Most articles on B2B eCommerce features mention 10 or 15 capabilities to look for. But that’s not a comprehensive view of everything you need in a B2B solution. In fact, a platform with a handful of B2B eCommerce features probably isn’t robust enough for heavy-duty B2B relationships.
Here at Corevist, we’ve talked to countless manufacturers who are frustrated with B2B eCommerce (or have never tried it). In 13 years of conversations, we’ve developed our own list of essential B2B eCommerce features — many of which depend on deep ERP integration.
I. Dashboard features
Here’s one area where B2B eCommerce differs from B2C. When a B2C user hits your site, you want them to see products right away — maybe new releases, promotions or whatever you think will sell best.
In B2B eCommerce, your users are known customers — and sometimes they’re looking for “quick hit” features so they can log in, get something done and log out.
Hence the need for a simple, intuitive B2B eCommerce dashboard. Here’s the features you should look for in that dashboard.
1. Quick price and availability check
Not every B2B eCommerce user wants to browse a catalog to figure out if materials are in stock. A quick price and availability check gives them the ability to log in, check an SKU and move on with their day. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
2. Easy navigation to most-used features
A quick check of pricing and availability isn’t the only feature your customers may need in their B2B dashboard. If there are other tasks that your customers need to do quickly — things that require a call to customer service today — you may want to get those added to your dashboard, too.
A B2B dashboard should provide easy navigation to features like these (real-time SAP integration required).
- Quick order display (by PO or document number)
- Open items (with payer selection, if applicable)
- Recent orders (with real-time ship status shown)
II. Shipping and status features
Product catalogs and online ordering aren’t enough for B2B eCommerce — particularly for manufacturers. In fact, most B2B customers need self-service account management in the portal in addition to ordering capabilities. That includes both order tracking capabilities and payments (see below).
3. Dynamic reports from SAP
Let’s be honest, some reports are never going to migrate out of SAP and into B2B eCommerce. Instead of forcing the issue, what if you could simply display those reports automatically within your B2B eCommerce solution?
That’s what the Corevist Platform does with dynamic reports from SAP. You can show standard SAP reports or custom reports — whatever works for your business. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
4. Quote display
Taking quotes through B2B eCommerce is a great way to speed up your sales cycle (and reduce friction in your customer experience). Whatever B2B eCommerce platform you choose, it should definitely support this feature.
The challenge is getting those quotes to play nicely with SAP ERP. You don’t want a separate database of quotes in B2B eCommerce that needs duplication and synchronization with SAP. This can create all kinds of problems. If the B2B eCommerce store logs two quotes, and both are claiming the last 10 widgets, and SAP doesn’t know about the quotes in real time, who gets the widgets?
That’s why we say real-time SAP integration is required for this feature to work in B2B eCommerce.
5. Order status for all orders
If your B2B eCommerce portal is going to become a destination for customers, it needs to offer all the features they need to do business with you online. That means you have to cover more than just the B2B transaction. You need to give customers self-service account management, too — and that means real-time order status for all orders. Not just B2B eCommerce orders, but also those from EDI, phone, fax and email. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
6. Shipment status
If you’re going to give B2B users real-time order status, you should give them shipment status, too. When customers log in to B2B eCommerce, they need to know which line items have shipped and which are still pending. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
7. Tracking numbers
If you’re going to tell customers whether an order is shipped, they’re going to expect to answer their next question, too, “Where’s my order?”
Obviously, you don’t have control over that information — but your carrier does.
That’s why carrier tracking integration is an essential feature of any B2B eCommerce platform.
8. Order confirmation from SAP
If your SAP ERP system already produces order confirmation documents, and if B2B eCommerce orders post to SAP instantly (more on that below), then think about this: Your B2B portal should give customers access to their order confirmation from SAP. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
9. Month-end statement
If you offer net 30/60/90 terms, some customers may need a month-end statement document to give to their A/P department. Make it easy for them by offering their month-end statement, direct from SAP, right within the B2B eCommerce portal. This is the Corevist way. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
10. Credit status
Customers need to know where they stand with you. If their next order is going to go on credit block, and they need that order to ship out immediately, they won’t be too happy if they find out it was delayed due to credit standing.
This B2B eCommerce feature is often overlooked, but it’s essential to a great customer experience. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
11. View open invoices
If you’re going to take B2B eCommerce orders on invoice, then your portal needs to display unpaid invoices. But if customers can still place orders outside of B2B eCommerce (i.e. via EDI, phone, fax or email), then the portal needs to show all invoices in SAP. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
Without this crucial feature, your B2B eCommerce solution won’t provide the comprehensive self-service that customers need.
But invoices alone aren’t enough. You need to show open items from SAP, too.
12. View open items
Invoices are only one type of open item. In SAP terms, an open item is anything that contributes to the customer’s outstanding balance, whether it’s positive or negative. Invoices contribute to this balance, but so do adjustments like credit memos and debit memos.
If you don’t think this is a B2B eCommerce feature, think again. B2B buyers have been begging for self-service capabilities for years. They can see their account details when they shop on Amazon as consumers, and they bring those expectations to work.
Of course, a B2B company’s account standing with a manufacturer is more complex than B2C. But buyers still want self-service here, and full visibility into open items is the key. How else are customers going to get answers to questions like these without calling customer service?
- How much do I owe, and how much of that balance is overdue?
- Which invoices should I pay off first to get my balance to a healthy place?
- We got a credit memo for a shipping issue. Did you already apply the memo to our account, or can I apply it now to get us off credit block?
As you can see, real-time SAP integration is required to deliver these features in B2B eCommerce.
III. Invoice and payment features
Here’s another area where B2B eCommerce should support more than just the transaction. Like order status and shipment status, invoices and payments are an essential feature of B2B account management.
Here’s what to look for in a B2B eCommerce solution.
13. Pay off open invoices via self-service
In B2C eCommerce, customers pay for their orders immediately via credit card (or some other form of digital payment). However, in B2B eCommerce, you may offer net 30/60/90 payment terms with invoices generated for the customer.
If that’s the case, self-service invoice payments is an essential B2B eCommerce feature. If you want those payments to clear the account immediately in SAP (and you should), you’ll need real-time SAP integration for this. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
14. View invoice/payment history
Your B2B eCommerce portal should also let users see which payments were posted against which invoices. This will help them understand where their money went if there’s any confusion. It’s an essential B2B eCommerce feature if your customers place numerous large orders with you. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
IV. B2B eCommerce catalog features
Not every B2B user needs a catalog. Some just want to hit the portal, punch in an SKU and get an order placed. But for users who aren’t that sophisticated, a catalog is an essential feature of B2B eCommerce. Here’s what to look for.
15. Personalized catalogs and picklists
If different customers have different lists of materials that they’re allowed to buy, then your B2B eCommerce catalog should feature only the relevant materials for each user.
Most organizations have already defined these “personalized picklists” in SAP. If that’s the case, then your B2B eCommerce solution should leverage those existing relationships without forcing you to duplicate that logic.
16. Pictures, videos and documentation for products
Even if you offer personalized picklists and catalogs, not every B2B user is sophisticated enough to know what they need when they come to the portal. This is where rich content (pictures, videos and documentation) can really make a difference in your B2B eCommerce conversion rates.
In a nutshell, you want to give customers as much information as you can about each product. But your B2B eCommerce solution should allow you to present that information in a clear, intuitive hierarchy so people don’t get confused.
17. Advanced product search
Sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying. A smart, intuitive search feature is essential for B2B eCommerce. Without it, customers will call customer service if they can’t help themselves in the portal—and the defeats one of the primary drivers of B2B eCommerce (cost savings).
18. Real-time pricing
If every customer gets the same price, and if prices never change, ever, then you don’t need real time pricing.
Otherwise, you do.
Your B2B eCommerce solution should feature 100% accurate pricing for every logged-in customer, in every scenario. That means B2B eCommerce needs to reflect your SAP pricing rules in real time.
Note: The Corevist Platform offers the same real-time pricing in the catalog that users can get in the dashboard with our quick price and availability feature. It’s the same underlying logic and the same pricing in both places, every time.
19. Real-time availability (including customer-specific ATP if you offer that)
Like pricing, real-time availability is essential to a great B2B eCommerce experience. If customers can’t get accurate stock availability, how can they feel confident in placing an order?
This gets more complicated if you show different ATP (available to promise) quantities to different customers. If that’s the case, your B2B eCommerce portal should feature the right available quantities for every material, for every customer, in real time.
In this sense, it should really act as a window into your SAP system. That’s why we say this feature requires real-time SAP integration.
20. Related products
This is a classic eCommerce feature in B2C eCommerce. In fact, in the retail world, it’s the cornerstone of any merchandising or cross-selling/upselling program.
You can use related products that way in B2B eCommerce — but this feature has other purposes, too.
For example, if you sell large pieces of equipment as well as the related parts and consumables, you may have those product relationships defined in SAP. If that’s the case, you want to bring those relationships to the B2B eCommerce store. This can help remind customers that they need to reorder consumables — or it may introduce them to those products for the first time.
Either way, related products is an essential B2B eCommerce feature.
V. B2B eCommerce cart features
What features do users need when they get to the B2B eCommerce cart? Quite a few, actually — and most of these features depend on a deep, real-time SAP integration.
Here’s everything you should look for in the cart portion of your B2B eCommerce solution.
21. Instant, error-free order posting to SAP
Here’s where most B2B eCommerce platforms can’t deliver with middleware for SAP integration. Because SAP data and business rules evolve over time, you have to keep revising all that logic in both middleware and B2B eCommerce to keep everything in agreement.
If you can’t (and many organizations can’t), then you’ll get problem orders coming from B2B eCommerce.
Wrong material, wrong price, wrong quantity — there are lots of possibilities.
It’s not a problem if you have really low order volumes. But at scale, it will drive up your cost to serve — and worst case, it can threaten the viability of your B2B eCommerce initiative.
That’s why your B2B eCommerce solution should feature intelligent error messaging to the user. If the solution is built on a real-time SAP integration, it should query SAP whenever the user goes to place the order. Before accepting it, the solution should check the relevant data and logic in SAP and let the user know if there are any problems.
That way, the customer can fix the order (change a quantity, change a SKU, whatever the case may be) before placing it. It’s a better customer experience — and it’s better for your operations, too, since it will only allow 100% accurate orders to post to SAP. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
22. Real-time pricing and availability
Accurate pricing and availability are just as important in the cart as they are in the catalog. If you have any quantity bundling rules (i.e. material A costs less when bought with material B), then the cart needs to reflect those pricing shifts in real time. It also needs to display accurate inventory availability.
Here, the Corevist Platform uses the same price-check integration that we’ve discussed elsewhere to deliver 100% accurate, dynamic pricing and availability within the cart. Whatever prices and available quantities your customer would get over the phone from customer service (as the rep checks SAP), that’s what they’ll see in the Corevist cart.
You can’t deliver this B2B eCommerce feature without real-time SAP integration.
23. Multiple shipping locations
This is an essential B2B eCommerce feature — particularly for manufacturers. If your customers have multiple receiving locations for shipments, then your B2B eCommerce solution should give them the option to choose the best destination for their order.
24. Multiple ship-to/sold-to relationships supported
If your customers buy on behalf of multiple entities, they may need the ability to choose between these entities when assigning an order (whether for shipping, billing or paying purposes). If you have these relationships defined in SAP, your B2B eCommerce solution should reflect those relationships, allowing customers to choose between the sold-tos and ship-tos that they have access to.
25. Support for quote workflows
For some organizations, particularly manufacturers, quotes are an essential B2B eCommerce feature. Not every product is a good fit for ordering with a few clicks. A robust B2B eCommerce solution should support quote creation, review and conversion to an order. Deep SAP integration is usually required here to ensure the quoting process conforms to ERP business rules.
26. Support for requested delivery dates
If your current order processes let customers specify the date when they want their order delivered, then you may need this feature in B2B eCommerce, too. The trick is pulling the RDD (requested delivery date) from SAP and displaying it in the web store. To nail this feature, you need deep, real-time SAP integration.
27. Alternative units of measure
Here’s another B2B eCommerce feature that manufacturers may need. If your materials can be sold in different units of measure (say, feet vs. meters or pounds vs. kilograms), you may want to give customers this flexibility in the web store. If you’ve already defined these alternative units of measure in SAP, then the B2B eCommerce solution should reuse that existing logic through deep SAP integration.
28. Saved carts
This is a no-brainer feature. Any B2B eCommerce solution worth its salt should offer saved carts so users can place repeat orders with minimal effort. It’s also worth pointing out that real-time SAP integration is important here, too. It ensures that when a user loads a saved cart, they’ll receive accurate real-time pricing (in case pricing has changed since the last time they placed the order).
29. Upload carts
This feature is critical for advanced B2B users who need a fast, easy way to create an order. It allows them to upload an order to the shopping cart via a standard file format (such as CSV) without inputting a single SKU in the B2B eCommerce portal.
30. SKU substitutions
What happens if a B2B eCommerce user types in an SKU to add it directly to the cart — but they’ve typed in a material that they’re not allowed to order? Or one that’s discontinued, or …
There are many scenarios in which your B2B eCommerce solution needs intelligent SKU substitution. If you’ve defined these rules in SAP, then you should leverage that logic in your B2B eCommerce portal. (Real-time SAP integration required.)
VI. Features for sales and customer service
B2B eCommerce isn’t just for customers. Sales and customer service may need access to the portal, too — whether they’re placing orders on behalf of customers or just checking orders and invoices.
Here are some essential B2B eCommerce features for these users.
31. Automated email order routing
What if some customers refuse to adopt B2B eCommerce? What if they keep sending email orders to your customer service team, preventing you from experiencing the full efficiency gains of B2B eCommerce?
If this is the case, you need an automated solution that routes email orders appropriately.
We offer an extension for the Corevist Platform called BuyBot. In a nutshell, this automated utility posts error-free PDF orders to SAP through your existing Corevist infrastructure. If BuyBot finds errors in the order (based on the relevant logic in SAP), the utility routes the order to customer service for manual correction.
This is an advanced B2B eCommerce feature that you won’t find in most platforms. It’s totally dependent on Corevist’s deep SAP integration.
32. Multi-customer management
It’s rare for a sales or customer service rep to work with one account only (though it does happen). If your reps in either department work with more than one customer, your B2B eCommerce solution should allow them to switch easily between different accounts.
Ideally, the solution should honor the mapping of rep and account relationships that you’ve already defined in SAP. That means it should allow reps to toggle between different ship-tos, sold-tos and payer accounts where applicable. (Real-time SAP integration required.)