DIY B2B Ecommerce: Understanding The Responsibilities

DIY B2B Ecommerce

Manufacturers are realizing they need to sell online with some form of digital commerce—whether it’s for sales reps in the field, customers at their desks, or both types of users (and more). But what path will lead to the right digital customer experience with a minimum of risk and ongoing cost?

There are 3 possible paths to manufacturer ecommerce:

  • Licensed, unmanaged solution (After purchasing software, the manufacturer must coordinate multiple third parties to get the ecommerce store up and running.)
  • Fully managed solution (This is the Corevist approach. We cover everything—platform, implementation/integration, support, and growth.)
  • Homegrown/DIY solution (Manufacturer’s IT department builds a custom ecommerce solution from scratch and must maintain it for the life of the digital channel.)

Arguably, the homegrown/DIY solution is the riskiest option. Without trusted advisors who have domain expertise in ecommerce, you’ll be on the hook for everything related to the web channel.

Those responsibilities break out into four areas:

1. Platform responsibilities

If you’re not going to use an existing ecommerce platform, you’ll have to build your own. That means creating an ecommerce platform that meets users’ expectations in the age of Amazon, AND provides the relevant security and regulatory compliance.

At a high level, here are some of the responsibilities you’ll need to cover in building a homegrown platform:

  • Catalog functionality (browsing, intelligent search, related products, product reviews, etc.)
  • Manufacturer-specific functionality (how are you going to model complex workflows and customer relationships in your ecommerce platform?)
  • Security (you may want to put your store behind a WAF [web application firewall], which is what we do at Corevist)
  • PCI compliance (you’ll have to establish this on your own, or integrate with a compliant payments processor, if you want to take credit cards)
  • Browser compatibility (possibly for deprecated browsers like Internet Explorer—don’t assume all your customers have transitioned to newer browsers)
  • Performance optimization (do you want to use a CDN to serve content faster?)

This list is only the beginning. If you’re going to build a DIY ecommerce platform, make sure you know the scope of what you need to cover.

2. Implementation + integration responsibilities

It’s one thing to build a standalone ecommerce platform. But integration is another problem entirely.

Generally, manufacturers need a real-time ecommerce integration to their ERP system (usually SAP ERP). That’s the most efficient way to provide some ecommerce functionality, and it’s the only way to provide things like real-time inventory and customer credit status in the web channel.

If you’re going to integrate ecommerce to SAP on your own, here’s what you need to provide (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  • 100% error-free order posting from ecommerce to SAP
  • Customer-specific pricing from SAP, mapped to the logged-in ecommerce user
  • Customer-specific ATP (available to promise) for personalized, real-time inventory availability
  • Multiple ship-to/sold-to from SAP mapped to the logged-in ecommerce user
  • Real-time order status for all orders
  • Real-time carrier integration for shipment status
  • Ability to reprint all order-related documents from SAP
  • Real-time credit status for the customer’s account

Because these things are essential for manufacturers doing business online, we’ve built Corevist Commerce to provide them out of the box. A direct, real-time integration to SAP ERP sits at the core of our product. There’s no middleware and no data duplication, which means seamless user experience (and greatly reduced complexity in maintaining the solution.) Learn more here: Corevist Commerce overview.

3. Production support responsibilities

Production support is the real killer in DIY B2B ecommerce.

You may be able to build your own platform. You may be able to implement it. But in our experience, the burden of production support often turns out far greater than manufacturers expected.

When you build, host, implement, and maintain your own solution, you create a bubble of knowledge that exists only at your company. Because you have a homegrown solution, you don’t get the benefit of a wider ecosystem of technical experts who know what to do when something breaks. Basically, it’s all on you and your team.

That makes knowledge transfer especially critical. Whenever a transition occurs, you’ll need to ensure that there’s extensive documentation on the homegrown ecommerce platform, and you’ll need to ensure that the incoming resources understand how the system works.

A solution like this, which depends on tribal/institutional knowledge, carries a lot of technical debt (the long-term cost of non-optimized IT systems). Technical debt directly impacts your bottom line by increasing your cost of order fulfillment. We believe you should avoid it at all costs when it comes to B2B ecommerce.  

That’s why Corevist Commerce is a managed solution. In addition to the platform and the implementation/integration, we provide your ongoing production support. Because we built the product and tailored the integration to your unique SAP system, we know how it works. We’re your trusted advisor for keeping Corevist Commerce up and running with real-time SAP integration.

4. Responsibility to evolve with changing customer expectations

Things change fast in the digital world. Amazon leads with ecommerce innovations, and the expectations of your customers may follow suit. If you’re going to build a homegrown solution, you’ll need to plan for ongoing refinement and innovation of the solution.

That means DIY B2B ecommerce will never be “set it and forget it” as far as features and functionality. The ecommerce leader will need to keep tabs on evolving trends in the industry and prioritize those change requests against the many other demands which the ecommerce team will face internally.

This is another area where the DIY approach poses some risks. If you’ve underestimated the burden of production support, you may not have the resources available to build out new functionality in the ecommerce platform. In the long run, that may lead to a dated web channel. That friction may lead to customers abandoning you for the competition.

Here’s where a managed solution like Corevist Commerce shines. You don’t have to evolve your web channel because we continuously improve the product, putting new features and functionality in our successive releases. Since our solution is hosted in the cloud, you’re always on the latest version, and you can turn on new features which your customers need.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Want to see managed B2B ecommerce in real life? Download this case study on Blount International. You’ll learn how this leading industrial manufacturer became “Easier To Buy From” through Corevist Commerce—all without increasing the burden on their IT team.

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FREE Case study: Blount International

Learn how multiple departments came together as Blount International launched ecommerce.
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About Author

George Anderson

George serves as Digital Marketing Manager. A blogger and journalist with a passion for B2B ecommerce, he has written for the Magento blog, Digitalcommerce360, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, ERPgenie, and others.