B2B e-Commerce Stakeholders: 6 Key Roles
The world of SAP B2B eCommerce is complex. People from multiple departments have problems that eCommerce can solve—but eCommerce can also introduce new problems for each department if it isn’t done right. Whatever your role in an SAP B2B eCommerce project, it’s important to understand who the other stakeholders are—and what their concerns are.
Most B2B eCommerce stakeholders work at the company which is implementing eCommerce—a company which we’ll call “the client.” The customers of this company, who will log in and buy through the eCommerce store, we’ll call “the customers.”
Here are the 6 most important stakeholders in B2B eCommerce:
1. B2B customers who will use the eCommerce store
If you’re in business to satisfy your customers, then the eCommerce store must support that core goal. But what do B2B customers want? They’re a diverse group, and sometimes, they don’t know what they want; but generally, they’re looking for an eCommerce solution that:
- Is easy to use and understand.
- Presents them with the information they need to accomplish the task at hand.
- Offers their preferred type of order entry (which could be manual SKU entry, catalog search, or personalized recommendations.)
- Is available in their native language.
- Works on multiple devices (though our research shows that most of our clients’ customers are still using desktop, because they’re at work).
The B2B customer isn’t buying as a consumer—she’s buying because it’s her job. She wants to get in, find what she needs, and get out, so she can move on to the next task in her busy day. To that end, she doesn’t want to see:
- An eCommerce solution that lets her purchase discontinued SKUs because SAP data is not sourced in real time.
- An eCommerce solution that sends orders into a black hole after placement. (She wants to track her orders!)
- An eCommerce solution that has a great, flashy design but can’t deal with the complexities of B2B purchasing.
- An eCommerce solution that requires lots of training to use.
2. The client’s IT Executive
The IT Executive (CIO, CTO, Director of IT) has a crucial voice in the eCommerce project. He or she communicates IT concerns to the C-suite. The IT Executive is looking for a solution that:
- Can easily get the buy-in of the rest of the C-suite.
- Plays well with the company’s existing SAP installation.
- Has minimal impact (read: no impact) on existing SAP human resources.
- Shows the greatest potential for a quick win. (We’ve established 90-day implementation windows as the new industry standard.)
A solution that hits all of the above points will quickly rise to the top of the pile in the mind of the IT Executive. On that note, it’s worth mentioning things which the IT Executive doesn’t want to see:
- A standalone solution that doesn’t talk to SAP at all.
- A solution that relies entirely on batch updates to sync eCommerce with SAP.
- A solution that is poorly architected and will require heavy investment of SAP resources down the road.
- A solution that will take 9-18 months to implement.
3. The client’s IT managers and SAP admins
Where the IT Executive looks at the company’s IT ecosystem from 30,000 feet, the IT manager (SAP admin) is the company’s “SAP boots on the ground.” She deals with ABAP, transport, master data, and more—day in, day out. Her concerns are very specific when it comes to eCommerce. She wants to see an eCommerce solution that:
- Doesn’t add to her already massive workload.
- Inputs 100% error-free orders into SAP.
- Comes with its own support team for troubleshooting (so she doesn’t have to).
- Is properly integrated into SAP (so it doesn’t cause problems down the road).
An eCommerce solution that hits all these points will make her happy. Here’s what she doesn’t want to see:
- An eCommerce solution that will add to her workload because the solution provider doesn’t support their product.
- An eCommerce solution that requires gigantic batch updates between the eCommerce store and SAP.
- A botched eCommerce integration with SAP that will lead to “spaghettiware” architecture as more and more bandaids are applied.
4. The client’s Sales Executive
The Sales team is the canary in the coalmine of your business. If Sales is happy, your business is happy. The Sales Executive’s perspective on eCommerce is crucial. He’s concerned with one thing—efficient generation of revenue. The Sales Executive wants an eCommerce solution that:
- Handles routine re-orders without a human touch so his team can focus on personalized service for the most high-value customers.
- Provides real-time credit checks and takes electronic payments, so smaller accounts can self-service.
- Provides personalized catalogs to logged-in users as a new type of value-add.
Because he’s focused on generating revenue (and doing it efficiently), the Sales Executive doesn’t want to see:
- An eCommerce solution that is difficult to use.
- An eCommerce solution that increases the number of phone calls coming to him or anyone else in the company.
- An eCommerce solution with limited search functionality and/or no capacity for personalized catalogs for logged-in accounts.
5. The client’s Finance Department
B2B eCommerce is an investment—though, believe it or not, you should only spend about 0.01% – 10% of eCommerce revenues on your eCommerce solution, depending on complexity and desired functionality. While our solution is far more cost-effective than the alternatives, Finance still has a lot of questions to ask. They want to see a B2B eCommerce solution that:
- Requires minimal (read: no) manhours from existing resources on staff.
- Offers manageable implementation fees and ongoing fees.
- Costs less than 1% of eCommerce revenues to run.
- Will be up and running (and starting to pay for itself) in 90 days.
- Is flexible enough to capture revenue from all customer types as the project expands after its initial launch.
Because Finance is so focused on the monetary health of the company, they don’t want to see:
- A bloated eCommerce solution that costs millions of dollars to set up and run, year-in and year-out.
- A “spaghettiware” eCommerce solution that will continue to drain resources in the application of one-off fixes for new problems.
- An eCommerce solution from a vendor who may not be in business 5 years down the road.
- An eCommerce solution that doesn’t project a quick return to the black and profit growth after that.
6. The client’s Marketing Department
Because Marketing is generally focused on the acquisition of new business, they will probably want to implement marketing techniques borrowed from B2C (where the focus is usually attracting new customers). Marketing will advocate an eCommerce solution that:
- Surpasses the eCommerce offering of competitors.
- Is easy for new customers to use, borrowing from the best of B2C UX.
- Looks great on any device, with an attractive, functional design.
- Offers cross-selling, upselling, and other personalized promotions.
- Supports all the staples of good branding, including rich content and product imagery.
- Integrates with 3rd-party tools for email marketing, analytics, and more.
Because Marketing is tasked with maintaining a great brand image, they don’t want to see:
- An eCommerce solution that looks like it was built in 2002.
- An eCommerce solution that doesn’t display accurate SAP data in real time.
- An eCommerce solution that is hard to use.
- An eCommerce solution that doesn’t support rich content.
It may seem like some of these concerns are mutually exclusive. However, we believe that a properly-architected eCommerce solution can go beyond satisfying every single stakeholder—it can actually delight them. We’ve been building these solutions for 9 years, and we’re happy to discuss the secrets to the SAP eCommerce sauce. Just drop us a line, and let’s talk.
Photo Courtesy of the University of Salford Press Office. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.