No doubt about it, B2B eCommerce projects are challenging. Between IT, the business, and customer service, you may have competing positions at the negotiating table. Worse, your implementation partner (or a coalition of vendors) may not have your best interests at heart.
In the midst of all this chaos, how do you deliver B2B eCommerce successfully?
Here are 5 lessons we’ve learned in 14 years of client implementations.
1. Be honest about your appetite for complexity
Organizations that have never launched B2B eCommerce face a certain risk when they craft a project. They may not realize how much complexity a given solution will create.
Worse, they may encounter vendors who sell complexity because it racks up the billable hours.
Granted, some organizations need a massive, complicated solution. If there’s a business case for it, it’s justified.
But some organizations just need to start their digital journey in a manageable place, with a partner who can help craft a path to mastery. For these organizations, lots of up-front complexity can get in the way of real value.
That’s why it’s essential to take a sober view of complexity. What is your implementation partner proposing? How much of that work will fall to your team—both now, and in the future? Are you ready to take on that burden?
Fortunately, there are solutions for manufacturers who can’t take on a lot of complexity. The Corevist Platform is built to deliver that value incrementally—and you can start in 30 days.
2. Figure out who owns the B2B eCommerce project
Any SI worth their salt will have a project manager on their side. This person owns the relationship with the client, including the B2B eCommerce project. But it’s essential for the client to define this role within their organization as well.
Treating B2B eCommerce as a product, and assigning that product an owner, provides two massive benefits.
- A clear line of communication between your implementation partner and your organization
- A single person who understands your interests and priorities (and will advocate for them)
We’ve seen B2B eCommerce projects with a client-side owner—and we’ve seen them without an owner. Hands down, those with an owner deliver better results to the business with fewer hiccups along the way.
3. Start small for your first rollout
Imagine these two paths and ask yourself which is better for you.
- Build the whole kit and kaboodle now and launch everything in 12+ months. Build out that vast product catalog, get all your product data in order, and gather images for every SKU. Build a custom solution with a unique look and feel—plus a custom integration to SAP ERP. Hire a team to support the solution after GoLive (whether outsourced or in-house).
- Launch a portal for customer self-service in 30 days, start learning the ropes, and iterate. Your first rollout, a B2B customer portal, leverages SAP data in real time for orders, invoices, and shipments. Starting with this portal introduces customers to digital interaction under a low-cost, low-risk model. When you’re ready, you can add online ordering and product catalogs to your portal—reusing the SAP integration architecture that you got in the first rollout. All along the way, your IT team won’t take on any additional work, as Corevist manages your solution (including SAP integration).
As you can guess, Corevist clients tend to prefer the second option. It allows them to hit the ground running with customer self-service, then pivot to full-featured B2B eCommerce when they’re ready.
4. Don’t save your SAP integration for the end
Frankly, you may never get there.
It sounds crazy, but we’ve seen it far too many times. Numerous manufacturers have come to us with a broken B2B eCommerce solution. Nine times out of ten, the culprit is the SAP integration. Typically, the organization chose a standalone B2B eCommerce solution and stuck a third-party integration platform between that solution and SAP ERP.
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to get that architecture up and running—let alone keep it working.
This is why the Corevist Platform includes prebuilt SAP integration, right out of the box. We believe manufacturers should get their B2B eCommerce solution connected to SAP instantly, on Day 1, without reinventing the wheel.
5. Prioritize a fast path to value
As we’ve reported elsewhere (courtesy of DigitalCommerce360), B2B eCommerce is growing too fast for manufacturers to ignore. With 18.4% growth in the industry at large, and 27.2% growth among Corevist clients, manufacturers can’t afford to wait.
If you don’t have a digital presence, it may be tempting to build the whole kit and kaboodle at once (see #3 above). But given the risks and technological challenges, that path presents a serious strategic liability for organizations that don’t have the resources to support it.
Where IT resources are constrained, a fast, iterative path to value is far better. That’s what the Corevist Platform is designed to support.