How to build your own e-commerce engine with Odoo
In this article, we’ll discuss what an e-commerce engine is, what it takes to build your own, why you should be working with Odoo for that and most importantly: the many benefits that come from building that e-commerce engine as the foundation for your future growth!
Having an e-commerce company means you need to have a well functioning online store that converts visitors into customers. Next to that, a well thought out digital marketing strategy will trigger a desire for your products in the first place. This is what we call the front-end of your company in development terms. But that’s not the only thing that matters!
You’ll also need a powerful back-end if you want to grow your business. And while the front-end is what your customers will be interacting directly with, the back-end is what’s under the hood - and equally important! It’s your logistics, supply chain, analytics, inventory management… Having both sides of your online shop well integrated with each other, will allow you to scale faster and automate processes, saving you time to focus on what really matters.
That’s what we call an e-commerce engine!
The what: Odoo-for-e-commerce, an e-commerce engine
You might be wondering why Odoo is our prefered choice to be the centrepiece of an e-commerce engine. Well, there’s multiple reasons:
First of all, Odoo has a large suite of features. Ranging from Sales, Purchasing, Inventory, Accounting, Production to HR and Marketing Automation. There are so many useful functionalities for any e-commerce company, ready to use.
Secondly, Odoo was built for the small and medium enterprises - or SME’s - of this world. This shows itself in a few ways:
- Odoo was built to be modular, meaning that you can start with one module (for example the CRM) and add modules one by one that, depending on your evolving needs. Building a sustainable e-commerce engine should not be built all at once, but in incremental steps, scaling as your business grows. Odoo's modularity allows you to do this in a simple way.
- Odoo has the lowest pricing compared to its competitors. This allows even the smallest e-commerce companies to get a head start on building their own e-commerce engine.
Lastly, Odoo is open source, meaning you can adapt it to your own specific needs. Although we’d advise you to only do this as a last resort, because of the risk and cost that inherently comes with customization. But still, having the option to do this is a great advantage, as every company has different needs.
What is Odoo for e-commerce?
Odoo-for-ecommerce is a combination of tools and platforms that are fully integrated and automated. It’s an e-commerce engine that contains all the necessary features to scale your e-commerce company, while keeping operating costs as low as possible. It allows you to focus on things that will grow your business like sales, marketing, product development and strategy instead of the operational, administrative and time-consuming tasks that should be done by software instead of you.
Some of the most important features are:
Integration of all your sales channels:
- Your DTC webshop whether it is built upon Shopify, Magento, Woocommerce or or other platforms.
- Your marketplaces like Amazon, Bol.com, Wish, Zalando and much more!
- Your B2B webshop which is standard functionality in Odoo. This includes:A client portal where your B2B customers can view their orders, download their invoices and communicate with youA webshop that can be restricted to invited B2B clients only. Pricelists for specific clients or groups And many more features!
- Your Point of Sale system
Automated invoice creation
This entails having orders come through the system, invoices created automatically and linked to your accounting system. All of this hands-off, without any intervention by you.
Automated order fulfilment
Orders are synced to the right logistical partner who do the fulfilment of those orders.
A semi-automated supply chain system
This will warn you when you are running low on stock and will even generate an RFQ that you can send to your vendor by the click of a button.
An inventory management system
This allows you to keep track of all your inventory in different warehouses, even the ones that are not yours (Amazon when FBA or your 3PL’s warehouse for example).
Having a fully integrated accounting system
This results in way less time spent on manual input (of invoices for example), lower accounting fees from your accountant, less setup changes needed and a better financial overview of your business.
A fully functional warehouse management system
Handy for your inhouse order fulfilment. Integrated with your couriers like Bpost, DHL, UPS and more.
One place for data
Having all your data go through Odoo allows you to make powerful reporting that tells the whole story of your business!
A CRM tool
This makes it possible to follow-up on B2B leads, and easily create quotes, orders and invoices for your B2B clients from the backend.
A ticketing system that allows you to respond to customers issues ASAP!
The why: why should e-commerce companies have an ecommerce engine?
I already mentioned it in the beginning of this article, but let’s take a deep dive in the Why.Why exactly do we believe in Odoo-for-ecommerce?
The days of working purely DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) through your webshop and having profitable margins are over. Due to privacy regulation changes and an increase in the cost of advertising through channels such as Facebook and Google, e-commerce companies have been forced to look at other sales channels to get their margins
Marketplaces are probably the first alternative sales channel that comes to mind. Selling your products on Amazon, Bol.com or other similar marketplaces, immediately gets them in front of thousands of potential customers.Seeing its rise in popularity the past few years, it was inevitable that e-commerce companies would start to include this in their strategy.
Next to marketplaces, selling via retailers (B2B2C) is also an option worth considering. A main advantage of doing so, is that it’s often a channel that fits well next to your own webshop and activities on marketplaces - and they often work with fixed margins. This means you’re not dependent on the acquisition you get on platforms such as Facebook or Amazon. Another great advantage!
Having this multichannel strategy for your e-commerce company is becoming more of a necessity than ever, if you want to be successful. To manage all this, you’ll need a platform that can connect everything into one integrated system.
On top of juggling with the complexity of having different sales channels, you might also be dealing with the struggle of being an international brand. Having to consider multiple fulfilment partners, different taxations and other complexities, there might be a lot of dots you need to be connecting. Otherwise, you’ll be ending up with chaos - probably losing money in that process. An e-commerce engine will connect the dots for you and allow you to target new markets efficiently.
Automation of your processes
Some founders don’t mind doing the same task over and over again - like creating an invoice. It’s only taking them a couple of minutes, right? Automating those tasks would take some time - so they decide they’ll do it later on, when it’s really necessary. Or even worse: they don’t realise they could be automating certain tasks and processes.
And even though it’s only taking a couple of minutes - those add up every week. Especially when you’re planning on growing your business. Those minutes could quickly turn into hours, becoming a part-time job. Why not automate those things right from the start, sparing you time now instead of later?
That’s what an e-commerce engine is all about! Automating those repetitive tasks is a must for any e-commerce business that has ambitions to scale or wants to reduce their current bloated operational costs.
Without an e-commerce engine, you’ll probably have to invest in people to handle those repetitive tasks at some point. Those will be costing you a pretty penny - and they’ll leave room for errors, increasing the time spent even more.
Scaling up is important for every company, but e-commerce companies have the inherent potential to scale massively. To make sure you can sustain that growth, you need to make sure your setup can handle it right from the start.If you design your back-end system as an e-commerce engine, building up a solid foundation for growth, you’ll be able to scale without constantly running into issues, blocking your growth.Another benefit of doing it that way, is that your setup will be clean and easy to comprehend. When you grow your team, you’ll be spending less time on onboarding, since workflows are more easy to understand and everything can be found in one system.
The How: How does odoo-for-ecommerce work?
Well… it depends. No clear-cut answer, because not every e-commerce engine is built in the same way. But there are definitely some main principles.
Firstly, you set up Odoo for your company. This setup can vary for every company - because Odoo is modular, you decide what’s the core of your specific e-commerce engine and how it evolves overtime.
Secondly, you connect your sales channels to Odoo: whether it’s a DTC webshop, a marketplace or a B2B webshop.
Lastly, you connect Odoo to your third party logistics partners (such as 3PL,’s, Amazon, etc). This way you have an end-to-end order fulfilment flow that looks like this: Sales channel ⇒ Odoo ⇒ Fulfilment partner.
All these orders will be processed through Odoo, meaning:
- An order will be created ⇒ Overview of orders of all sales channels.
- An invoice will be created and the payment registered in your accounting system ⇒ Accounting done.
- Orders will be synced to and fulfilled by your logistic partner ⇒ Order delivery done. (Or if you deliver yourself, delivery orders will be created automatically.)
- Once fulfilled, the stock will be reduced in Odoo ⇒ Stock management
- Re-ordering rules will be triggered if stock runs low and warn you about specific products that are running low ⇒ Stock management
- Your dashboards will be updated with orders from all channels ⇒ Reporting
That’s all related to incoming orders, but the Odoo-for-ecommerce engine is about more than that. There are other aspects of the engine that are equally important and can be managed in Odoo:
⇒ You can set up your production in Odoo and manage everything within the same system. Planning, execution and recording your production all in one place.
⇒ Or you can handle everything regarding purchasing of supplies and products in Odoo. From RFQ (request for quote) to purchase order to receival of products. Which, again, can be partially automated.
⇒ And on top of that your whole accounting is fully integrated, meaning you or your accountant don’t need to upload invoices or track payments, as this is done automatically for most of the time.The best part about your Odoo e-commerce engine is that you can start small and grow into it as a company. You don’t need to connect the dots all at once. Start with a first iteration of the setup, and build upon that.
Want to know how you can build your own e-commerce engine?