B2C vs. B2B: Persona-Based Search with Real SAP Data

Onsite Search in B2B eCommerce

The trend toward B2C in B2B ecommerce has been well documented. In fact, it seems everyone is talking about it. But what does that look like in real life? How is B2B still different from B2C?

One example of this difference is persona-based search. B2B companies often have highly specialized buyers, and that means specialized needs. This is the story of one such client and their need for search functionality that served the needs of specialized buyer personas. At the heart of this story is real SAP data displayed in search. That data ensures that no matter how a buyer searches for a product, they see the “one true truth” coming straight from SAP.

Let’s dive in!

Personas: Real people using ecommerce

Our client’s ecommerce store has to meet the needs of multiple personas. The needs of these personas are interrelated, but each one is ultimately coming to the website for a different end reason.

  • Researchers: These users may be researching chemicals and their potential uses in experiments. They search the catalog for information, but they are not ready to buy. They want to see which chemicals can be replaced in which applications, and which cannot.
  • Chemical buyers: These users come to the ecommerce site to buy a specific chemical. They will use one of several identification methods to find that chemical or an equivalent.

The problem: A complex B2B catalog with many possible entry points

While B2C products may have a number of attributes, B2B products often have far more. In the case of our client (a chemical manufacturer), products have many, many attributes. Chemical properties can be measured or described using any number of systems—Beilstein Registry Number, CAS Registry Number, linear formula, and more. Those attributes live in the client’s SAP system, which is the “one true truth” regarding product data.

For example, here’s the product page on the manufacturer’s site for acetic acid. All of this data lives in the client’s SAP system, as you can see in the real SAP extract screenshot below.

Yikes. That’s a lot of data, and it’s not user-friendly for anyone who isn’t an SAP developer. Our sophisticated search turns that gibberish into something that scientists can use to search intuitively for the chemicals they need. In the screenshot below, note the product identifiers that match the SAP extract file.

A B2B buyer on this site might have any one of those chemical identifications in mind when she comes to buy acetic acid. (She might even just search “acetic acid!”) That means that any search functionality on this site needs to account for all possible entry points—i.e., any identification number that a customer could use to find the product.

The solution: Advanced search

For this client, we built custom Advanced Search functionality, with fields matching the product attributes by which a customer might search. This catalog is public on the web—you can try out the search yourself here: https://shop-lab-honeywell.com/catalogsearch/advanced/.

We’ll look at it in detail in a moment. But first–here’s why this is such a significant piece of functionality.

The beauty of advanced search: Putting lipstick on the SAP pig!

Sounds a little gross, but it’s actually pretty accurate. This advanced search functionality presents complex data from SAP while fitting into a great user experience. That’s the key: enabling manufacturers to offer self-service to their customers while still maintaining data integrity in the ERP system.

This is an area where far too many manufacturers strike a compromise. Because their Marketing team demands a slick, B2C-style website, and because systems integrators for that website can’t integrate to SAP, the manufacturer has to choose: highly user-friendly website with no integration, or ugly website that’s fully integrated.

This sophisticated search is a small example of how we bridge that gap. It’s bringing the best of B2C-inspired functionality to the complex world of B2B—all while honoring the integrity of SAP data. It’s the difference between simply learning about a product and being able to purchase it–brochureware vs. ecommerce.

Digging in: Multi-faceted search for different user needs

There are multiple ways to use this advanced search. For example, the user can search by 1 attribute:

This returns all the results that are associated with that EC number—in this case, chemicals that are related to acetic acid and share an EC number. In this case, there are 13 different products that share that EC number (below).

From the search screen, the buyer can click on any product to examine it further. This allows the B2B buyers to choose among multiple chemical types, some of which are interchangeable in a given experiment. It also helps the buyers to avoid chemicals which are not appropriate for the particular application.

One step farther: Searching by common attribute from the product page

Multiple products in this market might have the same attribute value for one of the attributes in search. As we just saw, our client sells multiple chemicals with the EC number 200-580-7—yet not every chemical with that EC number will work for every application.

To improve the user experience and product selection process, we made all of that advanced search functionality available with one click—the hyperlinked product attribute on the product page.

When the user clicks that product attribute value, they see all the products that have that value for the given attribute:

It’s a small detail, and it sure doesn’t take up much space in the design—but it’s absolutely critical. It helps B2B buyers choose the exact chemical they need for their application.

Moving forward: Case study

Corevist Commerce is advanced SAP B2B ecommerce, right out of the box. But it’s also ready to expand and meet the needs of unique business situations. Blount International needed customizable commerce that could be implemented fast. Corevist Commerce delivered a custom-tailored ecommerce presence, fully integrated to SAP, within 90 days of the project launch. Download the case study below to learn more.

Download the case study

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