Last updated Jul 5, 2022.
B2B portals were important before the pandemic, but they’ve become essential now. In-person sales models have seen significant disruption. Likewise, staffing challenges and supply chain disruption have made it more difficult than ever to interact with customers via phone, fax, and email.
Clearly, manufacturers and distributors need self-service portals for customers to place orders (and track orders and invoices).
There’s a story behind every successful B2B portal (and every failed one, too). Here are 6 stories of manufacturers who went above and beyond to create a great customer experience.
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1. 3A Composites – B2B portal with great customer adoption rates
3A Composites is a manufacturer of industrial materials like aluminum composite panels and foamboards. The company faced an unmanageable customer service burden. Distributors were always calling with routine inquiries about order status, shipments, and invoices. Not only was this process too expensive for 3A, it was also frustrating for customers.
3A Composites chose Corevist Launch for their B2B portal. They delivered a great customer experience for their distributors, as the portal displays real-time data from SAP for critical information like order history and status, shipment status, invoices, and credit status.
As part of the B2B portal project, 3A also worked with Corevist to develop a customer onboarding plan. The company introduced the portal naturally to customers—and that had a huge impact on adoption.
“In the first month, we averaged 200 orders per week. According to our web analytics data, 150 of those orders are being accessed through our new B2B site. That’s phenomenal!”
2. Emmerson Packaging – Customer self-service restored
Emmerson Packaging is a leading manufacturer of flexible packaging solutions. They collaborate with their customers on creating unique solutions. This means customers need a significant amount of control over order placement and the release of stock from the warehouse.
Emmerson had a B2B portal integrated to their old ERP system, but an ERP migration (to SAP) rendered that portal useless. All of Emmerson’s customer interaction moved to phone and email, which created a significant burden, given the complexity of the order creation and release process.
Emmerson chose Corevist Launch to restore customer self-service through a new B2B portal. They’re a great example of a company that was winning in the portal game, experienced a setback, and turned it around for a better customer experience than ever before.
“Having live access to their entire account portfolio enables our customers to trust the information they are seeing. They can self-serve immediately and export data to analyze further as required.”
3. Oregon Tool – 12 unified B2B portals in 9 countries
Oregon Tool is a leading manufacturer of precision cutting equipment for applications as diverse as forestry, lawn and garden, agriculture, and farming. The company faced competitive pressure to launch a B2B portal, and they needed to move customer interaction away from phone, fax, and email to reduce the burden on customer service staff.
But Oregon Tool didn’t just need one portal. With end user sales in more than 110 countries under numerous brands, the company needed to serve their dealers and distributors with B2B portals in the right languages. They also needed these portals to display the right data from SAP ERP to every customer, every time.
It wasn’t feasible to build numerous custom SAP integrations, and the IT organization couldn’t take on a significant new workload. Clearly, Oregon Tool needed a managed, scalable solution that could support multiple B2B portals on a single SAP integration.
Oregon Tool chose the Corevist Platform for their first B2B portal, which served US dealers and distributors. Then the company expanded around the globe on Corevist’s scalable, SAP-integrated architecture.
“Our feedback has been extremely positive. Our CSRs are finding that many of the phone and email inquiries that they would have dealt with in the past are now happily being handled by our customers themselves.”
4. Bell and Howell – Salvaging a spare parts business with a B2B portal
Bell and Howell is one of the largest service organizations in North America, offering comprehensive solutions in retail click-and-collect, consumer packaging automation, and production mail. Bell and Howell faced an incredible challenge when their parent company became insolvent. After filing for bankruptcy, Bell and Howell embarked on a visionary restructuring with a firm emphasis on services and recapturing its spare parts business.
Clearly, Bell and Howell would need a great B2B portal. But the company’s existing solution had no product photos or descriptions, and it didn’t accept credit cards online. Consequently, no one was using it. The new portal needed to offer these things—but it also needed to integrate easily with SAP. Bell and Howell couldn’t add anything to their IT staff’s workload.
Bell and Howell chose the Corevist Platform because of our prebuilt SAP integration, our clearly-defined implementation window, and great overall value. The company launched their managed B2B portal with an SAP integration that just works—and they didn’t create any significant work for IT.
What’s more, customers get the product images and descriptions that they need to make purchases. The portal accepts online orders, and customers can pay by credit card. This increases customer satisfaction—and Bell and Howell gets paid faster.
“The response has been huge. It’s night and day. Customers have literally been applauding our changes. I think one of our customers said it best when he summed it up in one word, ‘Hallelujah.’”
5. LORD Corporation – Replacing a B2B portal and maintaining deep SAP integration
LORD Corporation, now a part of Parker Hannifin, is a diversified technology and manufacturing company specializing in adhesives, coatings, and sensing technologies for use in numerous industrial applications. The company had a robust B2B portal solution running on SAP ISA, but that technology was no longer supported.
LORD needed to find a new solution that would give customers the same experience they were used to. The company wanted to keep all business data and logic in SAP (a wise decision, by the way). This meant they needed a B2B portal platform that included deep SAP integration.
LORD considered several market-leading B2B eCommerce platforms, as recommended by Gartner and Forrester—but these options were too big and complex (not to mention expensive). Ultimately, LORD chose Corevist Grow for their B2B portal because our solution kept SAP at the core of all business data and processes. (Of course, it was also much simpler to implement, given our SAP integration, and far more affordable.)
“Our motto is, ‘If you can do it in SAP, that’s where it should stay’. We wanted our B2B portal to be a reflection of our SAP system, not a recreation of it. And, we wanted a vendor that shared our philosophy.”
6. PARI Respiratory – Eliminating phone, fax, and email ordering
PARI Respiratory, a global manufacturer of respiratory care products, needed to launch a B2B portal that met the needs of numerous stakeholders (not to mention customers). PARI’s dealers and distributors wanted a B2B portal to make the ordering process more convenient, and the company needed to relieve their customer services reps from manual data entry.
Meanwhile, PARI’s marketing department needed an attractive product catalog, while IT wanted direct, real-time SAP integration that didn’t compromise data security (and didn’t increase their workload).
PARI chose Corevist Scale to deliver on the needs of all stakeholders. Customers got the B2B ordering portal they needed, marketing got an beautiful product catalog, and IT got the secure, managed SAP integration they needed.
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this project. This could have been a story about competing interests and agendas, but it wasn’t. Our customers got the online ordering system they requested.”
7. B2B portal checklist
While each of these B2B portal examples is unique, they actually have a lot in common. In a nutshell, they bring the OTC (order-to-cash) cycle online for manufacturers and their dealers and distributors. This creates more transparency with those channel partners and more efficient backend processes.
So how do you achieve what these companies did?
The key is to define what your ideal B2B portal looks like.
While every company has different needs, all successful B2B portals have a few things in common. Here’s the basic functionality you should look for as you put together your portal project.
- Personalized catalogs and picklists driven by SAP data
- 100% accurate contract pricing from SAP for every SKU (including bundled pricing rules)
- Automatic product substitution driven by SAP logic (for discontinued products)
- Support for multiple ship-tos, sold-tos, and payers driven by SAP data
- Intelligent error messaging, driven by SAP business rules, to help customers build perfect orders
- Only 100% error-free orders accepted (and posted to SAP in real time)
- Saved carts
- Order upload
- Full order history from all channels (B2B portal, phone, fax, email, EDI), straight from SAP
- Real-time order status, shipment status, and line-item status, straight from SAP
- Full integration with all major carriers for real-time tracking number updates
- Full invoice history and real-time status for each invoice, straight from SAP
- Real-time credit status from SAP (so customers know if their order will go on credit block)
- Payment at checkout and/or ability to pay off invoices (depending on your business processes), with real-time account clearing in SAP
- Support for your preferred digital payment methods (like credit card, ACH, or eCheck) through an integrated payment gateway
Some manufacturers don’t want to launch all of this at once. This is understandable. If you’re 100% paper-based today, relying on phone, fax, and email to interact with customers, it’s intimidating to dive into the digital deep end.
If that’s you, look for a platform that allows incremental rollouts. For example, on the Corevist Platform, you can start with our Launch Edition for your first project, which gives your customers self-service tracking for orders and invoices. When you’re ready, you can upgrade to online ordering with Corevist Grow, add online payments, or both.
Don’t forget global scalability. If you need multiple B2B portals for different brands, sales areas, or languages, you’ll want to find a platform that’s architected for easy expansion. While many vendors will promise this, it all comes down to SAP integration. If this crucial component can’t be leveraged for multiple portals, but rather has to be rebuilt, you’ll spend too much on your B2B portal program.