When hearing the words “online shop”, you probably first think about the classic B2C shops for regular consumers like you and me. Yet B2B manufacturers of industrial products and equipment are increasingly opting for building online shopping portals for their customers and prospects. What sounds as a relatively straight-forward initiative, though, can quickly turn into an ordeal if not planned properly. Here are some things to consider upfront, based on our customer’s experience.
From manual order handling to automated online shop
Often consumer experience drives customer expectations, with long lead times being replaced by “next day”, and “call for a quote” replaced by live dynamic pricing. This connected world demands that supply chains become ever more flexible, rapid and accurate. As a B2B manufacturer, you have already been selling your products or equipment to your customers through other channels such as direct sales, as did our customer that sells industrial lubricants and adhesives. The company captured almost everything around these sales such as customer, product, pricing, and order data in their SAP Business ByDesign.
Manual order processing within an ERP system is probably how many B2B manufacturers start, but eventually the volume of sales achieves a critical point where handling each order request manually is hardly sustainable; this is exactly what happened to our customer. The company needed to replace their current website that offered “contact forms” with a fully functional online shop, where each existing customer would get their own profile with order history, while prospects would be able to browse the products offered by the company and buy them directly: enabling low-friction B2B business.
Connecting SAP ByDesign and eCommerce: It’s the small details that make a difference
In essence, such a transition means integrating your ERP system with an eCommerce platform. The key priority is to understand the flow of data from a business perspective – which system is responsible for what role. As part of it, a crucial step is to outline the data fields that need to be mapped from one system to another in a matter of top priority. Such data obviously would include customer data, product data and orders data.
However, while some fields are very straightforward – for example, delivery address, order status and customer groups – there are other fields that, as this particular customer story shows, might seem less obvious. Yet it’s usually these small details that can determine customer satisfaction and even purchase behaviour.
For example, if an existing customer has an assigned contact person or a field representative, this data should ideally be fed from the SAP ByDesign into the eCommerce software and linked to the respective customer’s profile page – this allows for personalisation, a key tenet of enhancing the user experience.
Or let’s take the price fields. Presumably, the existing customers can shop items at prices that have been customized to their own individual needs and requirements, whereas for potential customers and prospects, you would prefer to display standard prices in your online shop. Therefore, when designing the integration strategy, make sure to introduce some condition rules, e.g. if a user is not logged in, they will get to see only the standard prices.
Further, the integration between SAP ByDesign and eCommerce should allow the so-called ATP check, where ATP stands for Available to Promise. On the customer’s side, it means that a customer should be able to see in the online shop whether the product is available. In this case, the data request will be sent from the eCommerce software to the SAP ByDesign, containing the ID of the desired item and the desired quantity.
Giving your customers some extra integration perks
While the points described above should be considered as often overlooked “musts”, our customer’s project suggests there might be some “nice-to-haves” that you might want to include in the planning of your ERP-to-eCommerce integration strategy. One such nice-to-have is giving your customer the option to assign their own product codes to the items they order, so that they can allocate for these items in their own systems. This is not something you will directly benefit from, but you customers might love you for that just a little bit more than before.
In addition to all that, industrial products and equipment are often accompanied by safety data and general product information data. Whether this information is already stored in SAP ByDesign as a binary document or as a free text field, you will probably want to share this information with the customer as part of order fulfilment services.
The approach can be different, though, depending on the type of the document. If it’s general product information, this data can be fed from SAP ByDesign into the eCommerce software as a link on the frontend of the online shop. If it’s data on safety and precaution, these can be sent to the customers directly upon purchase, for example, generated from a free text field as an attachment to the order confirmation email.
It is very hard to build your business upon a single system and whilst SAP ByDesign can be at the heart of your business ecosystem it is highly likely that other platforms find their way in. A strong and robust integration strategy can greatly help the business to maximise the value of each system on their own and then the entire ecosystem as a whole. The example here is for a connected B2B eCommerce business, but there are many other similar scenarios across various verticals and sectors.
This connected B2B eCommerce use case was built with the elastic.io’s Universal SAP ByDesign Integration Adapter. Find the app in the SAP App Center.