.

CartSpan WooCommerce/QuickBooks integration supports import of detailed payment method

Syed “Nazrul” Hassan, author of the ‘Stripe Payment Gateway WooCommerce Addon’ (SPGWA) has extended the functionality of his extension to support CartSpan integration with WooCommerce. The basic WooCommerce implementation allows payments to be taken via PayPal, but will not provide suitable detail regarding the payment method for merchants to reconcile payments. The basic PayPal integration will only provide back a reference of ‘Credit Card’ for the online payment transaction.  His ‘Stripe Payment Gateway’ has been extended to allow merchants using the CartSpan eCommerce integration to import a ‘real’ reference as to what type of credit card was actually used (i.e., Visa, MasterCard, Discover, etc.) as well as a reference to the last four digits of the card used.

This small, but very important feature,  supports a superior integration where the merchant may more easily reconcile payments made with bank statements from the associated card companies. This functionality is especially useful with QuickBooks U.S. accounting system where the built-in ‘Undeposited Funds’  feature is targeted to this business process of payment reconciliation.

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CartSpan supports mapping of supplemental eCommerce data in the accounting integration process

The concept of the open-source software represents a double-edged sword for merchants. The ability to tailor software to meet business requirements is highly-valued, but the very changes a developer makes to support these requirements can render 3rd party integration tools useless. This even includes cases where the developer makes changes outside of what is commonly referred to as the ‘core’ product.

For instance, if a merchant needs to apply a non-standard up-charge on an order, the typical development practice is to add an additional column to the orders table (or elsewhere) to support the transaction. Everything is then coded properly and functions according to specification. The problem that ensues for 3rd party integrations is that they ‘know nothing’ of your new supporting table/columns as they are looking for information based upon the standard schema of the database. As a result, the transaction being imported into the accounting system fails because part of the money is simply missing.

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CartSpan Supports QuickBooks Advanced Inventory by Site AND Location

QuickBooks offers users of its Enterprise Edition functionality known as Advanced Inventory. This functionality allows for the creation of multiple ‘sites’ and creation of multiple ‘locations’ within each site; which can also be thought of as ‘warehouse/bin’ designations. Inventory may then be distributed amongst the individual storage locations, thus supporting more precise availability in the order taking and fulfillment processes.

The process indicated above flow naturally when an order is originated via the QuickBooks user interface, given that the person taking the order manually selects the desired stock location. A gap, however, exists when eCommerce orders are imported into QuickBooks via 3rd party integrations. Given that the QuickBooks SDK (Software Development Kit) does not expose the default storage location for each item, the most popular integrations, at best, have been limited to importing just a default ‘site’, thereby leaving a significant amount of manual adjustment to enable an efficient pick-list. Using extensive business logic, CartSpan has overcome this limitation to reference an appropriate stock ‘location’ at the time of import. This logic also accounts for items that may have two (or more) storage locations and can be configured to ignore locations that might be designated as ‘Quarantine.’

Seemingly small features such as these can greatly improve the operational efficiency of an organization, especially when order line-item counts are high.

Use Magento Configurable product type with Custom Options to offer configurable bundling

The following paragraphs describe a method of using Magento to offer fixed-price bundling, but with the user being able to select individual options from configured subgroups of products. Such functionality IS NOT presently available in standard Magento CE and can only be obtained via complex, expensive, and often poorly supported extensions.

The CartSpan eCommerce integration for QuickBooks and Sage 50 now supports a configurable bundle offering without any code changes to your Magento system. All work is accomplished utilizing standard fields in Magento’s existing Configurable product type and one has only to follow SKU formatting guidelines recognized by CartSpan’s import logic. This approach eliminates any opportunity for disruptions during future Magento upgrades and provides a new and powerful marketing tool for attracting customers.

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Discover open-source cloud accounting with FrontAccounting ERP

FrontAccounting appears to be a relative ‘sleeper’ in the realm of open-source cloud-based accounting with tremendous up-side potential. Minus the modern marketing and flashy UI of more widely known commercial accounting products such as FreshBooks or Xero,  FrontAccounting  offers the same basic functionality (and more) for businesses to effectively manage their operations…at no cost.

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Realize a Fast, Tangible Return-On-Investment (ROI) By Integrating Your Shopping Cart And Accounting System

Cold hard facts, we all respect them. When they are against us, they are hard to argue. When they are on our side, they give us confidence in our decision making. Such benefits with regard to eCommerce integrations are widely touted, but factual support in the form of ‘cold hard facts’ are almost always conspicuously absent. If you have been contemplating the integration of your web store with your QuickBooks or Sage 50 accounting system, here is a hard statistic that should help:
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Handling Customer IDs when Moving from Bricks-n-Mortar to Online Commerce

Perhaps the stickiest obstacle in successfully migrating from a legacy ‘Bricks-n-Mortar’ business to operating an online store is the creation of new customer IDs/Names. Over the course of time, customer IDs may have been created without utilizing any standard naming convention.  When the prospect of integration is delved into more deeply, the process of reconciling the automatic creation of new customer master records with the potentially 1000’s of bespoke customer IDs can appear intractable.

Jeff Lipton, owner of Bobalu Cigar Co., states “When my business first started 10+ years ago, we did not anticipate the technology of today.” The technology Lipton is referring to is essentially the eCommerce platforms of today that readily enable most any business to sell online. So, Lipton, and other likeminded business people, would simply create a slightly different customer ID for the 2nd “John Smith” that called to order their product.  The problem manifests itself deeply when subsequent IDs are created as “John Smith 2”, or “John Smith-3”, or “John A. Smith” …you get the point.
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The eCommerce Business System: Guidance for Beginners

I often get the question, or some variant of, “Which shopping cart works best with CartSpan,” or “Which shopping cart works best with XYZ accounting system?” To which I always reply, “It depends…” A ‘squishy’ response to a question that, for most people stepping into eCommerce for the first time, would appreciate a more affirmative answer.

This is where, at a minimum, I encourage people to take a step back and consider their own business processes; where current and future requirements might be matched to an appropriate eCommerce platform. And if possible, take two steps back and consider the end-to-end business system that they envision themselves operating within. This is important as the decisions that are made can involve considerable investment, possibly limit an organizations capability, and be costly to undo.

If you are just getting started, to the point where you have no legacy accounting system or eCommerce platform, then the world is your oyster. The key consideration in this circumstance is to fully understand how all products function within a given architecture before committing to any individual component. As a biased advocate of the CartSpan eCommerce integration, this blog content assumes that you are (or intend to be) a user of either QuickBooks or Sage 50 accounting.
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Use CartSpan eCommerce integration for QuickBooks to leverage grouped product functionality in your shopping cart

Suppose you have a group of items you think will sell better together, like a SHOP THIS LOOK deal.   Maybe, you have a hat, scarf and gloves that all look great together and you want to offer them to your customers as a group.  They get a great look; you sell more items.

Luckily, QuickBooks accounting supports the creation of an item with a product type of ‘Grouped.’ One may then associate multiple child products, with individual quantities, to the grouped parent item. Thus, when the individual parent is selected on the QuickBooks invoice, like all of the associated child items are automatically added to the order. This feature of QuickBooks has been a tremendous time-saver for organizations utilizing such marketing-oriented groupings.

When customers come to our site, they typically buy more than one item.  As an on-line retailer, I need to make sure I make it easy for them to add more items,”   says Lisa Foster, who runs two eCommerce carts, www.1bagatatime.com and www.snapsac.com.

The problem for Foster, and many online vendors, is that her accounting and shopping cart capabilities were out-of-sync.  Her Magento cart wasn’t configured to offer group items,, so keeping track of inventory, getting accurate data on what was paid for what, offering a group deal to encourage more spending, became messy.  The Magento eCommerce platform natively supports the concept ‘grouping’ to improve the customers’ buying experience, but carts of lesser complexity (and there are many) may never offer such functionality.
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Use the M2E Pro community extension for Magento to consolidate web orders from your Amazon and eBay merchant accounts

If you have an Amazon and/or eBay merchant account, and are considering extending your presence online with a full-blown eCommerce platform, consider Magento and its widely popular M2E extension to tie things together.

Magento, coupled with M2E Pro, will allow you single-point visibility to all order activity. M2E Pro will collect orders from eBay and Amazon and import them into Magento using the standard order series in Magento.
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