Originally published Sept 17, 2019. Refreshed Sept 15, 2021.
While the world was moving to eCommerce before COVID-19, the pandemic accelerated that process. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are feeling the pressure to launch B2B eCommerce. Like never before, they must carve out a place in the digital ecosystem—not only for competitive reasons, but to increase operational efficiency and create a better customer experience.
So what should you prioritize in your pharma B2B eCommerce solution?
Here’s our take on five essential elements of successful eCommerce in pharmaceuticals.
1. Real-time inventory (or ATP) displayed in B2B eCommerce
Whether you’re selling directly to pharmacies or selling to distributors, you need to get inventory right in B2B eCommerce.
This is the Achilles’ heel for many pharma manufacturers. Unless the B2B eCommerce platform includes a real-time integration to the ERP system, you simply can’t display real-time inventory availability.
It gets more complex if your business rules include ATP (available to promise) calculations. In a nutshell, ATP allows you to allocate your available inventory proportionally among customers. It helps ensure that your biggest customers never have to wait for critical product.
If your customers can’t get accurate inventory (or personalized ATP quantities) in B2B eCommerce, they’ll have to pick up the phone and call customer service. Multiply that problem at scale, and you have a serious roadblock in your digital customer experience—one that may hamper adoption of the B2B eCommerce platform.
NOTE: Because Corevist Commerce is built on a real-time integration to SAP, our platform displays real-time inventory or ATP data from your SAP system, right out of the box.
2. An interface that’s easy for sales reps to use
While some market segments in pharmaceuticals are demanding self-service, others are more comfortable buying from their sales rep—whether that’s in-person or through a video call. For this segment, relationships aren’t going away. To serve the needs of this segment, a pharma B2B eCommerce solution must support existing relationships rather than attempt to replace them.
How can a pharmaceutical manufacturer meet the needs of both segments?
One way is to choose a platform that’s built with both types of users in mind. That’s the thinking behind Corevist Commerce. Our clients use our solution not only as a customer-facing experience, but also as an internal tool for sales reps to enter orders while they’re in the field. This is possible because Corevist supports customer account mapping from SAP. Whatever accounts are assigned to a rep in SAP, the rep can pick from those accounts within Corevist Commerce. With a specific customer account selected, the rep can get personalized pricing and inventory for that customer. They can even place orders on behalf of the customer.
3. Personalized pricing for each and every customer, straight from SAP
If you offer every customer the same price, then this isn’t terribly relevant. However, for pharmaceutical manufacturers who have specific contract pricing with each customer, it’s essential that the B2B eCommerce solution reflect that pricing—for the logged-in user.
In other words, your B2B eCommerce solution needs to map each user to a customer account in SAP (and display the appropriate pricing).
That’s why we built Corevist Commerce to pull contract-specific pricing straight from SAP. Our solution maps each B2B eCommerce user to a sold-to in SAP, and this relationship determines the price that the user sees in the web channel. (Note: Our solution also honors quantity-based pricing discounts in SAP.)
What’s at stake if you don’t show accurate pricing? Think of it like this: If the user can’t complete the transaction online through self-service, they’re going to pick up the phone. That’s an added friction point for them, added cost of order fulfillment for you—and it means B2B eCommerce isn’t doing its job.
4. Customer-specific picklists
Here’s another challenge that pharma manufacturers face in B2B eCommerce: Not every customer is allowed to shop the entire catalog. Geographical restrictions, brand restrictions, regulatory restrictions—there are all kinds of rules governing who can see what product.
That’s why a pharma B2B eCommerce solution must support personalized picklists.
We believe the most efficient way to do this is to bring the SAP business rules to the web—the very business rules that already define these restrictions. Rather than rebuilding that complexity in your B2B eCommerce solution, you should choose a platform that includes real-time SAP integration out of the box. That way, you only have to update product permissions in one place (SAP), and those rules will function instantly in B2B eCommerce, determining which users can see which products.
5. 100% self-service account management
This piece doesn’t get a lot of airtime in the B2B eCommerce space, but it’s absolutely essential for pharmaceutical manufacturers. If your customers can’t track orders and pay off invoices in B2B eCommerce, something is wrong.
So what does that mean? What should your pharma B2B eCommerce solution provide? Here’s our short list of post-order capabilities that your customers need.
- Order status for all orders
- Shipment status, tracking numbers, and notifications
- Order confirmation from SAP
- Month-end statement
- View open items & invoices
- Pay down open invoices
- Real-time credit status
If you choose a solution that offers all this, your buyers will be able to manage their accounts online, without picking up the phone. We find this helps make your web channel “stickier,” i.e. more valuable to the customer so they come back again and again. That’s why we include full account management functionality in Corevist Commerce.