In my previous blog article Ecommerce, Shopping Carts and QuickBooks I talked about how to choose a shopping cart. Now let’s take a deeper dive into some of the areas that should be considered before choosing a shopping cart or a software program that integrates a shopping cart with a back end accounting system. As part of the Sleeter Group concept of chunkification , ecommerce is one of the major business components (chunks) of a business. Making each component fit together is part of the concept of Lego Mastery and provides great opportunities for helping your client put all the pieces together.
Based on having helping dozens of clients with their ecommerce businesses, I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect solution. Some shopping carts have their own QuickBooks integration and some use a “middleware” product to accomplish it. Each has its own advantages and some come close to a complete solution. In my opinion, there is no perfect complete solution for ecommerce. I will attempt to define the components of an ideal shopping cart integration and see if there are any software vendors that will still be standing after we get through the list. Disclaimer: At the end of this, you may have more questions than when you started.
Sync with Back End
How does the sync work with the General Ledger, and which GL products are supported? What methodology is being used? There are still some software packages out there that claim to integrate with QuickBooks that are nothing more than an IIF file import. Make sure the QB “integration” is not using this method unless you enjoy extra unnecessary work. For those that don’t know what IIF is, it is a very rudimentary way of importing data into QB that requires manual intervention – see this article on IIF for more details.
Is it a live import or does it run on a schedule? Can you change the update frequency? How reliable is the Sync engine it uses to communicate between the shopping cart database and QuickBooks, or other back end systems? Does it use the QuickBooks SDK (Software Development Kit) or the Intuit Web Connector? The Web Connector has been plagued with issues and is not widely supported by Intuit.
How does it deal with transaction handling? Does it use a SQL type database to keep a history/transaction log? Can it handle more than one user at a time? How does it deal with errors in data (products that don’t exist in QB, invalid sales tax codes, etc.)? Can you re-run transactions if the data issues have been corrected?
Does it enter sales receipts and/or invoices or sales orders? Can you specify which transaction types are entered for certain transactions? For example, if the web store allows for a payment type of “Purchase Order,” will it create an Invoice? Similarly, if the order is a completed sale including a credit card or PayPal payment, can you specify that it should enter a Sales Receipt in QuickBooks? Does it handle credit memos and refunds or order cancellations? How does it handle payments? Will it import merchant transactions and coordinate the batching of daily sales with Intuit Merchant Services or authorize.net?
This issue, in my opinion, will define which shopping carts will be around 5 years from now. As state governments decide how to get their hands on the interstate sales tax revenue they are losing out on currently, software systems that deal with sales tax will require a major overhaul to stay compliant. Some shopping carts now have the ability to use a sales tax compliance partner such as Avalara (see the list at http://www.avalara.com/products/integrations). Even with this, we are still faced with bringing that data into QuickBooks. If you don’t subscribe to the Avalara sales tax product for QuickBooks, then the shopping cart data will need to come into QuickBooks with the correct sales tax items and codes to ensure the sales tax returns can be prepared from QuickBooks data. I have not yet seen an integration that gets this right. I would love to be proven wrong, but after researching many products, and trading notes among other Sleeter Group associates (including Doug Sleeter, who is passionate about this issue), there is no one system that takes the order and passes all of the sales tax information correctly into QuickBooks.
Other issues with sales tax: Does it bring the sales tax item in the body of the sales receipt/invoice or does it appear at the bottom of the sales form in QuickBooks? How does it assign sales tax code and sales tax items to a new customer record, created by a new user who purchases on the store?
Can it handle sub items? Are the items in the shopping cart able to be mapped to an item that is sub-item (child) or will it only map to the Item itself (parent)? How does it deal with product variants (i.e. size, color)?
Does it add new customers to QuickBooks? If so, how does it format the customer name? Can it be customized in how it creates the new customer record? For example, can I ask it to create a new customer with the customer name formatted with “Last, First, Company”, or “email, Zip, City”, or whatever I want? Does it handle orders from “Jobs” or just “Customers”? How does it avoid creating duplicate Customer records? Does it allow me to specify the fields it should use to match a new customer in the store with an existing customer in QuickBooks so it doesn’t add a new customer if it’s already there? Does it have a way to merge customer records? How flexible is the customer maintenance section of the shopping cart? Ideally, it should have something similar to Add/Edit Multiple List entries, similar to how QuickBooks Accountant Edition does.
API (Application Programming Interface)
Does the shopping cart have a read/write API for developers who want to create custom applications to pull and push data including customer lists, sales transactions, back order status, shipping information, package tracking information, etc.?
As I stated at the beginning, this article will probably raise more questions than it answers, but I would like to use this as a jumping off point to come up with the ultimate end-to-end solution that I can recommend to the Sleeter Group to endorse as the ecommerce Awesome Add-On leading up to the Accounting Solutions Conference in October. Please use this forum to answer some of the questions raised or raise some questions of your own. Consultants, check with your clients to see what their biggest challenges are in this area. Software developers, let us know how you are addressing these issues. Please pass this article on to help us identify one or more solutions that we can recognize with the coveted Sleeter Group Awesome Add-on award!