Ecommerce for Clothing, Sports or Footwear Retailers

Web links are a vital part of modern retailing, but what they actually offer can differ considerably from system to system – you need to understand these differences and the effect they may have.

“For someone using a ‘general (non-size/colour) system’ like we used to, I’d certainly recommend that they move over to Top to Toe”

Mr Cricket (Sportswear)

“5 stars all round, great product and you couldn’t ask to speak to friendlier people.”

Eccleshall Saddlery (Equestrian)

“Even the new sales assistants can adapt to Top to Toe within minutes.”

Pie Clothing (Fashion)

“Top to Toe have greatly helped us manage & develop our stock system over the last few years. Their helpful & knowledgeable staff are always on hand to help.”

Tacklebag (Sportswear)

“Once the products are on Top to Toe, it’s very easy to then put those products onto a website.”

Angels Uniforms (Schoolwear)

“Friendly EPOS, insightful reporting facilities, seamless website integration and a friendly customer care & training team.”

RunPod (Footwear)

“Cannot praise the technical team enough, whenever we have issues they are always on hand, efficient, quick and get the problem resolved quickly! Excellent service.”

Sheen Sports (Sportswear)

“We used to do stock management manually. Top to Toe came to make such a big difference to all of our staff.”

Uniform 4 Kids (Schoolwear)

“Top to Toe has a really easy way of spotting trends – I’m able to identify what sizes, colours and styles are selling best. It’s intuitive, anyone can use it”

Claudio Lugli (Fashion)

“Incredibly easy to use, saving me hours upon hours per week. It’s both transformed my business and my day-to-day tasks.”

Michael Leigh Menswear (Fashion)

“Top to Toe was a revelation – we run much more efficiently now. We couldn’t run our business in the current climate without it”

Burrs Shoes (Footwear)

“Within seconds you can find things incredibly quickly using Top to Toe’s filter. Previously, we were trawling through lines and lines of data”

Uniform 4 Kids (Schoolwear)

Ecommerce Benefits
For EPOS Stock Management Users

Web links are a vital part of modern retailing, but what they actually offer can differ considerably from system to system – you need to understand these differences and the effect they may have.

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Auto create products on one or many web sites

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Automatically captures sales data

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Streamlines the sales tracking process for each channelEtc, etc…

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Allows stock at multiple physical locations to be sold on multiple web sites

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Allows stock at multiple physical locations to be sold on multiple web sites

Ecommerce

How Does Ecommerce Integration Work?

Why is web site integration so important?

The answer to this is simple. It’s basically impossible to do this task manually, it takes far, far too much time, especially if you are selling in more than one place. Remember you need to keep the web site completely up to date so that it reflects the ever-changing stock position. You don’t want to sell stock you don’t have. When you sell in one shop or web site this effects the stock availability for the other shop/web site.

To be ‘on top of it’ manually would mean you had an accurate way of knowing all your stock for every size and colour. It would also mean that every time new products come in you go to each web site and add them in; every time you receive in more of a line you go to each web site and adjust the stock; every time you sell anything, anywhere, you go to each web site and adjust the stock

Additionally, bear in mind that to update your web sites means that you have to know your stock position in the first place; and this means you also need to be running some form of stock management process/system. It may be possible to do this manually (just) if you restrict yourself to one site and to only a few products – and if you are a clothing/footwear retailer to very, very few products. But why would you do this? It drastically limits your sales potential and the growth of your business.

Do integrations differ in quality ?

A web site integration is all about sending product data to the site and receiving back sales information, and in essence this sounds quite simple – but it isn’t! Because it’s fairly complex it’s difficult to do well, and so there are a some very poor integrations on offered as well as some far higher quality integrations available.

All of this has to be weighed against the quality of the EPOS stock management system itself. You can accept a small compromise on stock management if the systems linkage to web sites is really good. Or If you’re an apparel retailer and it’s a specialist EPOS stock management system then that’s the most important part… but the web linkage part still has to do at least a basic job – and of course ideally you want it to do a really good job.

Integration quality: An Overview

When we speak of web site integration, we are generally referring to three elements:

  • The first is the ability of an EPOS stock system to automatically create a product on a web site without human involvement.
  • The second is the ability to synchronise the real-world stock availability with that product.
  • The third is the ability to receive back and process sales data from a site.

However, the quality and scope of the integration will depend upon both parties – the stock management system and the site it is being linked to. For example, the site itself has to have the ability to create products from data being sent to it – data can be sent by a stock management system but it’s the site itself which has to use that data to make a product. If the site does not have this capability then there is nothing the stock management company can do to make it happen, no amount of ‘more data’ they can supply which will solve the problem.

There is also a wider consideration. You have one stock management system but potentially many web sites. So a good stock system will let you re-use data that’s common to multiple sites. For example, selling prices may vary between sites but descriptions and pictures might well be the same for your company web site, Amazon and ebay. So a good system has a web management module which does not simply let you enter details for each site but which co-ordinates data across multiple sites as needed.

Integration quality: The Day To Day Reality

This ability of some sites to create products automatically from data supplied is critical for retailers. If you have already made a product in your stock management system then you don’t want to have to re-enter all the details again on one, two, three or more web sites. In practice this would be a massive practical limitation on your ability to sell on even one web site, never mind on multiple sites.

Web sites such as Amazon or ebay have this ability to auto create products and so do most web site platforms but some don’t ! . So the first thing to do is to check. Don’t  build your company web site using a platform with this limitation… and if you have then change the platform as soon as you can.

Conversely, the same issue exists with your EPOS stock management system. If it cannot send the correct data to the site in the correct format then, no matter what the web sites facilities, you’re going to have to start entering your product data into the site manually  in order to create a product. And you have to do it for every site you want to be on !

Each site however may have its own requirements. Amazon, for example, needs unique barcodes for each product/size/colour, ebay has its own product category structure. Data sent automatically to these sites needs to arrive with these elements already completed – if they are incomplete then the data is rejected and the product not listed. So ideally you want to invest in an EPOS stock management system that allows you to  enter key data for each site within the one hub system – and the hub system then sends the correct data to each site.

So with the right system and the right web site platform you can automatically create the products you need on each site – while at the same time auto synchronising the stock position and receiving back sales data. This is especially critical for clothing/footwear retailers; with so many sizes and colours their stock variations are generally 10 – 20 times greater than many other type of retail business and so their need is 10 – 20 times greater. If the need is not specifically catered for then they face a task which is 10 – 20 times more difficult.

Integration quality: some of the essential details

Generally speaking, the “receiving back” of sales is usually the easiest part; the web site sends back an industry standard file that includes what was sold, for how much, when and to whom. However, how this is handled by each stock management system may differ.

Some EPOS systems channel web sale via their tills and although this might initially sound ok, it results in shop sales being mixed in with web sales – you need to ensure that your EPOS stock management system allows you to see sales from each shop and channel separately. If you cannot then you will not be able to see the sales performance of each shop as a standalone unit (the web sales are mixed into its figures) nor can you see the sales performance of a web site in isolation from the shop. This is a sever handicap, you will need to see how sites and shops compare to each other if you want to streamline your buying, distribution and pricing in order to grow profitability.

From an integration point of view, sending stock information is generally considered to be technically more challenging than sales capture. This is because there is so much of it and it has to all be structured specially to suit each individual site the data is sent to.  As a consequence, when people speak of integration challenges they are usually referring to sending product data to a site.

As an example of the challenge, some sites may accept up to 20 characters for a products name or department but if another site will only accept 12 characters then the EPOS stock management system itself must ‘force’ the retailer to define names that are acceptable to each site. Similarly, if a piece of data is missing then the product may not be created or created incorrectly on the web site – the EPOS stock management system needs to ensure this does not happen.

In addition, the EPOS stock management system needs to allow for all kinds of variables; different prices on different sites, multiple pictures for different colours, different rules/messages per site eg one site may have a return’s policy within 30 days and another within only 14 days, some sites may require different shippers to others. There’s is a lot to be consider and some EPOS stock management system may cover only a very few of these while others cover far more

Which type of ecommerce integration works best?

Stock data can be imported into a site in two main ways – via Excel/CSV or API. Some sites support one or both of these, while if you are using a site that support none of them then you would have to re-create each product manually on the site.

Excel or CSV files are widely accepted data formats in which a web site accepts information from a third party. Usually this data includes the complete web site product and stock position update and consequently requires a lot of processing by both the stock system and the web site, and so is only sent periodically eg every four hours or once a day. This means the site is only completely correct every few hours or just once a day.

An API (Application Program Interface) however is a language that a web site and EPOS stock management can share, so that one can ask/send information to the other as needed. As an example, a web customer might want to order a particular item on the site and so the site might send a message to the stock management system that effectively asks for the up to date stock position for that item.

The problem here is that there is not just one API in the world – every web site and every stock management system can have its own preferred API. However, there has to be an agreement on which language they use to speak to each other. So either the web builders write a link that allows them to use the stock management systems preferred API or vice versa – usually it’s the stock system that has to adapt to the web sites API.

Clearly an API is the best type of link as it can be virtually real time but this does not mean that a CSV is of no value. It is usually much cheaper to engineer and if you don’t need everything updated frequently then it does the job well. However, just as with other aspects of integration, Excel/CSV files, and particularly API’s, can be either very comprehensive or they might be quite basic, allowing only limited question’s and responses – you’ll need to ask questions regarding this of each supplier.

Do I need a credit card payment gateway?

  • This is not generally a question for the stock management system, but for the web site builders. A payment gateway usually refers to a web site integration with a credit card clearing company. If you want people to buy products on your web site then they need to be able to pay you while they are on the web site itself. There are many popular gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, SecurePay, Worldpay, Authorize.net.

But usually its only after web customers have paid that the web site tells the stock management system that a sale has occurred. So, although the stock management system should keep a record of the selling price and how the item was paid for eg Amex, Visa etc it does not have to have a payment gateway of its own for web site sales. Obviously, if you are selling from a third part marketplace web site eg Amazon or ebay, then these sites will have a payment gateway of their own built into the site so that they can track payments.

Note: The term “payment gateway” is usually used to refer only to web site payment systems. If you are a bricks and mortar retailer you may require your till to link to a credit card payment system and this is generally referred to as Merchant Service; and also sometimes as FPOS (Financial Point of Sale). The fastest growing merchant services provider in the UK is currently Paymentsense (2020).

Main UK web site types

Marketplaces, template sites, bespoke sites and hybrids

Market places web sites such as Amazon/ebay promote themselves to the public, they provide the customer flow and you compete for business once a customer arrives on the site.

Template web site platforms help you build your own company web site with little technical skill and fairly quickly – you could get something up and running in just a few hours. They generally using pre-defined components you can drag and drop, and the challenge is to drive potential customers to the site.

The challenge for bespoke web platforms is the same as for template websites – once built, you need to get customers to visit the site. The advantage of a bespoke web site platform is that you have much greater control over how the site looks and feels; this generally means that the sites require more technical competence and takes longer to build. An additional advantage is that there may be a whole range of add-ins/extensions that you can use, some free, some at a cost. These can be really useful, offering options and features that the native platform does not offer and which would be very difficult/expensive to develop.

There are hybrid solutions. You can buy pre-defined templates for a bespoke web platform that get you off to a good start and save lots of development time, but you can still fine tune them whenever you need to. Or there are some fairly simple-to-use bespoke development languages that are relatively fast to develop in and can be used by anyone with a little time and application. Almost all the market place web sites charge a fixed fee and/or a commission while the template sites and hybrid sites generally change an ongoing monthly fee. Bespoke web platforms usually just charge an upfront fee only.

In all cases you also need to consider web site hosting. Sometimes this is a part of the web platform fee eg template and hybrid sites that charge monthly. For bespoke sites you need to select a hosting platform. These are widely available, although your web developers may want to do this themselves if they are going to support the system going forwards.

Integration – A Brief Technical Review

Some EPOS systems will have these integrations already available and ready to go.

MARKETPLACE

Challenging integration to your stock management system. Integration involves multiple API’s each of which has to be done in the correct sequence.

MARKETPLACE

Challenging integration to your stock management system. Integration involves multiple API’s each of which has to be done in the correct sequence.

TEMPLATE SITE

Modern integration with your stock management system and speedy web site creation + some integration with Amazon and ebay if this is not supported adequately by your stock management system.

TEMPLATE SITE

Modern integration with your stock management system and speedy web site creation + some integration with Amazon and ebay if this is not supported adequately by your stock management system.

BESPOKE SITE PLATFORM

Modern integration with your stock management system. Very robust and generally appropriate for larger retailers. Web site development is relatively slow (so Magento sites are towards the top end of site development costs) + some integration with Amazon and ebay if this is not supported adequately by your stock management system.

BESPOKE SITE PLATFORM

Modern integration with your stock management system. Robust and generally appropriate for small/medium retailers. Web site development is technical but fairly fast (so WooCommerce site developments are normally acceptable for small/medium retailers) + some integration with Amazon and ebay if this is not supported adequately by your stock management system.

BESPOKE SITE PLATFORM

Modern integration with your stock management system. Robust and generally appropriate for smaller retailers. Web site development is fairly fast (so Wix sites are at the low end of site development costs) + some integration with Amazon and ebay if this is not supported adequately by your stock management system.

Integration – A Brief Technical Review

Stock Management Links

Stock management EPOS system links to sites

Feasibility
Some EPOS systems will have all the links you need, others some or none

Notes
Having just one supplier has many advantages but check that the links are comprehensive

Bespoke links

Feasibility
If a web site/platform supports automated data integration then its possible to develop the link. An EPOS system company can develop a bespoke link and then offer it to its clients as a standard part of their system

Notes
If a web site/platform supports automated data integration then its possible to develop the link. An EPOS system company can develop a bespoke link and then offer it to its clients as a standard part of their system

Ecommerce website Amazon, ebay integration

Feasibility
This depends upon the web site platform you choose. Most web platforms support a link of some sort to ebay and Amzon

Notes
A direct link to Amazon/ebay from your stock management system is preferable, if available

Shopify Links

Shopify, ebay and Amazon integration

Feasibility
Yes, extensions available (extensions vary in quality, some tend to be more error prone than others)

Notes
A direct link to Amazon/ebay from your stock management system is preferable, if available

Shopify and Amazon integration

Feasibility
Yes, there are many Shopify extensions available

Notes
You’ll need to search for an integration that does what you need and is also reliable

Magento Links

Magento EPOS /ecommerce integration

Feasibility
Yes, Magneto has a comprehensive set of API’s that an EPOS system can use to link to your Magneto site.

WooCommerce Links

EPOS WooCommerce

Feasibility
Yes

Notes
Check that the system you are considering has an established and comprehensive link to Woo

POS WooCommerce integration

Feasibility
Yes

Notes
Check that the system you are considering has an established and comprehensive link to Woo

POS Systems that integrate with WooCommerce

Feasibility
There will be many POS systems that have some sort of linkage

Notes
Links will vary in quality – as reviewed here and in the Integration section.

WooCommerce Amazon and ebay integration

Feasibility
Yes, various extensions available of varying quality

Notes
A direct link to Amazon/ebay from your stock management system is preferable, if available

WooCommerce stock management

Feasibility
WooCommerce does support stock management. Woo’s strength is as a flexible web platform rather than for real world retail stock management, but if your requirements are generalist (rather than specialist) than it may do the job

Notes
Some generalist stock management capabilities so not normally suitable for clothing, footwear or sportswear retailers. Woo is also geared towards web stock rather than offering a comprehensive range of shop retail facilities.

ebay Links

Ecommerce ebay integration

Feasibility
This is one of the world’s biggest marketplaces so it makes API links available and lets other integrators do the work of building these from their systems to ebay.

Notes
Their API links are technically challenging to use and develop – so if an EPOS supplier or web platform does not have a comprehensive existing link then this will not be fast to develop.

Amazon Links

Amazon Ecommerce Integration

Feasibility
This is one of the world’s biggest marketplaces so it makes API links available and lets other integrators do the work of building these from their systems to Amazon.

Notes
Their API links are technically challenging to use and develop – so if an EPOS supplier or web platform does not have a comprehensive existing link then this will not be fast to develop.

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