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Managing Customer Identities

Overview

We often get asked how we manage customers when doing an integration between a POS or ERP system and a website. The most frequently asked question is around how customers are handled in the POS or ERP system when someone places multiple orders on the website.  Do their orders get added as separate people in the POS or ERP system, or do they get associated with a single customer?  What happens if the customer changes their e-mail address?  Will they be added as a new user in our POS or ERP system, or will you keep the association with the original customer record?

This article is meant to explain these questions and our views on how to manage customers effectively when integrating disparate systems.

Approaches

There are generally two different approaches to managing customers when doing an integration between a POS or ERP system and your website:

  1. Managed by POS or ERP System
  2. Managed by Modern Retail

Both of these approaches work equally as well, and depending upon the capabilities of the POS or ERP system, one or both will be used to manage customer identities.

Managed by POS or ERP System

Some POS and ERP systems have some pretty sophisticated technology to manage customers.  The logic in these systems automatically combines user data and orders based on criteria they've written into their applications.  While this logic is exclusive and unique to the individual POS or ERP system, I imagine it uses customer fields such as: e-mail address, customer name, postal address and phone number.  We simply have to pass all the customer data to the POS or ERP system, and they find and match the correct customer record.

Managed by Modern Retail

While the above approach works well, we oftentimes manage customer identity in our Middleware as well.  Let me explain.

When a customer places an online order, the website will assign them a unique identifier, let's say 123456789 for John Doe.  POS and ERP system work in the exact same way and automatically assign a unique identifier for them as well, let's say 987654321.  If the POS or ERP system can echo back this number to us, we'll store it and use it on all future transactions.  Or more simply, we store the following in our Integration Middleware:

  • 123456789 = 987654321

This approach allows us to connect the online customer with the customer in the point of sale or enterprise resource planning system without having to rely on a piece of data that might change over time like an e-mail address.

As you can see, getting a customer ID from a POS or ERP system will ensure customer data is always matched up correctly, regardless of the changes being made to the customer's information.

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