For seasoned manufacturers, it’s hard to navigate the world of B2B portals and eCommerce. Whether your organization has an old solution that just isn’t working anymore, or you’ve never launched a B2B portal, it’s challenging to dive into the digital world.
But staying on the sidelines isn’t an option. B2B customers now demand self-service interaction with manufacturers.
The key here is to think about your interests and the interests of any vendor you’re considering. Here are the primary interests of manufacturers who are pursuing digital self-service.
1. Delight customers
Arguably, this is every manufacturer’s #1 interest.
Whether the customer is another manufacturer, a dealer, distributor, or the end user, you’re in business to delight them. In fact, that’s how you got here. You’ve established yourself as a key player in your industry through a value prop that your market can’t get anywhere else.
But the digital universe brings new challenges here. Customers expect self-service options for order placement, tracking, and billing. This means that great products are no longer enough to delight customers. The experience of doing business with you must be delightful as well.
Conventional B2B eCommerce vendors share this interest with manufacturers. They want to help their clients delight their customers, or they wouldn’t be in business.
However, a disconnect arises for industrial manufacturers running SAP ERP. In these scenarios, delighting customers might not mean a shiny, B2C-style catalog. In fact, some customers might get frustrated with an experience that literally looks and functions like Amazon. They may prefer to get in, check invoices and availability and shipment status, place a new order by SKU, and get out.
All of this requires deep SAP integration and, arguably, a prebuilt approach so you can delight customers fast.
Unfortunately, conventional B2B eCommerce vendors can’t deliver on this value due to limitations in technology. When they discover their weakness in a sales cycle, their interests begin to diverge from those of the manufacturer. They may start to define “delighting customers” in a way that supports the technology they do offer, rather than focusing on what you actually need.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Just recognize when it’s happening, and evaluate their interests against your own.
2. Do no harm
Manufacturers have to earn the trust of customers.
Of course, any successful organization has earned plenty of trust. But it’s worth remembering that trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets.
If you’ve got a good thing going with customers, you don’t want to disturb that equilibrium.
While they wouldn’t admit it, conventional B2B eCommerce vendors don’t share this interest with manufacturers. Their goal is to disrupt as much of the customer interaction process as possible—because that’s how they sell more technology in bigger projects.
Typically, though, industrial buyers just want you to become easier to do business with. Large-scale transformation should come iteratively, giving customers time to acclimate to each adjusted process.
This is why Corevist is built for iterative transformation. You can introduce customers to the value of a B2B portal by starting with order and invoice tracking. Successive additions like payments, online ordering, and product catalogs allow you to ease customers into the digital transition. Since all data comes from SAP in real time, you maintain customer trust.
3. Avoid technical debt
What’s the #1 thing that kills B2B projects?
It’s technical complexity, hands down.
In fact, many manufacturers steer clear of B2B portals and eCommerce because they know how bad things can get.
Others dive in without realizing that their new solution will increase technical debt.
Either way, avoiding technical debt is in every manufacturer’s best interest. The challenge is finding a vendor who shares this interest.
No good-faith vendor sets out to increase technical debt for their clients. However, on-premises solutions invite technical debt by their very nature. When you’re responsible for purchasing, hosting, supporting, and upgrading every component of your B2B solution, you’ll encounter curveballs and crises that you didn’t anticipate. With time, the burden of this complexity only gets bigger.
Unfortunately, we can’t say for certain that SIs who bill for time and materials don’t want to increase technical debt. After all, some part of their business depends on putting out fires. They don’t have a strong incentive to design solutions that just work and don’t invite fires.
This is why all Corevist solutions are prebuilt and configurable (including SAP integration), which minimizes the number of support hours that our clients need from us.
4. Cut costs
Everybody wants to do this. In fact, it’s a primary driver for manufacturers who go looking for a B2B portal solution.
Manual customer service is expensive. It depends on phone, fax, and email, and these methods aren’t scalable. Self-service can slash those costs—as long as the solution doesn’t cost as much as the old model.
No B2B vendor worth their salt will pitch a project that increases overall costs for the client. If you’re looking to replace phone, fax, and email interaction with self-service, then a vendor who acts in good faith should understand that. They should share your interest in reducing your overall cost of interacting with customers.
However, vendors who focus on the self-service aspect aren’t that common. It’s far easier to find providers who will pitch you on big B2B eCommerce projects. They may try to justify your capital outlay by talking up the market growth that their solution facilitates. But is that the question you asked?
Growth is an entirely different goal—and one that every manufacturer should strive for at some point in their journey. However, true growth through digital channels requires hands-on experience. It’s best to gain that experience in low-risk scenarios.
That’s why an iterative approach is better. And replacing phone, fax, and email with self-service is the perfect starting point. (It also cuts costs.) This is the kind of journey that Corevist offers.