Does B2B ecommerce have weaknesses?
The answer depends on your needs—and your chosen platform.
The key is to pinpoint what’s most important for your organization, then compare various platforms to your “must have” capabilities.
Many common weaknesses of B2B ecommerce relate to ERP integration. If your organization runs on SAP ERP, it’s essential to understand these potential issues (and how to solve them) as you proceed with a B2B ecommerce project.
Hint: This is why Corevist Commerce Cloud includes SAP integration out of the box.
Without further ado, here are the 6 most common weaknesses that plague B2B ecommerce solutions.
1. Missing (or unreliable) inventory data
The first thing a B2B ecommerce user needs to know is whether the product is available.
That sounds fairly basic. Surely every B2B ecommerce platform can provide 100% accurate, real-time inventory data?
The answer depends on whether B2B ecommerce or the ERP is the “system of record” for inventory data. In most organizations, that master system is the ERP, not B2B ecommerce. If the web store is going to display inventory data, it will have to come through an integration to the ERP. If you use personalized ATP (available to promise) calculations for different customers, then you definitely need a robust integration to SAP ERP.
Without that robust integration, you’re looking at a B2B ecommerce experience that doesn’t show inventory data—or, worse, shows inaccurate data.
Our client InHealth Technologies faced this problem with their old platform. The solution simply couldn’t show real-time inventory data.
Hint: This is why Corevist Commerce Cloud includes real-time inventory data from your SAP system, right out of the box. It’s just one of our 49 SAP integration points.
2. No personalized pricing from SAP ERP
Depending on your use case, B2B ecommerce may need to support personalized pricing that’s unique for each customer. This is especially true when the merchant is a manufacturer, and each customer has their own negotiated contract pricing.
Add unique quantity pricing rules for each customer, and things get a little more complicated.
In most organizations that run SAP ERP, all pricing rules are built out in SAP. This means B2B ecommerce needs to integrate deeply with SAP ERP to show the right pricing to every customer.
While most B2B ecommerce platforms can show pricing through third-party connectors, it’s worth noting that this complex architecture introduces technical debt for the merchant. Those 3 systems (B2B ecommerce, middleware, and SAP) will need full-time resources to support them and keep them synchronized and properly configured.
For organizations that can’t justify that cost and complexity, Corevist Commerce Cloud is a great alternative. Our platform includes direct, real-time integration to SAP. We manage the solution from top to bottom, including the integration, which saves our clients from taking on technical debt.
3. Unclear shipping information
In their lives as consumers, B2B buyers are accustomed to getting shipping information from Amazon. At the very least, B2B ecommerce should provide this level of buyer confidence. Customers deserve accurate estimates for shipping charges and an estimated delivery date.
However, that baseline is often not enough for manufacturers selling to dealers and distributors through B2B ecommerce. Depending on the manufacturer’s business processes, these users need may visibility into many more attributes of the shipping process. Even visibility may not be enough if buyers actually need control over these things. Here’s what we’re talking about:
Manufacturers typically have this data defined in SAP ERP. The challenge is to leverage all that value from SAP for B2B ecommerce. Doing so requires a deep integration to SAP ERP.
4. Cart not integrated to SAP ERP in real time
If you have complex business rules in SAP, then there’s a risk that B2B ecommerce will accept orders that don’t conform to those business rules.
Maybe customer A isn’t allowed to buy product X. Or they’re allowed to buy it, but not in that quantity.
Whatever the case, B2B ecommerce needs to simulate an order against your SAP business rules before placing it. That means the cart portion of the experience must be deeply integrated to SAP. Without this integration, B2B ecommerce may accept orders that will require manual follow-up and adjustment by customer service reps. At scale, this can increase customer frustration and drive up your cost to serve.
This is why Corevist Commerce Cloud includes deep SAP integration for every step of the customer journey—including the cart. Our platform simulates an order against the customer’s business rules in your SAP system and returns any relevant error messages so the customer can fix the order. Our solution only accepts 100% error-free orders, which greatly reduces the burden on customer service to follow up with customers.
5. Orders don’t post to SAP ERP instantly
Since most B2B ecommerce platforms don’t include ERP integration as part of the package, they require a complex architecture to duplicate and synchronize data between the two systems. When it comes to order placement, that means an order must be logged in the B2B ecommerce database, picked up by the middleware integration system, sent to SAP, and logged there as well.
Depending on how often the batch synchronization is set to run, the lack of instant order posting can cause problems. Inventory may no longer be available when the order finally hits the ERP (see our case study on InHealth Technologies). Another issue, though rarer, is that the customer may have exceeded their credit limit due to orders placed through other channels.
The best way to avoid these problems is to use a B2B ecommerce solution that’s integrated to SAP in real time. That way, orders post instantly. The customer claims the inventory that they need, and their credit status immediately changes to reflect the new order. Corevist Commerce Cloud provides this type of instant order posting to SAP.
6. No omnichannel order tracking
For many organizations, B2B ecommerce doesn’t exist in a vacuum. While most customers will prefer it to older ordering methods (like phone, fax, and email), a small percentage of customers may persist with legacy workflows. EDI customers may also continue placing orders through existing technology.
Regardless of the channel mix (or customer preferences), all customers need self-service access to all orders they’ve placed. They need to check the status of orders, line items, and invoices. They also need to track orders and shipments—preferably with real-time integration to carrier tracking numbers.
Most B2B ecommerce platforms can provide all this for web orders. The challenge is to provide information for orders placed by other means, i.e. not B2B ecommerce, which also reside in SAP ERP.
Here’s where Corevist Commerce Cloud stands out again. Customers can see all their orders from your SAP system, regardless of how they were placed. This includes orders from phone, fax, email, EDI, and B2B ecommerce. Corevist displays all this information directly from SAP in real time, which empowers you to reduce your customer service burden while providing a seamless customer experience.
The takeaway: Keep SAP at the core of B2B ecommerce
If your organization depends on SAP ERP for all data related to customers, products, orders, and finances, then B2B ecommerce needs to play nice with SAP. The best way to achieve that is to choose a platform that includes prebuilt, configurable SAP integration.
That’s the thinking behind Corevist Commerce Cloud. Our managed, cloud-hosted solution includes 49 SAP integration points to cover the entire customer journey. That’s why our solutions process over $2 billion in order value every year for SAP companies.