No doubt about it, B2B eCommerce is essential for manufacturers in the digital age. The benefits of B2B eCommerce touch all parts of the organization — from customer service to IT and sales — not to mention buyers themselves. Your customers arguably see the largest benefit, as B2B eCommerce makes you easier to do business with.
But here’s the secret: Not all manufacturers realize the full benefits of B2B eCommerce.
That’s because the biggest improvements — those that are hard to quantify — are only available if your B2B eCommerce solution includes prebuilt SAP ERP integration.
In this article, we’ll go over benefits that are available with any platform. Then we’ll talk about the ones you can only get with an SAP-integrated solution.
Basic benefits you can get with any B2B eCommerce platform
1. Stay relevant in the digital age
If your only goal with B2B eCommerce is to get your foot in the digital door and push back against the competition, you can realize that benefit with just about any platform. You don’t necessarily need SAP integration if all you want to do is get some products up online.
Of course, you’ll do far better with real-time SAP integration to provide essential features like accurate pricing and real-time inventory — but we’ll get to that.
At a bare minimum, any B2B eCommerce solution will allow you to present your products on the web. And that’s better than no B2B eCommerce presence at all.
2. Reach new customer segments
If your B2B eCommerce catalog is publicly viewable, you can realize this benefit. New potential customers are searching for products online, and if your B2B eCommerce catalog is properly optimized for search, you may be able to reach new customers organically.
Of course, if your business depends on SAP ERP, it’s not that simple. When a new customer signs up, you need a process in place to vet them and get them approved as a real customer. Here, again, you’ll realize more of this benefit if your B2B eCommerce solution is integrated to SAP.
3. Gain actionable business intelligence on customer preferences
You don’t need SAP integration to get this benefit in B2B eCommerce.
Any platform worth its salt should come with some form of analytics out of the box. With a solution like Google Analytics integrated to your B2B eCommerce solution, you can track all kinds of useful data to help you understand customer behavior and preferences.
- Most popular products
- How your highest-value customers reach the site
- Change in sales patterns over time
- ROI of product promotion campaigns
4. Increase average order size
If you’re launching B2B eCommerce for existing customers, this is a benefit that doesn’t get much coverage. Believe it or not, the merchandising capabilities of B2B eCommerce will often increase your AOV (average order size) when compared with phone, fax and email orders.
Because self-service puts the buyer in control. When your B2B eCommerce solution shows them related products (i.e. cross-selling and upselling), you have a great opportunity to gain a larger share of wallet and provide even more value to the customer.
Benefits ONLY available in an SAP-integrated platform
5. Give customers the personalized data they need to complete transactions
Now we’re getting into the really meaty benefits.
If your B2B eCommerce solution includes comprehensive SAP integration, your customers will get 100% accurate personalization for every step of their journey. Contract pricing, personalized inventory availability, error-free order placement — the list goes on and on (assuming the integration really is comprehensive).
This is the key to success in B2B eCommerce.
Why? Because without this SAP-driven personalization, customers will get inaccurate pricing and other data in B2B eCommerce. They’ll still have to call customer service to complete their order.
6. Offer self-service account management alongside B2B eCommerce order placement
For manufacturers, B2B eCommerce isn’t just about browsing, order building and order placement. That’s only the beginning of the customer journey.
With the complexity of manufacturers’ OTC (order-to-cash) cycles, customers need far more than simple ordering capabilities in B2B eCommerce. They need to be able to track orders and invoices, plus manage their accounts with self-service payment capabilities — all within the B2B eCommerce portal.
A comprehensive, real-time SAP integration allows you to realize this benefit in B2B eCommerce.
7. Improve customer experience without creating more work for IT
Here’s another B2B eCommerce benefit that’s arguably hard to quantify.
B2B eCommerce definitely offers a better customer experience than ordering through phone, fax and email. And a managed, SAP-integrated solution delivers that customer experience with minimal additional work for IT.
In the long run, a better customer experience can lead to more revenue. If you can achieve that without costs scaling up alongside revenue, you’re in a great place with B2B eCommerce — and SAP integration is key to realizing this benefit.
8. Sell online without introducing unnecessary complexity to your data landscape
If your B2B eCommerce solution isn’t integrated to SAP, it will add complexity to your data landscape. You’ll need duplicate copies of SAP logic and information in two new places — B2B eCommerce and your integration platform. If those copies don’t match, you’ll encounter data sync problems. This can hamper your ability to succeed with B2B eCommerce.
A platform that includes SAP integration solves this problem. You maintain business data and logic in one place only — SAP ERP. Your B2B eCommerce store automatically reflects the right personalized data for every user with no additional effort on your part.
Arguably, this is the greatest benefit of B2B eCommerce. And it’s only available if your platform includes SAP integration.