Product Catalog & Backend Combinations for SAP Web Channel Experience Management
Dear community members,
Intuitive browsing, search and navigation is the most important feature in every webshop, even more important as customer service. When user experience is not flawless, your webshop will never become prominent, and the spoilt digital customer will use alternatives.
Therefore in SAP Web Channel Experience Management THE strongest design focus was set on customer experience. The webshop user experience and shop navigation behavior of SAP Web Channel Experience Management strongly depends on the backend system.
As you might know if you decide to implement WCEM you have to choose to run it against a SAP ERP or a SAP CRM backend.See my blog CRM vs. ERP for a comprehensive picture on the backend dependencies. Based on your decision different catalog options are available.
In this blog I would like to explain the possible combinations of SAP product catalog solutions with the different backends CRM and ERP, and the consequences in terms of browsing, search and navigation.
Several components are required to display product data in the SAP Web Channel Experience Management (WCEM) webshop:
- Product Data
- Multimedia content
- Catalog Structure
- Runtime calls to the backend
All these components work hand in hand and result in a consistent webshop browsing experience:
Three Product Catalog-Backend combinations are supported with WCEM:
The system landscape is shown here:
So what are the system combinations for SAP Web Channel Experience Management:
COMBINATION 1: Multi Channel Catalog (based on SAP MDM) with SAP CRM backend
This is clearly the state-of-the-art scenario for a perfect user and shopping experience. In this combination SAP Web Channel Experience Management pulls all stops for a perfect catalog browsing, search and navigation and enables the interaction of eCommerce with eMarketing and eService features in the configured business scenarios. For large B2C businesses this is clearly the only option that makes true sense, and even for larger B2B businesses this is very much recommended. SAP Retail specific “Generic Articles” are only supported with combination 1 (CRM backend with MDM catalog).
Unlike the former Internet Sales solutíon the WCEM no longer uses the CRM Product Catalog. Instead the Multi Channel Catalog (based on SAP MDM) provides more advanced features and no longer need “catalog variants” for language-currency combinations. Also the MDM combines both catalog management, search engine and runtime – you no longer need to publish your catalog updates to the TREX, and all your changes in the catalog become active immediately. From WCEM 3.0 customer specific product views are integrated.
These great advantages of the Multi Channel Catalog had not been feasible with the CRM catalog, and that’s why WCEM doesn’t use the CRM catalog any longer.
The MDM Catalog Management license is included in the WCEM license.
Taking a look on the technical side CRM is the leading backend. It provides the product master data to the MDM repository via FTP (no SAP PI required). At runtime, the WCEM Catalog UI retrieves product data from the MDM repository. Product images and multimedia content are also provided by MDM. When the user navigates in the webshop, MDM provides the product catalog data including images and multimedia content, thus lowering the load on the CRM backend. The CRM backend is only called (via RFC) to retrieve specific product information like marketing messages, ratings and reviews. ERP is called to retrieve realtime stock availability (if configured), and the Internet Pricing Configurator (IPC) is called for dynamic pricing or list prices (as defined in the WCEM configuration).
Please note that a Delta synch is not supported by the MDM catalog. To sync changes to Material master data from the backend to the MDM catalog, you need to repeat the Initial load. Reload to MDM is executed as ‘Merge & Update’ thus will not override existing data already available in MDM via previous Load from ERP and/or direct maintenance in MDM.
From a system landscape perspective CRM and MDM are installed on separate servers inside the corporate firewall. The WCEM server is located in the demilitarized zone.
- Product Data
- Loaded from CRM into MDM using middleware extraction framework
- Multimedia content
- Maintained and assigned to products inside MDM Data Manager
- Catalog Structure: 3 catalog modes are possible:
- Area Mode: Catalog Structure is exclusively made of catalog areas and subareas manually created in MDM
- Category Mode: Catalog Structure is exclusively derived from the CRM Product Categorization (recommended)
- Combined Mode: Catalog Structure is made of both Areas and Product Categories (recommended)
- Runtime Calls
- at runtime the Web Application Server (WAS) performs calls to the CRM, ERP and IPC, and optionally to 3rd party systems like a content management system, image servers etc.
COMBINATION 2: Multi Channel Catalog (based on SAP MDM) with SAP ERP backend
Even without using a CRM backend, you can benefit from the superior browsing, searching and navigation capabilities the Multi Channel Catalog based on SAP MDM provides. The user experience is almost identical to combination 1, but lacks of eMarketing and eService features due to the ERP backend.
Here the same advantages apply as in combination 1: no longer “catalog variants” for language-currency combinations – MDM does all in one catalog. Also the MDM combines both catalog management, search engine and runtime – you no longer need to publish your catalog updates to the TREX, and all your changes in the catalog become active immediately. From WCEM 3.0 customer specific product views are integrated.
Technicalls speaking the ERP provides material master data to the MDM repository via the SAP PI. At runtime, the catalog UI retrieves product data from the MDM product catalog repository. Product images and multimedia content are also provided by MDM. RFC calls are also performed to ERP and IPC during the user session. Please note that WCEM capabilities are limited with an ERP backend compared with a CRM.
- Product Data:
- Loaded from ERP into MDM using ALE Idocs and with SAP PI acting as message hub between ERP and MDM
- Multimedia content:
- Maintained and assigned toproducts inside MDM Data Manager
- Catalog Structure: 3 modes are possible:
- Area Mode: Catalog Structure is exclusively made of catalog areas and subareas manually created in MDM
- Category Mode: Catalog Structure is exclusively derived from the material classification (recommended)
- Combined Mode: Catalog Structure is made of both Areas and Material Classification (recommended)
- Runtime Calls:
- at runtime the Web Application Server (WAS) performs some call to the backend ERP (product recommendations, realtime stock availability), IPC (dynamic pricing), and (optionally) to other 3rd party systems implemented on project basis, e.g. a content management system
From a system landscape perspective ERP and MDM are installed on separate servers inside the corporate firewall. The WCEM server is located in the demilitarized zone.
Before you consider combination 2 you should be aware that the TCO of this combination is almost as high as for combination 1 (CRM instead of an ERP backend):
You need to install and maintain an ERP, a WCEM server, an MDM server and a SAP PI to run a webshop with eCommerce features, but without eMarketing, eService features, and without store features like store locator, In-Store availability and In-Store Pickup. There are even more restrictions with an ERP backend – please see the CRM vs. ERP blog for further details.
The benefit however of choosing combination 2 is the superior browsing experience with the Category Mode or Combined Mode that the SAP MDM catalog provides. This browsing experience a strong differentiator, but for the sake of a reduced functionality compared to combination 1 (CRM with MDM), and a higher TCO than combination 3 (ERP with TREX).
Before deciding about combination 2 I would recommend to evaluate
- Combination 1 with all its advantages and speed-implement SAP CRM as backend with the Rapid Deployment Solution for SAP CRM
- Combination 3 and benefit from the WCEM 2.0 Rapid Deployment Solution to speed-install WCEM 2.0 with ERP in a B2B scenario at a fixed service price in 8-10 weeks with a lower TCO than combination 2 and 3, while sacrify the superior browsing experience.
COMBINATION 3: TREX Search Engine with SAP ERP backend (from WCEM 2.0)
Combination 3 is an affordable option with a low TCO. In this case an ERP, a TREX server and the WCEM Java solution is required as a minimum. The product catalog content is maintained in the ERP Product Catalog (transaction wwm1/wwm2).
It is then replicated to a TREX index, which acts as catalog mirror for ERP to handle all catalog requests from the webshop. So the index prevents access from the web to the productive ERP system. At runtime, product data and catalog structure is retrieved from TREX. Runtime calls to the backend ERP are similar to combination 2. Images are usually located on the webserver, and the links to product images are defined in the ERP document management system.
With this combination only Area Mode webshop navigation is supported, which means browsing a static catalog hierarchy in the webshop. A facetted search (sometimes called “Taxation”) to display product attributes in the left navigation bar (price from 1-10, 11-20, brand, ..) is not possible – in my opinion a shop stopper for B2C businesses. The ERP backend in general doesn’t support eMarketing and eService features and many other CRM features (see the blog CRM vs. ERP – backend options and restrictions).
There are some topics to remember when using the ERP product catalog with a TREX index
- In the ERP Product Catalog so-called “catalog variants” are defined. A catalog variant represents a 1:1 combination of language + currency for a webshop. A ERP/TREX based webshop is assigned to one catalog variant. This means such a webshop supports exactly one language-currency combination. Of course you can have multiple wehsbhops, but each of the webshops will have a defined 1:1 language currency. Read also the blog CRM vs. ERP – backend options and restrictions
- A very comprehensive SAP consulting solution CatMan is available to way improve and extend the functionality of the ERP product catalog. The solution has continuously grown since 1998 and has been extended ever since. Whereever you use the ERP product catalog, either in Internet Sales, Web Channel Experience Management, print media generation or somewhere else, the CatMan is a MUST!
- Product Material long texts need to be maintained twice (in case you are not using CatMan…). The original texts from the material master are not automatically taken for the catalog. They must be entered in the catalog maintenance in ERP.
So except for the webshop UI which looks the same, this combination has nothing in common with the previous combinations 1 and 2 in terms of search and navigation.
From a system landscape perspective an ERP and a TREX server (recommended on a separate machine) is required inside the firewall, and a WCEM server in the demilitarized zone.
Advantages of the MDM Catalog Management
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 WCEM 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 own in-memory database that can do this much faster than any traditional database. However, TREX has similar in-memory capabilities. No database license is required for MDM. The MDM catalog management license is included in the WCEM license.
When using the Multi Channel Catalog based on MDM the webshop provides a multiple language support within the very same webshop.
Unlike the ERP product 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.
Any questions are welcome. The FAQ blog may already provide an answer!
In addition to this blog please check the WCEM Blog Index for comprehensive information, especially the related blogs about CRM vs. ERP – backend options and restrictions and Evolution of SAP’s eCommerce Solutions. Also please check the WCEM WIKI, which is the central info hub for WCEM.
Dr. Ingo Woesner
SAP Web Channel Experience Management – Rollout
Suite Development Strategic Innovation
thank you for the wonderful insight into WCEM, I am currently working on Ecommerce 5 B2CWeb Shop, I am struggling to do the following in the user interface
1. Change the catalog navigation into an Amazon styled dynamic menu with all catalogs and subcatalogs visible and hyperlinked.
2. Add user reviews and ratings
3. Add Top sellers, featured items
4. Add a product filter below the left navigation pane, with total number of units available.
5. Add filters such as filter by Brand
Will be much obliged for your help
I also had question about Web Shop or WCEM performance for high traffic site, how does it perform in hig traffic, large querries, large product catalog, complex pricing scenarios.
Is there any place i can find performance metrics?
the performance has been thouroughly tested, and WCEM behaves very fast. Of course this is relative.
WCEM was tested with 1 mio products in an MDM catalog and performed well.
The SAP performance standard was greatly fulfilled.
Please share exact figures like
- max concurrent users
- # of products in product catalog
- large queries > please explain
- complex pricing > please provide details
and I will do my best to check the figures with our performance gurus.
Thanks so much for your response.
The scenario we are looking at is
1. About a million concurrent users
2. > 1 million products
3. We have many products with complex pricing requirements. Special discounts for category of customers, seasonal discounts, promotion codes, coupons, loyalty schemes, pricing for perishable commodities, dynamic price changes based on demand and supply, clearance sales etc.
4. Typically we would like to display a lot of information to customers, including his orders, reviews, service tickets, conversations, loyalty points and other details.
5. We have a separate engine for loyalty and campaigns so we would have several messages between the systems.
We are also finding it very tough to add simple features like dynamic catalog menus (Amazon styled) in left navigation pane of the web shop, filters in the left navigation pane, based on brands, items specifications etc. List and Grid view etc, which are part and parcel of any current shopping cart.
Will be so grateful if you could provide us with some resource links to resolve those UI issues. Also are these features available out of box in WCEM2?
Also how does WCEM work for mobile devices, like IPhone, Android, Symbian and others.
Thanks and Regards
from the functional side I don't see any issues. Whatever you listed is supported in the 2.0 standard.
Regarding the support for mobile devices, please check the Multi Channel section in my FAQ blog.
But what actually raises my eyebrows is the figure of !1 million concurrent" users. Concurrent, meaning using the webshop at the same time? Besides google, amazon.com and ebay.com I cannot imagine any website with so many concurrent users. Is this figure really correct?
For sizing and performance please use the quicksizer tool.
You can find the links to the quicksizer and the FAQ blog in the WCEM WIKI.
P.S. I don't understand what UI issues you are referring to.
Thanks for all the great info on WCEM.
We are currently working on Ecommerce 5 platform and would not mind an upgrade if it serves our purpose well.
There is a general lack of proper resources and information to customize the Web Shop interface, so inadvertently the Web Shop is classified as too difficult to alter/customize and customers start looking for other third party shopping carts with additional integration effort with the SAP R3.
With proper information on how to make some of the simple changes which I have listed, the Web Shop and Sap CRM would find a huge e commerce market for Brick and Mortar Retailers who mostly adopt the SAP R3, but are looking elsewhere for their online shops.
It would be great to find some online/offline resource for customizing the Web Shop.
Thanks and Regards
could you please contact my colleague Helmut Back (email@example.com). He is a team lead in consulting and his team has great knowledge with all SAP e-Commerce solutions.
In your request to him please mention my name. I will inform him as well.
Thanks a lot Ingo, I will do so. I will update you on our discussion.
thank you. Please keep me updated on firstname.lastname@example.org
What is CRM MDM? Can WCEM works without this component?
Is it required to install this component on another server? or it's a part of SAP CRM?
CRM MDM is an abbreviation for one of the 3 system landscape options.
SAP CRM is used as backend. The product catalog is based on SAP Master Data Management (MDM), another SAP solution (not part of CRM). Only the catalog management component of SAP MDM is used. It is recommended to install MDM on a separate server inside the firewall. WCEM is to be installed on a separate server in the demilitarized zone of the network.
This blog is about the 3 system landscape options. 2 option use MDM as catalog, 1 option (ERP with TREX index) is not using MDM. Technically the TREX can run on the ERP machine (not sure which operating systems are supported), but it is very recommended to have it on a separate machine.
Hope this helps.
Thank you for answer.
Next my question about TREX for cases then SAP CRM is used as backend.
Is TREX for WCEM not mandatory component? Is SAP MDM replace TREX fully?
Also I have question about fuzzy search, that are founded on TREX for ISA.
Is fuzzy search functionality present in WCEM?
yes, in combination 1 and 2 MDM replaces TREX. A TREX is only used in combination 3.
Fuzzy search is a TREX feature. I have to check if MDM provides a failure correction.
I have just received word about the failure tolerant search in MDM vs. fuzzy seartch in TREX.
MDM support the “sounds-like” search, so if you search for “loptaps” then chances are MDM will get all laptops in your search results.
With the WCEM/ERP/TREX scenario, the function is not supported and spelling errors will not return anything.
may I ask one question?
I'd like to know if it is possible to connect the WECM directly to the CRM System for product information etc.? Skipping the MDM Catalog...
This setup would be used in a testing system with less than 5 users and an extra machine next to the Netweaver AS Java would be a little bit to much performance 😉
I understand your question, but 'm afraid this is not possible. The reason why a product catalog system with search engine in front of the backend system is mandatory is to protect the backend system from unpredictable performance load thru internet use and for security reasons, to protect the data and stability of the backend.
In addition the MDM adds functionality CRM is not able to provide, which is the advanced product catalog features and search engine with dynamic sorting (taxonomy), logical catalog structure (vs. a physical one), etc.
The Multi Channel Catalog based on MDM is THE advanced tool to make the WCEM really excel in terms of catalog provisioning, advanced search and state-of-the-art navigation and narrow-down options to identify the right product. Not to forget by search performance.
For testing I would recommend to connect the WCEM to an ERP backend and use the ECC based product catalog (transaction WWM1) in combination with the TREX search engine. Therefore you can use the methodology and config guides of the Rapid Deployment solution, see http://scn.sap.com/community/crm/web-channel/blog/2012/05/16/rapid-deployment-solution-for-sap-web-channel-experience-management-20
I hope this helps you.
Nice blog, the catalog we are using now is configured in comm_pcat_adm.
Can we use the same in WCEM also?.
I have reached out to the expert for this specific question and this is his answer:
Internet Sales. They cannot reuse their existing catalog and variants for the
export the products into MDM. From there, they could achieve the equivalent of
what they already have.
is it possible to integrate WECM with a SAP NetWeaver Portal and Business Packages from SAP for SAP ERP?
If yes, what are the requirement?
I have provided a comprehensive answer in the FAQ document.
Thanks for the info. Really helpful.
I have one question on Navigation - Area Mode; why the Promotion Code field is shown; is it part of Theme. I have seen template which shows Pricing Range as well. Is it part of Theme too.
Promotion Code is shown when it is configured in the corresponding module. The page is composed based on the module configuration. This has nothing to do with the navigation mode.
The dynamic product attribute display like "price range from...to", Brand, CPU speed, etc. is not available in area mode, only in category mode and combined more (=area + category mode). Category and combined more require an MDM catalog. The ECC/TREX catalog is only able to provide the static navigation structure (= area mode).
I am using Navigation = Area, however Price Ranges are appearing.
Also after that Ratings are being shown with stars, even though I have disabled the ratings and unable to post any for any item; however the ratings are still there.
Hmmm, strange. I guess devil is in the detail so I would try further and then create an OSS ticket with prio medium.
about ratings and review, I deleted the customer interaction module, so that has been removed; earlier I was just removing the check but module was still there.
well, as per the OSS reply, it is part of standard layout regardless of which navigation mode is used.
Not sure if this was covered in the article, so forgive me if it was...
When an update is applied to the material master when using an ERP backend with an MDM catalogue (option 2) are the updates cascaded through? e.g. if a product was removed/updated in the material master, would the MDM catalogue and each of its variants be updated also? Or would this be a manual process?
Great blog Ingo!
Very valuable content and well structured!
I have some questions towards search and navigation, which is based on the
ERP, TREX and WCEM3.0.
wander if we can do this by development or enhance The WCEM under TREX
scenario. And how if it can? Do you have any comments on it?
related to content management?
Your early reply is highly apprecited, currently I am on customer site.
thanks and BR
Thank you for your questions I am happy to answer:
ad 1) TREX is certainly able to provide product attributes to the search results, but the dynamic display of those is a complex development.
For this I recommend using the SAP Enterprise Search (in the Embedded Search variant), which is providing this feature out of the box. The Embedded Search also uses TREX as data storage and search, but in addition to the pure search engine of TREX the Embedded Search provides a search framework around the engine.
In a way the Embedded Search can be seen as a TREX with additional features, like search criteria modelling with business objects (instead of hardcoded ABAP coding with TREX), communication interfaces, a (simple) UI etc.
I like the Embedded Search very much and have used it for the update of the SD based "Enhanced Material Search" from ERP EhP5, see the blog of my earlier SD activities. Independent of WCEM there are great SD features described in this blog which make many customers happy, and the implementation effort is mostly super minimal (starting from 30min!).
So for WCEM if you want to bypass the implementation of an MDM (and all its benefits) but just want to leverage the dynamic filtering attributes I would recommend to implement the Embedded Search and get the filtering attributes from there, to display it on the WCEM UI. Clearly a development on project basis, but a very good one.
I don't expect any license issues when using the Embedded Search since it is contained in the general SAP Business Suite license. Only more advanced features of the Enterprise Search which don't apply here have a separate price tag.
ad 2) yes, additional search criteria are possible with low effort, both with TREX and Embedded Search.
Even Keywords are easily possible. Check my SD blog for additional search criteria and keyword search - the same applies for the search engine in WCEM, both for TREX and Embedded Search. You might even use the transaction WSD_KEYWORD to maintain the keywords in ERP, but therefore you need to activate the SD business functions (see first link) in my reply here.
3) Not my area of great expertise. How to develop a homepage in WCEM was explained in the WCEM UI webinar and the WCEM&CoreMedia webinar. Please see the recording links in this blog.
In case 1 and 2 come to fly we can have a webinar where I give you a more detailed guidance.
Thanks for your reply.
To issue 1), you mentioned that combination of embeded search and TREX can provide procuct attributes into search result, right? then what the product "attributes" mean here, can it be the classfication and charactristic (CL02 and CT04)data existed in ERP system?
I have tried to configure embeded search in my ERP system, but I got stuck, the SICF service default_host sap es cockpit could not be open via browser, so I coudn't create search object connectors.
and also it confused me that how can I bring the search object into WCEM in the end, do you have some configuration or developer documents releated to this?
Thank you again and Best Regards
How are you doing?
We have a requirement to capture some additional information on materials in MDM than what the standard repository offers, for example new product indicator, promotion indicator, custom material segmentation etc. We don't want to show these as attributes for filtering as in category mode or mixed model, so having them configured as attributes linked to the main taxonomy may not be ideal. I guess we could enhance Java to hide them if required,
What would be the best way you would suggest to bring in additional data for materials in MDM? Enhancing the repository by creating additional fields in catalog item table might be an option?
Thanks a lot in advance.
In MDM, you can change the priority of an attribute after it is assigned to a category.
Attributes with priority between 1 and 50 are used for filter navigation. The value 50 can be changed in WCB.
Attributes with priority 99 or 100 are never shown to the user (not read from MDM). Those attributes can still used for product views.
Hi Ingo ,
As I begin my journey to understand WCEM vs Hybris, I found your blog very informative. I was ramping myself up on PIM Module specifically.
I have some queries and some could be simply a noob query , so you can pardon me for putting them here
Just wanted to analyze how PIM is considered to be more effective than the existing solution.
Thanks for sharing this useful article with us. I am also going to create an online catalog for my e-commerce website for that I am using DCatalog software which is very nice and convenient. I will also consider your points while creating a new catalog hope this will help me.