It’s no secret that the post-COVID world is driving transformation for manufacturers. With ongoing disruption to selling models, digital customer portals and B2B eCommerce have become top priorities for manufacturers.
In a recent report on the state of manufacturing eCommerce, DigitalCommerce360 offers some pointed insight on where the market is heading (and what challenges manufacturers are encountering). One datapoint really stood out to us.
- Integration struggles are the #1 challenge that manufacturers face in B2B eCommerce (59% of respondents)
Why is this the case?
We talk to manufacturers every day who are grappling with integration problems. Here’s what we see (and how to deal with it).
B2B eCommerce integration struggles
Manufacturers desperately need deep ERP integration in B2B eCommerce. Without it, they can’t provide customers with true self-service experiences.
At a high level, there are only two ways to achieve ERP integration.
- Standalone B2B eCommerce solution + middleware. This architecture creates three competing systems of record (B2B eCommerce, middleware and the ERP) that require dedicated resources to maintain. Many manufacturers start down this road but find they can’t overcome the complexity and sync problems created by this architecture.
- B2B eCommerce solution that includes prebuilt, real-time ERP integration. This architecture keeps the ERP as the sole system of record and allows the B2B eCommerce solution to act as a real-time “window” into ERP data and logic. This is the Corevist approach. It eliminates sync problems and requires no additional data maintenance beyond existing ERP maintenance.
Analysts are taking note of the immense challenges presented by middleware-based architecture. In discussing their most recent Wave Report for B2B Commerce, Forrester notes:
- “As monolithic technology becomes outdated and less effective, the providers that lead the pack demonstrate deep, prebuilt integrations and strong business user tooling.”
This confirms everything we’re hearing from real manufacturers in the trenches. Manufacturers need integration that “just works.”
But how much integration is enough?
Let’s unpack that question.
The full scope of integration: Not just data, but experiences driven by business rules
Broadly speaking, manufacturers’ customers need two types of ERP interaction in B2B eCommerce: reading and writing ERP data, and leveraging ERP business rules. Here’s why each of those is essential to a great customer experience.
Real-time ERP data
Certain data in your ERP is essential to your B2B eCommerce customer experience. Though this data is “static” at any given moment, it can change in an instant. This means if your B2B eCommerce solution doesn’t include real-time ERP integration, this data will go out of date fast in the web experience (which will render your B2B portal useless).
Here are some of the most important data points that your customers need to see in real time.
- Inventory availability by SKU (including personalized available-to-promise calculations, if any)
- Order status and order history
- Shipment status
- Credit status
- Open invoices
Customers also need the ability to write ERP data in real time. Specifically, when they place an order in your B2B eCommerce portal, it should post immediately, modifying relevant ERP data like the customer’s credit status and product availability.
Real-time ERP business rules
It’s not enough to show things like inventory availability and credit status in real time. If your customers are going to complete transactions online, they need a B2B eCommerce experience that automatically enforces the personalized business rules that govern their transactions.
In other words, your B2B portal needs to reflect your ERP logic. It needs to show things like these.
- Personalized pricing rules — including scaled pricing and bundled pricing as defined in the ERP.
- Personalized catalogs and picklists to create relevant experiences. You also don’t want to show disallowed SKUs or distract customers with irrelevant products. Rather, you want to leverage “related product” relationships in the ERP to increase the value that customers get from the B2B eCommerce experience.
- ERP-defined minimum quantities (with intelligent error messaging). If a customer tries to order a quantity of eight, but your ERP only allows ordering in multiples of 10, your B2B eCommerce solution needs to reflect this logic. Specifically, it should give the user an intelligent error message to help them create a well-formed order.
Delivering the depth of integration you need
If your customers need real-time ERP data and logic in B2B eCommerce, you need to make strategic architectural choices. The key is to deliver the depth of integration you need — without increasing your organization’s technical responsibilities.
In this regard, not all platforms are created equal. Use our FREE chart to compare B2B eCommerce platforms from the perspective of integration.