Look Ma, No Catalog!
In the B2B ecommerce industry, I’ve heard a presumptive definition of “ecommerce” floating around forever. This definition says, “ecommerce is all that stuff Amazon does.” In other words, “ecommerce” is categories, images, algorithms suggesting related products, and so on.
Okay… that’s one kind of ecommerce. But it’s not the only kind, especially for B2B manufacturers. The rich, intelligent, Amazon-style catalog is great if you want to sell bracelets, lamps, or books. But to sell bulk industrial chemicals or medical supplies? That’s an entirely different type of ecommerce. In that case, you may not need an Amazon-style catalog; rather, you may just need a B2B ecommerce portal for customers.
- A customer portal allows customers to log in, enter SKUs manually, add them to the cart, and place orders. It’s simple, fast, and efficient for B2B buyers who don’t really have a choice in what they buy and already know what they need.
- An Amazon-style catalog allows customers to browse products, search by product keywords, discover related products, and consume rich content like product descriptions, imagery, video, and customer reviews.
Isn’t that distinction going away?
Sure, these two ecommerce worlds are converging in some markets. However, in others, an Amazon-style catalog is still largely superfluous, at least today. (More on scaling up from a customer portal to catalog ecommerce later.) But manufacturers who digest sales pitches from ecommerce providers don’t get the impression it’s superfluous. In fact, they probably think they have to launch ecommerce with an Amazon-style catalog, or nothing at all.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, a subset of Corevist clients is doing gangbusters in B2B ecommerce without a catalog, just a customer portal. Here’s what that looks like.
Two companies who’ve done $2B+ in ecommerce revenue without a catalog
Two of our clients, both global manufacturers, have done $2 billion+ in ecommerce revenue since implementing Corevist Commerce. The crazy thing? They’ve done it without a catalog.
No sophisticated search. No categories. No product imagery or descriptions.
Rather than Amazon-style, catalog-focused ecommerce, each of these companies chose to implement a customer portal. They knew their customers and their market well enough to choose the solution that was right for their business. That took courage–but it’s paying off. $2B in revenue across the lifetime of their ecommerce initiatives proves that point.
Four companies doing $264M annually in ecommerce revenue without a catalog
Let me take a moment to brag with statistics. These are real revenue numbers from Corevist clients.
- $11M a month, no catalog. (A major manufacturer of adhesives and sensing equipment)
- $8.5M a month, no catalog. (A major manufacturer of consumer specialty products)
- $1.5M a month, no catalog. (A major manufacturer of art supplies)
- $1M a month, no catalog. (A major manufacturer of clinical supplies)
That adds up to $22M a month transacted by Corevist Commerce clients without a catalog.
Multiply that by 12, and you have $264M a year. That number makes me proud.
Customer portal as a stepping stone to catalog ecommerce
Obviously, you can do B2B ecommerce without a catalog–and you can do it in a big way. But what happens when you need to grow your ecommerce initiative to reach new markets, new buyer demographics, or incorporate the products of an acquired company?
The good news is, a customer portal is an easy stepping stone toward catalog ecommerce. Now that each of these Corevist clients has the infrastructure and real-time integration to SAP, they can talk about the next phase. That’s bolting on all that merchandise with a catalog.
It’s a natural progression. You start by making yourself easier to do business with, launching a customer portal. Obviously, customer portals work in B2B, so it’s a low-risk entry to the wide world of ecommerce.
But what happens when you want to take it to the next level? How do you appeal to casual users who need help selecting product? How do you build up the brand in a new market?
Glad you asked. 🙂
Enter Magento and rich catalog functionality
As an official Magento Technology Partner, we’re thrilled to bring Magento’s best-of-breed ecommerce functionality to companies using SAP ERP. In fact, I can’t overemphasize what Magento brings to the table. At a high level, here’s how Magento extends the real-time SAP integration of Corevist Commerce:
- Sophisticated algorithmic search capability
- Full product catalog functionality
- Rich content (photos, videos, product descriptions) for every product
- Cross selling and upselling capabilities
- Full merchandising capabilities for your Marketing department
For more details on how Corevist supports Magento, read up on our full Magento-SAP integration.
How a catalog adds value
Educate your customers on product applications
As B2B markets evolve, new buyers join the workforce who don’t have decades of expertise to help them choose products. In fact, they may feel overwhelmed when confronting a selection of similar products. How can you help them and ensure that they not only buy today, but reorder every time that product needs replacement?
This is where rich content saves the day.
In many B2B markets, products are fairly technical. You need to understand the application so you can match it to a specialized product. Through cross-selling, upselling, and product substitution relationships, a catalog allows you to educate your customers. With knowledge comes power. The more your customers know, the more they’ll buy exactly what they need the first time. That reduces returns and saves you money.
You can merchandise around product shelf life
Here’s something else a B2B portal can’t do: communicate product expiration dates.
In some industries, this is a huge deal. If you’re selling pharmaceuticals like allergy testing kits or vaccines, your product has a limited shelf life. The calculations behind that shelf life may be complex, or they may be cut and dried. Either way, you need to communicate that shelf life. Your customers don’t want to buy product that will expire before it reaches them.
Now, that makes it sound as if expiration dates can only hurt you if you display them. That’s not true at all. You can actually merchandise around expiration dates. You may have a customer who needs a large quantity of product and knows they’ll use it up before the expiration date. What if you could merchandise the product on the ecommerce store and offer a large batch of expiring product at a discount? That way, you move inventory, and it’s not a total loss. That’s a win for you and the customer.
A Magento catalog connected to Corevist Commerce helps you do that–with expiration dates loaded into ecommerce, in real time, from SAP. This allows you to merchandise excess or expiring inventory, and it takes you way beyond the “punch in orders” functionality of a B2B customer portal. It helps your customers buy smarter, and it helps you get rid of product.
Promote the launch of new products
This is another phenomenal use case for a catalog. The marketing and merchandising capabilities of Magento allow you to launch a new product with fanfare. You can run promotions within the ecommerce store, display banners, and offer bundled discounts to help promote a new product. When your Marketing department gets this working in sync with email and social media campaigns, it’s a huge win.
Ready to scale from B2B portal to full-blown ecommerce
Why does this matter? It means you can engage a B2B ordering portal now. When you’re ready, you can grow it to a full-fledged Magento B2B ecommerce store. All the while, you keep your real-time integration to SAP through Corevist Commerce. When you’re ready to grow beyond an SKU-entry B2B customer portal, your Corevist Commerce interface to SAP scales up so your Magento store gets real, live SAP data. That means you don’t have to switch platforms or put up a lot of capital to get there.
That’s why I love our solution. It works for companies at all stages of the digital commerce journey, and it keeps them from wasting money when they’re ready to scale up.
Next steps: Case study
If you’re curious about the digital commerce journey and what it might look like at your company, download this case study. You’ll learn about Blount International, a global manufacturer who knew they had to get online. Within 90 days of project initiation, Blount’s customers were posting error-free orders to SAP directly from ecommerce. Go download the case study—it’s a fascinating story.