Ordering on Behalf of Multiple Customers in SAP eCommerce

B2B eCommerce isn’t simply an extension of B2C—especially in the world of SAP eCommerce. B2B is a universe unto itself, with unique problems that require unique solutions.

There’s no better illustration of this point than the need to have multiple buying accounts (“sold-tos”) associated with a single login. In B2C eCommerce, a single login ID maps to a single sold-to. But in many B2B eCommerce scenarios, this type of architecture simply won’t work. It creates terrible headaches and prevents sales operations from scaling up.

The situation: One business model does NOT fit all

The longer we work in SAP eCommerce, the more it holds true: there is no one business model that covers all SAP manufacturers. That means that an off-the-shelf eCommerce solution, designed for B2C, simply won’t work without customization and intelligent integration to SAP.

Here’s an example. One of our clients, a manufacturer, has contracted with a company that runs warehouses. You could call this company a distributor, but they don’t fit one important aspect of the definition of the traditional distributor: they never buy product from the manufacturer. They do store pallets of product and break cases down into batches for delivery to end-users, but they sell the manufacturer’s inventory on consignment. The distributor makes money on commission.  

Here’s where it gets interesting. The distributor’s employees are taking orders from the manufacturer’s customers. When the distributor’s employees want to ship an order, they actually have to log in to the manufacturer’s SAP system—almost as if they were an employee of the manufacturer, not the distributor. They have to do everything that a manufacturer-employed salesperson would do, and then some.

This B2B consignment business model requires having multiple sold-tos supported by a single user login ID. The client’s existing system, which we’re replacing, didn’t have it. That created a huge problem for the distributor’s sales team.  

The problem: Log in, log out, log in, log out…

In SAP B2B eCommerce, the person doing the buying is not always the end user. Oftentimes, it’s a salesperson buying on behalf of the customer. In that case, the eCommerce functionality needs to support sales, or someone who plays that role.

By definition, a traditional salesperson places orders on behalf of multiple customers. Translate that to an eCommerce platform. Now imagine that platform can’t map an ID to multiple sold-tos. Now that salesperson has to maintain a separate user ID for each account he services.

That means logging in, logging out, logging in, logging out… which is totally unmanageable once you have more than a few accounts to handle. If you’re in charge of 10 sold-tos, you need 10 different user IDs and passwords. Your poor salesperson will be clicking logout buttons in his sleep.  

Now, what if each salesperson is in charge of 300 sold-tos? Oh boy…

The solution: Map a single ID to multiple sold-tos

This simple feature is built into the Corevist architecture, both in our eCart application and in our Magento catalog. In either place, we easily enable the association of multiple sold-tos with a single user ID. In fact, the number of sold-tos that we can associate to that ID is infinite—which creates its own problem. (See below for our solution. It’s pretty elegant.)

But are multiple sold-tos really possible in Magento? Isn’t that a B2C platform?

Multiple sold-tos are absolutely possible in Magento. The platform began as a B2C offering, but their expansion into a B2B powerhouse recently earned them recognition from Forrester. For SAP eCommerce, Magento is the ideal platform to integrate to SAP. That’s why we use it.

In a Magento-SAP integrated B2B eCommerce store, the user logs in from Magento. With the multiple sold-to enhancement that we build in Magento, that user can have multiple buying accounts associated with one login. Within Magento itself, the user can select which sold-to they want to start looking at products for.

This opens up lots of possibilities. For example, we can configure an eCommerce integration so that, when the user logs in and selects a sold-to, Magento provides a personalized catalog that is relevant to that sold-to.

For the proxy salesperson working at a distributor that sells on consignment, that’s powerful technology. It literally makes life easier.

The new problem: Finding the correct sold-to

With the single sold-to barrier lifted, a new problem arises. As sold-tos multiply and accrue to a login ID, how do you ensure the salesperson selects the right sold-to?

This gets even more complicated if a company name, country, and state location aren’t enough to differentiate sold-tos. A large customer company may have multiple locations—even within the same state. Assigning an order to the wrong sold-to creates all kinds of problems. You want to avoid it at all costs. But how do you allow a salesperson to drill down from hundreds of potential sold-tos (some with similar names and locations) and select the right one?

This is where our elegant solution comes in.

We’ve built type-ahead functionality to take care of this. Rather than selecting from 500 sold-tos on a dropdown list (which is impossible—trust us), the salesperson simply starts typing the first few letters of the sold-to. The list shortens and shortens in the dropdown suggestion box until only 1 sold-to remains, or until the user selects a sold-to from the shortened list.

It’s important to note that this list can be fairly dynamic. It’s taken from SAP in real-time. It’s a core part of the design of our solution. If a sold-to isn’t on that list, it’s not in SAP. It can’t be on that list and NOT be in SAP. The list is always accurate, and it always reflects SAP exactly.

The Takeaway: Simple functionality = huge stress relief for our clients

We often replace a website that was designed with a 1:1 user ID/sold-to relationship. For the Corevist team, this feature falls into the “easy-to-implement” category. It’s really quite simple.

For our clients, it’s a total game-changer. When we see the relief that this simple functionality brings, we go home happy. If only every business problem was this easy to solve!

If you’ve been struggling with an eCommerce solution that doesn’t support multiple sold-tos, get in touch today. Let’s talk about your needs in SAP eCommerce.

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