George Anderson


Customer portals: Make-or-break

From a recent survey on the preferences of 160 B2B buyers, Avionos reports that a customer portal is a critical factor for 97% of procurement officers when they go to select a supplier. For an industry that’s still waking up to the digital shift, this is a significant preference–and it’s only increasing.

Why do procurement officers prefer to use customer ordering portals? And what does this mean for B2B manufacturers who don’t have SAP ecommerce?  

Here’s why ecommerce matters to procurement managers—and why it should matter to B2B manufacturers.

1. Self-service meets the needs of digital natives

The Millennial segment is growing among B2B buyers as the Baby Boomer workforce continues to age. As Forrester reports, “Companies that purposefully adapt their marketing and sales strategies to better mesh with the Millennial mindset will outperform the competition.”

At a high level, this is the most critical factor pushing manufacturers toward ecommerce: buyers are getting younger, and they want self-service.

Believe it or not, this is good news. Manufacturers are increasingly realizing that buying channels like phone, fax, and email are inefficient and outdated.

But a higher cost of order fulfilment isn’t the only reason manufacturers should shift away from phone/fax/email. As Millennials carve out roles for themselves as procurement managers, they have to make decisions on who to buy from. They bring all their life experience to that decision—including a preference for digital-first strategies, plus opinions on what it means to be forward-thinking.

Millennials accustomed to buying on Amazon may find phone/fax/email quite frustrating in their jobs. Worse, a lack of self-service ecommerce may communicate to younger buyers that your company isn’t forward thinking. This will be more important in some markets than others, but it’s a factor which all B2B companies should consider as they evaluate self-service ecommerce.

2. Self-service + mobile readiness = one seamless buying experience

The digital shift creates increasing complexity in every job it touches, and that’s definitely true of procurement officers. When integrated to SAP, a customer ordering portal allows B2B buyers to purchase products on their own time. That’s critical to reducing stress and making your company Easier To Do Business With (ETDBW). It’s also the biggest way you can put your customer first.

How well will your ecommerce solution fit the needs of busy B2B buyers? Mobile readiness is a huge factor in how you answer that question. A procurement officer needs the ability to log on from any device and see their shopping cart populated with live, accurate data. (More on that live data in a moment.)

When you provide this seamless buyer experience across multiple devices, you make life simpler for the B2B buyers who choose you as a supplier. You enable all kinds of workflows that map to the fast-paced world of modern B2B companies. Here’s what that looks like:

  • Using a mobile device, your buyers can assemble a cart on the factory floor, save it for later, and complete the purchase from the office using a desktop computer.
  • Using a mobile device, your procurement managers can approve orders from their team in any situation—work, home, the airport, and more.
  • Using a mobile device, your B2B buyers can purchase products instantly while they’re in the field or on a service call.

3. Self-service + live SAP data = informed, satisfied buyers

A customer ordering portal without live data from SAP is dead in the water.

Why? Because it can’t provide accurate information on products before the customer commits to the purchase. Since B2B buying cycles often fit into larger planning initiatives, a lack of accuracy in customer-facing data can be disastrous.

If you’re going to give your customers the power of self-service ordering, you need to give them accurate information. And that information lives in SAP.

Your SAP-integrated ecommerce store should display live SAP data for contract pricing, inventory availability, credit limits on the account, and more. That way, you help your customers keep their accounts in good standing. What’s more, you communicate availability and pricing automatically, with data pulled straight from SAP in real time.

Moving forward: Case study

What do you do when your buyers and managers want SAP-integrated ecommerce? Launch Corevist Commerce! That’s what Blount International did. Download this case study to learn how Blount’s customers were posting orders directly to SAP, through Corevist Commerce, within 90 days of the project launch date.

Download the case study

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