In the world of B2B eCommerce, UX (user experience) isn’t just about the layout of webpages or the ease of getting from the catalog to checkout. For manufacturers in particular, the complexity of B2B transactions requires a special approach to eCommerce UX.
In a nutshell, the quality of your UX is dependent on the amount of customer-specific personalization that your B2B eCommerce solution can provide.
Generally speaking, manufacturers have already defined that personalized data and logic in SAP ERP. This means that many problems in B2B eCommerce UX come from a bad integration to SAP (or no integration at all).
Here are five common mistakes in B2B eCommerce UX — and how to fix them.
1. The B2B eCommerce solution supports only generic transactions
In the B2C world, every customer gets the same pricing by default. You may allow discounts at the order level or product level, but there’s no such thing as customer-specific contract pricing. As far as the eCommerce UX is concerned, all customers are the same.
In other words, transactions in B2C are generic because all customers are treated the same.
Since many B2B eCommerce solutions are actually B2C-based, they struggle to support the world of manufacturers — a world in which customers have unique, negotiated contract prices for different products. These pricing rules can be simple, but they can also get pretty complex.
If your B2B eCommerce solution doesn’t automatically display the right pricing for every customer and product every time, you may have a bad user experience. Buyers will still have to call customer service to get personalized pricing — and they may even have to place orders over the phone, since the B2B eCommerce solution will place the order with the wrong price.
This is frustrating for customers, and fixing those problems increases your cost to serve.
How to fix bad B2B eCommerce UX due to generic pricing
However you’ve defined your pricing rules in SAP, that’s how they should display on the web, right?
That’s why a comprehensive, real-time integration to SAP ERP solves this issue — but only if it enforces accurate pricing by customer for every product. (Hint: This is what Corevist Commerce does.)
2. The B2B eCommerce solution provides out-of-date inventory information
Like pricing logic, inventory data lives in SAP. Your ERP system is the master record for what’s in stock (and who’s allowed to buy it, if you use available-to-promise calculations).
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to provide real-time inventory information in B2B eCommerce. If you use a standalone eCommerce platform with middleware, the systems can get out of sync and batch updates can fail to run. At scale, that creates a bad B2B eCommerce user experience. Customers will learn not to trust the webstore if their “in stock” product ends up going on backorder. Transparency builds trust with customers — and that’s especially true of inventory data.
How to fix bad B2B eCommerce UX due to unreliable inventory data
There’s no way around it. Displaying accurate inventory availability on the web is crucial to B2B eCommerce UX. To do it, you’ll need real-time integration to your SAP ERP system. You may be able to get this functionality with a standalone eCommerce platform and middleware integration, but it will be far more costly and risky to maintain than a platform that includes integration.
Read more here: Direct B2B eCommerce Integration Vs. Middleware.
3. B2B eCommerce displays products that the customer isn’t allowed to buy
This can get you into trouble. If you’ve defined personalized picklists and catalogs in SAP (i.e. lists of products that each customer is allowed to buy), how do you translate that to your B2B eCommerce UX?
The question isn’t trivial. If you have a large product catalog, it may be too hard for customers to find the products that are valuable to them. Or maybe you have products that certain customers can’t purchase for regulatory reasons.
Whatever the case, your B2B eCommerce user experience should reflect the products that the customer is allowed to buy.
Now, you can invest time and resources in rebuilding all those SAP product restrictions in a standalone B2B eCommerce solution. But wouldn’t it be better if you could leverage your existing SAP investment in those rules for B2B eCommerce?
How to fix bad B2B eCommerce UX due to lack of support for product permissions
If you’ve defined personalized picklists or catalogs by customer in SAP, you should bring that logic to the web, if you can. This requires comprehensive SAP integration that honors your SKU permissions by customer. Read more here: Personalized Picklists And Catalogs In B2B eCommerce.
4. Customers can’t see real-time credit status in B2B eCommerce
Here’s another point where B2B UX needs are very different from B2C.
In B2C, there’s no such thing as credit status. The consumer pays for the order at the time of order placement.
In B2B, particularly for manufacturers, buyers often need the ability to pay on account. The customer’s credit terms (including their credit limit) are defined in the manufacturer’s SAP ERP system.
If an order is going to go on credit block due to a large unpaid balance, the customer needs to know. However, most B2B eCommerce solutions can’t provide credit status in their standard user experience. This requires real-time SAP integration.
How to fix a bad B2B eCommerce UX due to lack of credit visibility
As with other issues in B2B eCommerce UX, this one is solved with real-time SAP integration. It’s not a good idea to depend on batch synchronization to provide credit status — because orders from other channels (or from other B2B eCommerce users on the same account) may modify the customer’s credit status before the next batch update runs. You need a solution that can read that data in SAP instantly.
5. B2B eCommerce orders get lost in the ether on the way to SAP ERP
Does instant order posting to the ERP really matter for B2B eCommerce UX?
You might think that once the customer has placed the order, their work is done — that whatever happens behind the scenes doesn’t affect UX.
But think about this. What if the order contained errors that the customer couldn’t see due to lack of SAP integration? In that case, the order won’t actually post to SAP when the next batch runs. Instead, it will need help from customer service.
Suddenly that seamless B2B eCommerce user experience turns into a phone call, order modification, backordering, adjusted pricing and an adjusted delivery date. This affects the customer’s finances and operations, not to mention their trust in your B2B eCommerce solution.
How to fix a bad B2B eCommerce UX due to unforeseen order errors
Here again, the key is real-time SAP ERP integration. With a B2B eCommerce solution that’s deeply integrated to SAP, your customers can see intelligent error messaging that helps them build well-formed orders. If the solution only accepts 100% error-free orders (as Corevist Commerce does), both you and your customers can rest assured that the webstore won’t introduce problems in customer experience or your operations.