How to Bridge Your Online Store and Your CRM

By Lars Helgeson

Your CRM and online store should be working together. Many businesses sell products or raise funds online. E-commerce has been around for many years, but now with advances in CRM and marketing automation technology, you can connect your e-commerce with the rest of your business processes.

Picking a good storefront

A wide variety of storefront options are available to you, most providing at least basic functionality to display products and categories, and place items into a shopping cart for purchase. Beyond that, you can look at higher-end solutions like Magento or Shopify, or simpler solutions that plug into a WordPress or Wix website.

Like the rest of your CRM process, you want to ensure the storefront meets your requirements for displaying your products or donation options, gives you the tracking you need, and integrates well with the rest of your system. Data transfer is important here, so you can record purchases in your CRM automatically. Most good e-commerce storefronts and shopping carts have Zapier zaps available to push the transaction data to your CRM.

Picking a good merchant provider

You have many options when it comes to finding a processor for taking credit card payments. On the surface, it’s an easy task. Accept a credit card and have the funds deposited into your checking account. There is room for negotiation, though, so you want to be savvy about how the credit card industry works before you settle on a company to help you take online payments.

There are two components to taking credit cards: the processor and underlying software it uses. The software that hosts forms and has services available to automatically charge customers is, generally speaking, a commodity. I have worked a lot with, but there are others like Card Services International. Make sure that the software you choose is compatible with your CRM.

The processor is an intermediary company, bridging the gap between the charging software and your bank. They negotiate the agreement with the credit card companies, including the rate you pay when someone gives you his credit card to charge.

The rate that you pay has profit built into it by the processor. As a merchant, it is your job to find the best rate, as most processors don’t provide any service other than as a middleman, collecting a part of every transaction you run. Interview at least two or three processors to find out what they charge for each kind of transaction. This gives you insight into how much of every transaction will be lost due to processing fees.

One important aspect of getting the best rate is to understand how processors quote their discount rates. A discount rate is a percentage of the total charge amount that goes to the processor. You want to insist on getting a rate that is based on a fixed margin over the interchange rate. The interchange rate is the wholesale charge that the credit card company charges for every transaction processed. This depends on the quality of the transaction (lower quality means higher risk and therefore higher fees) and is something you can’t influence. What you can influence is the margin above the interchange rate. Processors will tell you that the margin depends on your processing volume (how much you charge every month) and the average charge amount.

Be wary of processors who quote you a single rate, as often this is indicative of the rate they charge for an ideal transaction (such as when a card is physically present for the transaction). If you run a charge through that is not ideal (like an e-commerce transaction), they are not required to charge you that amount. Make sure you ask the right questions and read the fine print.

Processors will also charge you a monthly access fee, which should be fixed. They will also likely charge a fixed per-transaction fee. When you are running your numbers, take all of this into consideration so you make the most informed decision and pay as little as possible to the processor.

Automating purchase actions with CRM

With your CRM connected to your e-commerce engine, you can have transactions trigger workflows. These workflows may automatically send a thank-you message, a product quality survey, or a discount for other purchases. They may also schedule a follow-up CRM activity for a salesperson to check in on the new client. You’re only limited by your imagination on what you would like to have happen after the purchase is made.