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CRM vs. ERP – Backend options and restrictions in SAP Web Channel Experience Management

The SAP Web Channel Experience Management (WCEM) is a new standalone JAVA based SAP eCommerce solution that can be connected to the backend solution CRM and ERP via so-called backend connectors. In addition one could develop own backend connectors to connect the WCEM to any backend system that is able to handle RFC requests.

High-level differences

Of course the functionality of the WCEM solution depends on the backend capabilities. In this blog I will expain the principal differences when using a SAP CRM vs. a SAP ERP system, and give you a full overview in Feature Lists.
Independent from its backend system the WCEM uses the JAVA based Web Channel Platform with the Web Channel UI and the Web Channel Builder. With both backends a consistent eCommerce process with real time availability and price determination is offered:
When using SAP ERP as a backend, the SAP Web Channel Experience Management provides a profound eCommerce solution with up-to-date functionality, but in general it lacks all eMarketing and eService features, which are leveraged by a SAP CRM backend.
When using SAP CRM as a backend, the SAP Web Channel Experience Management provides a consistent and comprehensive customer experience covering the eCommerce channel, Service and Knowledge Management, Marketing features like Campaign and Loyalty Management (collect and redeem points), and Community features. With a SAP CRM backend modern Retail features like in-store pickup, in-store availability check and a store locator are offered to attract customers for a drive by pickup of the goods they have bought during the day.
WCEM uses the dynamic search capabilities of the Web Channel Catalog based on SAP MDM allowing a (logical) category mode navigation and can display the search results with their attributes grouped in the left hand navigation bar (like price from 1 to 10, 11 to 50, colors, …).

Search and Navigation

Search and Navigation is a key differentiator for webshops. When users don’t find the desired products quickly and without obstacles, chances are bad to make a deal. With SAP WCEM the search and navigation options depend on the backend and the catalog management system.

WCEM supports different navigation modes, which are dependent from the catalog tool and the backend.

Area Mode Direct Navigation (from WCEM 1.0 with ERP+CRM with MDM catalog)
In this mode, it is only possible to display the products directly assigned to the area selected by the user. The catalog structure at runtime is entirely derived by the catalog structure defined in the MDM Data Manager or ERP Product Catalog. Products can be assigned to all nodes of the catalog tree, including nodes which contains sub-nodes.
Area Mode Hierarchical Navigation (from WCEM 2.0 with ERP+CRM with MDM catalog and ERP/TREX catalog)
With the Area Mode Hierarchical Navigation the user can see the products directly assigned to one area, but also see all the products assigned to the subareas underneath. Clicking a subarea is then more comparable to filtering, because the products assigned to parent and sibling areas are hidden
Category Mode Navigation (from WCEM 2.0 with ERP+CRM with MDM catalog)
This mode enables the creation of web shop catalogs in which the catalog tree structure is derived from the product hierarchies defined in the CRM or ERP backend systems. So here it is not necessary to physically maintain a catalog strcuture in the catalog tool, as the catalog tree is derived automatically.
Combined Mode Navigation (from WCEM 2.0 with ERP+CRM with MDM catalog)
This mode enables the creation of web shop catalogs in which the catalog tree structure is derived from both Catalog Areas and product hierarchies as defined in the CRM or ERP backend. So it’s actually a combination of the Area Mode (developed in the WCEM 1.0 release) and Category Mode (developed in
the WCEM 2.0 release)..
Read also the Application Help about the navigation modes.

Language and Currencies support depending on Multi Channel MDM vs. TREX catalog

The WCEM shop solution of course supports almost all languages and currencies, as all SAP solutions do. The webshop displays product texts and prices which are maintained in the catalog tool resp. the backend.
Depending on the catalog solution there are functional restrictions:
a) Multi Channel Catalog based on SAP MDM (for CRM or ERP backends)

The MDM catalog provides all up-to-date product and navigation features a catalog should have, like the dynamic sorting of search results in the left hand navigation bar (price from … to, brand, colors, …).

With the MDM catalog you don’t need a physical catalog structure (from 2.0) because the catalog structure is generated logically by defined hierarchy data. There are a ton more features compared to the ECC catalog with TREX.

WCEM is optimized to manage a high volume of product data and is therefore dependent that the product catalogue data is provided in a very fast manner. MDM is an in-memory database that can do this much faster than any traditional database. However, TREX has similar in-memory capabilities.

When using the Multi Channel Catalog based on MDM the webshop provides a multiple language support within the very same webshop.

Unlike the ECC Catalog with TREX, MDM is both catalog management tool and runtime in one solution. This means the changes you make in the MDM catalog become immediately visible in the webshop, without the need of publishing the content to a separate index server.

b) TREX catalog with ERP backend
  • When using the ERP based product catalog application (ERP transaction WWM1) in combination with a TREX index, only one “product catalog variant” is supported per webshop. The ERP catalog variant here defines the 1:1 language-currency combination of a webshop. You can maintain multiple variants, but each of the variant has to have its own webshop. So when you have one webshop for the US in English in Dollar and another (independent) webshop in Spanish and Dollar with the same product catalog data behind it, you are fine. But when you would like to have a single webshop that serves multiple languages at once, then the Multi Channel Catalog based on MDM is the to-go catalog solution for your business.
  • Another backside of using the ERP with TREX scenario combination is the restriction, that only one TREX machine for a dedicated webshop is supported. There can be multiple TREX indexes running on the machine though, and multiple webshops can use these (n:1 relationship of webshop:catalog).
  • But a load balancing with multiple TREX machines (servers) is not supported.Only with certain CRM versions a so called “TREX Distributed Landscape” is supported.
  • Please read the expert blog Product Catalog & Backend Combinations for more information.
  • Features – CRM. vs. ERP

    Store Locator, In-Store availability, In-Store PickUp
    These multi channel store features are only available with a CRM backend. A development on project basis with the ERP backend is considered to be a high effort.
    eService, eMarketing, Loyalty Management
    All these features are only available when using a CRM backend.
    SAP Retail specific “Generic Articles”
    SAP Retail specific “Generic Articles” are only supported when using a CRM backend and an MDM catalog. The scenario of an ERP backend and MDM catalog does not supported “Generic Articles”.



    More information

    ℹ This is just to give you a high level overview about the principal differences. There are a lot more when looking into details.
    Many topics of interest are also explained in detail in corresponding blogs – see the SAP Expert Blog INDEX for details.
    Please visit our WCEM WIKI as well, which is the central info hub for SAP Web Channel Experience Management.
    Dr. Ingo Woesner
    Product Management
    SAP Web Channel Experience Management – Rollout
    SAP AG
    You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      • Hi Vinay,

        the CRM product catalog is no longer used. Instead the Multi Channel Catalog based on SAP MDM is used, or, as a low end solution, the ERP based product catalog combined with TREX.

        The answer would be so comprehensive that I will rather compile a new blog about it. Please await my blog by the end of the week.

        Best regards,


    • Hello, Ingo

      Does WCEM allows to work with configurable products?

      Which restriction are exist with configurable products?


      Denis Khveshchenik

      • Hello Denis,

        Unfortunately WCEM 2.0 does not support configurable products yet. This will be added in a future release.

        Best regards,


    • Hi Ingo,

      is it in the block view or table view of the products still be able to compare products?

      It is well accepted by customers.

      And I still miss a feature that lists, which were recently viewed products or searches. These functions we have developed in much of our customer projects.

      Best regards,


      • Hi Andreas,

        product comparison is a strong topic on the development agenda.

        Recently viewed products is also on the agenda for the future, but you can easily develop the two features without much effort on project basis.

        best regards,


      • Hi Venkat,

        at the moment WCEM 1.0 does not support CRM 7.0 EhP2 out of the box.

        But you can connect WCEM 1.0 with CRM EHP2, but have to create an OSS note in order to fix a minor issue with the MDM repository.

        A SAP note will be available shortly. Then the WCEM 1.0 Release Information Note will be updated.

        Best regards,


    • Ingo,

      Very good summary.

      IS it possible to run WCEM 2.0 (or 1.0) as add-on to an existing PI 7.1 system?

      Do we need to add another instance running SAP MDM for the product catalog?

      Then we would connect this solutions to our 5 different SAP R/3 and ECC systems.



      • Franck,

        sorry for the late reply.

        I'm not sure what you mean with using WCEM as "add-on" on a PI system? I suppose you mean it from a java perspective. Please check the release restriction note for WCEM 2.0, which is planned to become globally available without restrictions at the end of November.

        Here the restriction note for WCEM 2.0:

        The changes from release 1.0 to 2.0 are so large that I recommend going straight after 2.0.

        MDM catalog doesn't need another instance. You can use your existing environment. But check the release restriction note here as well.

        Best regards,


    • Ingo, as a matter of curiosity. Do you know the public license cost of this solution ?

      At least a range would be interesting for me. Many thanks, Franck

      • Franck,

        I'm afraid for license costs you have to ask your SAP sales contact. This also depends on the type of contract of your company etc.

        Best regards,


    • Hi, please can you give me any indication on whether it is possible or acceptable to modify WCEM such that it can be deployed with Orders working with ERP but Service working with CRM? If not then do you have any recommendations on how to achieve WCEM Sales and Service deployment but where CRM Order does not need configuring in addition to existing ERP Order setup. Urgency appreciated!

      Regards, Jaime

      • Hi Jaime,

        In general this so-called “mixed order scenario” was once evaluated but skipped due to the heavy complexity.

        However, I am not sure if this applies to service orders to CRM in combination with sales orders in ERP. Therefore I have asked a colleague to answer this specific question.

        Best regards,


        • Hi Karsten,

          I have the same question. If we go for the WCEM + CRM + MDM approach, could orders flow directly to ERP as ERP sales order while having CRM service in the same shop?

          Since SAP has released CRM ERP order concept in CRM quite a while ago, is this actually supported in WCEM? It will save a lot of efforts for reconfiguring orders in CRM, middleware and actual replication etc.

          Best regards,

          • Hi David,

            a scenario, were you want to have WCEM+CRM+MDM and order management integrated with ERP directly in the same shop (comparable to the related CRM backend scenario), would require as of today enhancements. However, having a shop with WCEM+CRM+MDM and another one with ERP, is supported.

            I see your point regarding efforts for CRM sales order management. Nevertheless, CRM sales order management also provides some more features, such as better Marketing integration.

            HTH, regards, Karsten

            • Hi Karsten,

              Could you explain what you call "require as of today enhancement"?

              I would like to know if it's possible to use CRM as Backend and use the standard interface ERP Sales Order, it will be possible?

            • Hi Paolo,

              let me answer on behalf of Karsten.

              Each webshop uses one single backend system, which is defined in the global settings for the particular webshop. It's either SAP CRM or SAP ERP.

              You cannot have a scenario which uses two backends, at least not in SAP standard. Such a mixed backend scenario requires a customer specific enhacement. This is what Karsten meant.

              But you can have two web shops, one using ERP, the other webshop using CRM.

              Best regards,


            • Hi Ingo, thanks for you fast answer.

              So using two webshops how i manage the interactions between then? I imagine using a SAP Portal including both shops and using the SSO between then.

              I know that WCEM 3.0 don't depend of SAP Portal to do the SSO, but using it i can manage the url links and "hide" that were two different webshops.

            • the two shops are totally independent from each other. Each shop has a different session ID. I don't see a way to make the connection between them.

              Maybe there was a misunderstanding. Only one backend per webshop.

              > In case you want two backends in one single shop, you have to extend WCEM on project basis.

              > in case you want to place some orders (e.g. from country 1) in backend 1 and country 2 in backend 2 you have to create a webshop for country 1 and another webshop for country b.

              But in case you want to place an order in backend 1 and place e.g. service orders in backend 2 within the same shop, then you have to extend WCEM.

              Hope this is clear now.

              Best regards,


            • Hi Ingo,

              I understood that the webshops are independent.  Let explain my situation:

              The sales order are made on CRM, but processed/created on ERP (through ERP Sales Order interface) and we are evaluating which backend must be used. So maybe if we select use CRM as backend we need to create an "enhancement" to do the Order Entry. I'm investigating how we could use this ERP Sales Order on WCEM but using the CRM as a backend or how complexity/expensive will be expand the WCEM to use both backends.

            • Hi Paolo,

              when the sales orders are created in CRM, then CRM is the backend you have to use.

              The WCEM doesn't care if the CRM order is transferred to the ERP for further processing. That is a common scenario.

              Maybe we should have a call to discuss this. Could you please call me on +49 6227 771737?



            • Hi Ingo,

              I think that the gap here that we all see is as follows:

              SAP recognised that a common path for ERP customers when adopting CRM was that they wanted to avoid going to the trouble of setting up CRM orders just to have them copied to ECC. We have invested a lot of time and effort in ERP and we hate redoing stuff. So the ERP order scenario was introduced into CRM that opens up some better scenarios for the ERP customers.

              If you want to web enable your orders with web channel you seem to have 2 choices:

              - CRM orders i.e CRM backend

              - ERP order ie ERP backend

              but not ERP orders through CRM. In this way we the SAP customer would get the best of both worlds the Web enabled CRM capability and orders without the pain of setting up CRM orders.



            • Hi Peter,

              now I understand. You create ERP order just by passing them through CRM, but without creating a CRM order.

              So in case you want to use the CRM based features like marketing, loyalty, e-service, you have to find a project solution on how the orders are forwarded to CRM interface. In this case you should use the Java basket.

              Best regards,


    • Hi Ingo,

      I would like to know if we use WCEM E-Commerce in order to place orders, using the backend ECC, Web Channel should support customer exits developed in VA01 when the customers placed orders in SAP ECC? It´s considered? or is necessary developed all in J2EE?



      • As long as

        • You are using the backend cart
        • the exits don't include any UI actions (messages via direct MESSAGE statement, screens, ...)

        exits are supported.