Find out how you can integrate a webshop with global marketplaces and other third party sales channels without losing future flexibility with APIs and a cloud-based modular integration solution.
The Technology Behind Marketplace Integration
The e-commerce sector has matured and so has the technology that makes it work. Today’s e-commerce runs more smoothly and is more integrated than ever before due to well-developed modular solutions.
ChannelEngine is easy to set-up, quick and cost-effective to integrate an online store with marketplaces and sales channels. The modular architecture means they are more versatile and easier to customize. This is a huge improvement on the old-school, ‘fully customized’ solutions that were available at the dawn of online selling.
But how do these integration solutions work? How can ChannelEngine connect your systems to global marketplaces, while preserving your own streamlined processes?
Connected with APIs
What makes this connection possible is the widespread use of Application Programming Interface (APIs). We’ll look at these in more detail below, but quite simply, an API enables all the ‘nut and bolts’ functional applications to work together. They connect to databases and other resources used in the ‘backend’ of your online store to collect and exchange data, regardless of what operating system or programming language they use.
An API is able to collect data about your stock, pricing, promotions, product content and pass it to a marketplace, so they can offer the products for sale. When a customer makes a purchase, a reciprocal API connection allows the marketplace to complete the sale on your system. It then generates an order in your system – just like it came from your own website.
ChannelEngine’s e-commerce ecosystem is designed and maintained by dedicated programmers and industry specialists. They understand the technical and real-world challenges of omnichannel selling. The software is built to be easy to use for the brand or retailer. It uses API connections to make a seamless integration between your own systems (e.g. Webshop, Warehouse Management System (WMS) , Product Information Management (PIM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)) with pretty much every marketplace or sales channel around the world.
ChannelEngine is the leading platform for connecting global e-commerce for many reasons. It offers a diverse range of powerful tools, allows easy integration of all processes (product listing, ordering, returns, etc.) , and it is controlled via a simple, single dashboard. The ChannelEngine SaaS solution is powered by technologies using a .NET core.
The main advantages of SaaS are greater mobility, better collaboration, faster innovation, effortless scalability and lower cost of ownership.
We’ll also explore this further below, but the main advantage of having APIs on both sides (channel & merchant) is that it allows potentially limitless future integrations, updates, and extended functionalities.
APIs are the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ that make integrations possible. However, in order to make them effective, you need a well-designed software solution. It must to be able to combine multiple functions and powerful capabilities, while enabling the user to access these in an easy, intuitive way.
With so many different angles to consider, it needs to be made as easy as possible to solve these challenges.
How the ChannelEngine Product Solves Diverse Technical Challenges
As a seller, there are lots of different requirements to meet when you start selling on a marketplace.
There are all the obvious ones like product details, data format, and image requirements.
There are also requirements that relate to the way your business operates, such as company registration information, tax information, shipping time, returns policy, and the like.
When you start looking at the technical requirements for setting up API connections, this becomes a whole other challenge.
Each marketplace has its own set of requirements for APIs that make the connection between your systems and their systems possible. They usually maintain a degree of control over what software is allowed and how it is developed. Many will offer their own software solutions, however, they work only with their system.
Imagine using a separate app for each marketplace!
As a retailer or brand, you want a single piece of software that does everything. All the various data from all channels has to be brought together in one place, and formatted in the same way. In addition, all of the management processes need to be simple and universal across all channels.
This is where ChannelEngine steps in. ChannelEngine’s SaaS product is able to fulfil all of the technical requirements for each different API connection, and boasts an easy user interface. It also provides our customers with a variety of powerful features and tools.
Our customers have the opportunity to increase their online presence and outsmart their competition by making use of the most comprehensive integration, where ChannelEngine.com:
- Automatically imports and updates your product information from the current platform, so you can keep your webshop, ERP or PIM as the primary source
- Synchronizes stock and price changes between all marketplaces
- Automatically generates international invoices, taking into account European VAT rules
- Applies advanced pricing rules, allowing for desired margins and stock of other suppliers
- Sets up dynamic filters to control your product offer, including its specific minimum stock, margin, price, and other criteria
- Monitors your sales and shipments
- Provides translations services to address a multilingual aspect within sales networks
- Creates digital product bundles for long shelf-life items, similar products, or bestsellers to push revenues
- Have competitive insights and act on them accordingly
With a fast onboarding process, ChannelEngine connects your ERP (or online store), WMS or PIM to almost any existing marketplace.
It can connect directly with powerful e-commerce platforms like Intershop using the Intershop Commerce Management (ICM) XML product data feed.
Once your store is connected to ChannelEngine, you are able to select which products you want to sell in which marketplaces, adjust pricing strategies, and start selling. ChannelEngine also offers the following advantages:
- Mobile apps, which allow you to keep tabs on your sales wherever you are
- Works with all major marketplaces
- Made for any business; works with existing APIs, order management systems, ERPs, XML/CMS data feeds, and e-commerce packages
- Full order integration with your current system, to keep it streamlined
- Totally integrated returns (for all channels that support it)
- Dynamic product filtering, synchronized and updated across all channels
To make all this possible, ChannelEngine must perform the herculean task of communicating with multiple systems, bringing all the data together in one place, while making it easy to manage. It does all this while also providing a powerful toolkit with advanced selling options that works across all channels. How does ChannelEngine manage to handle all this data, using various sources and formats? This all comes from leveraging the power of APIs and an intelligently designed, modular architecture.
Although you may not be planning to become an IT specialist just yet, it is still useful to understand the key terms and system architecture of the ChannelEngine product.
“ChannelEngine is a cloud-based Software as a Service software(SaaS) product that uses a RESTful API architecture, which is based on the .NET core.”
So what does that mean? To start with, Cloud-based infrastructure means that processing power and information storage is distributed across multiple remote servers. As a result, this is less susceptible to outages or malicious attacks. It ensures practically 100% uptime.
API (Application Programming Interface)
APIs form a common framework that enables different software and systems to interact. They exchange data using defined sets of requests and responses. APIs are all based on a ‘call’ and ‘response’ format. The API will handle the ‘call’ by retrieving the required data (resource) and then by sending a response (either as universally formatted data or a ‘representation’) back to the client. There are private APIs, partner APIs and public APIs (but you’ll mostly encounter the last two).
REST APIs are a particular kind of API which adhere to specific architectural norms (see below). This architecture gives them high degrees of flexibility and interoperability. Most partner and public APIs are based on a REST architecture. An API that follows REST architectural standards is often referred to as a RESTful API.
There are other standards that can be used, including the familiar old Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems, but also other API types, such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) APIs.
EDIs are a legacy system that are still used by some companies because they work for many basic purposes. The precursor to EDIs originated in the 1940s but were developed and brought into their current form in the 1970s. All APIs have advantages over EDIs; they are more versatile, quicker to set up, and easier to maintain. APIs also provide dynamic, real-time data. EDIs are just not fast enough for e-commerce, although they still have niche uses in other fields.
SOAP APIs are another common type of API, and are used in many applications. They have many of the advantages of APIs, but fall short of the versatility of REST API.
SOAP can only work with XML-formatted data, whereas REST can work with more data formats including JSON, which allows it to work easily with web-browser clients. REST is generally faster, and has more integration possibilities because it is so widely used.
Most marketplaces require partners to use REST APIs as a standard, and they often have specific software requirements beyond this.
RESTful APIs are all based on a fundamentally modular design principle. This makes possible a theoretically unlimited extension of capabilities if required. They are future-proof.
REST stands for Representational State Transfer, and it consists of a ‘stateless’ protocol and standard operations. ‘Stateless’ here means that the ‘representation’ sent as a response is not stored on the server that sends it, but is handled and rendered entirely on the client-side.
A RESTful API must follow six rules below, but is characterized by being lightweight (quick loading, near-zero latency), flexible in application, easier to customize, and with a modular architecture that enables trouble-free updating and maintenance.
REST API calls are usually sent via HTTP, and responses are returned as HTML, XML, text, or JSON.
The Six Rules of REST(ful) API
The six rules of REST(ful) API are:
- Client-server architecture
- Cache capable
- Multi-layer system
- Code on demand (optional)
- Uniform interface
These architectural qualities ensure a flexible and fast handling of data. The stateless, client-side architecture ensures that servers are minimally loaded with unnecessary data requests or session caching. For this reason REST APIs are seen as the standard by all major players.
The operating core of each REST API is .NET (previously .NET Core).
.NET (pronounced ‘dot net’) is a software framework that allows interoperability across different operating systems. It was originally developed by Microsoft, but it is now an open-source framework which is managed by a non-profit foundation.
.NET is predominantly written in C# (C-sharp, a language in the C family), however it enables multiple coding languages to be handled using a Common Language Infrastructure (CLI).
It uses the CLI to enable Linux, Windows, and MacOS systems to interact with each other. Because .NET is an open-source framework, it has an unimaginably large number of developers working on innovations, efficiencies and solutions.
Both the .NET and REST API architectures are based on similar design principles; modularity and with open-source support. These ensure the ability to communicate between different systems, in real-time, regardless of what language or data format they use. Because they are open-source, they are under constant maintenance and never become obsolete – they just evolve. For the ChannelEngine user, this means limitless and seamless integration with every possible marketplace or channel.
This modular approach is fully supported by ChannelEngine’s SaaS product, which uses the power of REST APIs and a .NET core to provide a service that is nimble and versatile (as well as being easy to use). It also means that future developments and improvements are easily added to the ChannelEngine product, to make sure it retains its position as the best integration solution available.
Marketplace integration has never been so easy. ChannelEngine makes the connection for you, bringing together and synchronising data from all sales channels and systems, to ensure a smooth and profitable process from the start.
Interested to see how ChannelEngine can easily unlock your access to marketplace selling? Book a free demo today, or contact your responsible Intershop sales representative to find out more!