The key things to know about data integration in Ecommerce are:

  • Too many Ecommerce companies store their information in data silos, making it difficult to discover holistic trends and insights.

  • Ecommerce businesses rely on a number of different systems and applications to store and process data, from Ecommerce platforms themselves to third-party CRM, ERP, and marketing tools.

  • Migrating data out of silos and into a single centralized destination, such as a data warehouse, makes it much easier to run business intelligence and analytics workflows.

  • ETL vs. ELT and prebuilt vs. custom integrations are important questions to answer when implementing data integration in Ecommerce.

  • Reverse ETL and CDC (change data capture) are two highly useful features for an Ecommerce data integration platform.

Selecting the right Ecommerce platform is a crucial decision for your online store. Whether you go with Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, or another Ecommerce solution entirely, your choice will determine the features and functionality that your Ecommerce business has access to.

While Ecommerce software on its own might suffice for a small business, you’ll likely be looking to expand your IT environment as your company grows. The most useful solutions for Ecommerce companies include CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning), website builders, payment processors, and customer service tools—just to name a few.

As the size of your IT footprint increases, however, you’ll also need to bind these applications and platforms together more tightly using Ecommerce integration. Using data integration to your advantage in Ecommerce has a vast range of benefits for online retailers, from improving the customer experience to optimizing your business processes. In this article, we’ll discuss how Ecommerce marketplaces can see major results with data integration in a number of real-world use cases.

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Table of Contents

  1. What is Data Integration in Ecommerce?

  2. What are the Benefits of Ecommerce Integration?

  3. How Can You Perform Data Integration in Ecommerce?

  4. How Integrate.io Can Help with Data Integration in Ecommerce

What is Data Integration in Ecommerce?

In general, the term “data integration” describes any process that combines information from multiple sources, uniting this disparate data in a single location. Data integration in Ecommerce, then, refers to the collection of Ecommerce data from across the enterprise into a centralized destination, such as a data warehouse.

The most common data integration technique is called ETL (extract, transform, load). The “ETL” acronym refers to the three stages of the data integration pipeline:

  • First, data is extracted from one or more source locations.

  • Second, the extracted data is transformed as necessary (e.g., to improve data quality or to fit the target schema).

  • Third, the transformed data is loaded into a data warehouse, data lake, or another repository for easier storage and analysis.

Related Reading: What is Data Integration?

How does data integration in Ecommerce work, specifically? Depending on their business model, online stores may store information in a wide variety of formats, files, databases, and back-end systems, including:

  • Ecommerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce

  • CRM systems for customer data

  • ERP systems for data on business operations (e.g., supply chain, project management, accounting, etc.)

  • Marketing tools (e.g., for social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, etc.)

According to Statista, organizations used an average of 110 SaaS (software as a service) applications in 2021—skyrocketing from just 8 SaaS applications in 2015. Even if your own number is well below this figure, your Ecommerce company likely stores data in multiple locations.

The problem is that by default, these different locations don’t have a predefined way of communicating and exchanging data. This causes a pressing need for Ecommerce data integration tools, which handle all the technical complexity under the hood and assist businesses in migrating their data to a centralized location for easier processing and analysis.

Consider the example of a small Ecommerce company. On a day-to-day basis, the business may use any or all of the below tools and platforms to store and process data:

  • An Ecommerce platform like Shopify or Magento for collecting information about online purchases and transactions.

  • A relational database like Oracle or MySQL to manage the inventory levels of the products in their warehouse.

  • A support platform like Zendesk or Intercom to handle customer tickets, questions, and issues.

  • A CRM system like Salesforce to collect customer data (e.g. names, contact information, behaviors, preferences, etc.).

Even this relatively small IT environment contains a wealth of potentially priceless information that the Ecommerce business could leverage. Company decision-makers would like to integrate all this data and establish a “single source of truth”: a centralized repository that always contains the freshest, most up-to-date, most accurate data. In practice, this might be a cloud data warehouse, such as Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, or Snowflake.

What are the Benefits of Ecommerce Integration?

Like any other industry, Ecommerce businesses can see massive benefits from data integration for better analytics and business intelligence. Just a few advantages and use cases of data integration in Ecommerce include:

  • Measuring business performance: Without the right metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) to judge your Ecommerce store’s performance, you won’t know whether the business decisions you make are successful or not. By monitoring these indicators over time, you can identify hidden patterns and insights, optimize for business growth, and correct course if necessary.

  • Offering a better user experience: By collecting information from across the enterprise, Ecommerce companies can better understand how their intended audience interacts with their storefront. Data integration gives Ecommerce businesses a customer 360 view of their user base and helps pinpoint opportunities for personalization to increase sales.

  • Evaluating marketing campaigns: Ecommerce stores need to operate across many different marketing and sales channels, from email marketing and social media to search engine optimization. Collecting information about a particular marketing initiative through data integration can help you calculate the success of that campaign (e.g., through the number of website visits, sales, or social media interactions).

  • Smarter logistics and supply chain: Integrating Ecommerce product information can help you make better decisions about your store’s orders, shipments, and inventory. For example, you can keep track of seasonal trends in product data and then adjust your inventory management processes to always keep items in stock.

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How Can You Perform Data Integration in Ecommerce?

So far, we’ve discussed the definition of data integration in Ecommerce, as well as the benefits of doing so. Let’s now move from the theoretical to the practical. How can your Ecommerce business start implementing data integration?

The vast majority of Ecommerce stores will make use of a purpose-built Ecommerce data integration platform. This is a software tool for online retailers who need to migrate various collections of data into a centralized data warehouse in order to run BI and analytics workloads. In this section, we’ll go over several concerns that you should think about when choosing your data integration solution.

Manual vs. Automated Data Integration

There’s no single right way to perform data integration in Ecommerce, but there is a wrong way: manual data entry. If your employees are copying and pasting files and information by hand (e.g. from Excel spreadsheets into a database), you’re squandering valuable time and effort that they could be spending on higher-level activities.

Instead of time-consuming and error-prone manual processes, you should be using a data integration tool with built-in automation. This means that users define the data pipelines that they want to deploy, set the frequency with which to run data integration jobs, and then let the platform go to work.

The most user-friendly type of Ecommerce data integration platform is one with a visual drag-and-drop interface. With just a few clicks and without writing a single line of code, users can define complex data pipelines and transformations from sources to targets.

ETL vs. ELT

We’ve already discussed the ETL (extract, transform, load) approach to data integration above—but it’s far from your only option when it comes to data integration in Ecommerce.

The most popular alternative to ETL is ELT (extract, load, transform). As the name suggests, ELT reverses the order of the second and third steps, performing the loading stage before doing any transformations.

ELT is often used for big data and unstructured data, i.e., information such as text, images, and videos that can’t fit neatly into a traditional relational database. This offers more flexibility and agility than standard ETL workloads but can have drawbacks in terms of data privacy, security, and quality.

Yet another variant of ETL is ETLT, in which there are two transformation stages: one before loading into the target repository and one after. This approach tries to mediate between ETL and ELT by supposedly offering the best of both worlds.

The transformations during the first T stage are typically more “lightweight” ones, such as cleansing data and masking sensitive and confidential information. Meanwhile, the second T stage uses more heavy-duty transformations to integrate data from multiple sources.

Regardless of which option you go with—ETL, ELT, or ETLT—make sure to select an Ecommerce data integration tool that meets your needs.

Prebuilt vs. Custom Data Integration

The next question is whether to use a data integration platform with prebuilt connectors or to develop your own custom data integrations. The answer here is particularly important for Ecommerce stores, many of which can’t afford to maintain a large in-house team of data engineers.

To the greatest extent possible, you should look for an Ecommerce data integration solution with prebuilt connectors that fit your existing setup. Being able to leverage these connectors and integrations will save you a great deal of time, money, and effort in the long run.

Building your own custom Ecommerce integrations is feasible but should be avoided if possible. Doing so will require in-depth coding knowledge and potentially days or weeks of work. What’s more, the custom integration you create may be brittle and suddenly stop working if the underlying systems change, requiring you to perform additional maintenance in the future.

Data Integration Features and Functionality

Last but not least, your choice of Ecommerce data integration solution should include any specialized features and functionality that can help make your processes and workflows more efficient.

One particularly important data integration feature is CDC (change data capture). With CDC, users can automatically detect which records, tables, or databases have changed or been added since the most recent ETL job. They can then schedule the next job to only ingest the new or changed records, potentially saving massive amounts of time and effort.

Related Reading: Change Data Capture: CDC for E-Commerce

Another valuable data integration feature for Ecommerce businesses is reverse ETL. The concept of reverse ETL turns data integration on its head, moving information out of a centralized repository and into third-party software and platforms.

So why would you want to perform reverse ETL after you’ve just spent so much effort getting all these sources into your data warehouse in the first place? The greatest benefit of reverse ETL is that it makes information and insights available to a wider range of people. Whereas analytics workloads within a data warehouse are usually the domain of specialists, reverse ETL enables non-technical users to perform analytics within the third-party platforms that they already use and are familiar with.

Related Reading: E-Commerce Reverse ETL

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How Integrate.io Can Help with Data Integration in Ecommerce

From the definition of data integration in Ecommerce to the most crucial issues to consider, this article is intended to help Ecommerce businesses get started leveraging data integration. There’s just one question left to answer: Which is the right data integration platform for your unique situation?

Integrate.io is a powerful, feature-rich, yet user-friendly ETL and ELT data integration solution. The Integrate.io platform has been built from the ground up for the needs of Ecommerce stores.

Even the most non-technical business users can make use of Integrate.io’s simple, no-code, drag-and-drop interface to start defining and deploying rich data pipelines. If you ever have a question or concern, Integrate.io customer representatives are available via telephone, live chat, email, or online meeting.

What’s more, Integrate.io comes packed with more than 140 pre-built connectors and integrations that Ecommerce businesses need to construct pipelines to their data warehouse or data lake. Integrate.io also includes invaluable features such as FlyData CDC (change data capture) and reverse ETL, helping make your data integration workflows as efficient and accessible as possible.

Ready to see the power of an Ecommerce data integration platform for yourself? Get in touch with our team of Ecommerce data integration experts today for a chat about your business needs and objectives or to start your 7-day pilot of the Integrate.io platform.