Categories: SAP eCommerce


George Anderson


Product Transitions in Corevist

Every manufacturer faces the realities of the product lifecycle. When Product A becomes obsolete, you need to transition your customer base to Product B. How does your internal business processes translate to the customer’s experience when ordering online? Can Corevist Commerce support your efforts around depleting old product inventory and promoting the new product?

Absolutely! In this post, we’ll look at best practices, both in SAP and in customer communications, to make sure your product lifecycle transition goes smoothly.

Let’s dive in:

High-level options

At a high level, here are the 3 primary ways to handle product lifecycle transitions in any ecommerce store:

  1. Remove the Retiring Product from Ecommerce (This is not optimal because your inventory won’t deplete through ecommerce purchases)
  2. The Silent Transition: Use business rules to substitute the new product for the old in ecommerce, “behind the scenes,” with limited impact on the customer experience.
  3. The Guided Transition: Conduct the same product substitution in ecommerce, but leverage Corevist Commerce to communicate with your customers (and highlight the change).

We generally don’t recommend #1 because it doesn’t help you get rid of Product A inventory. What’s more, it limits the business and customers from experiencing the full value of ecommerce. Of course, you can still sell off Product A through other channels, but your customers won’t be able to buy Product A through ecommerce.

The other 2 options, the Silent Transition and the Guided Transition, generally offer greater value for manufacturers and customers.

Which approach is right? The answer varies based on your business process, customer relationships, and ordering patterns. Let’s unpack this and see what a good plan looks like for each option.

Best Practices for the Silent Transition

In some cases, customers don’t need to know that a product has been discontinued. This might happen for highly commoditized products which are functionally equivalent, or for products which have redesigned packaging but are otherwise identical. This approach also works well for products which are not ordered by SKU number. You might also opt for limited communication with customers about the product transition if you’re concerned about creating unnecessary friction and confusion.

If you choose the Silent Transition, the user experience in Corevist Commerce is fairly simple. After you set up the new product in SAP (see below), product substitution will occur in Corevist Commerce following your SAP business rules surrounding the transition. Depending on how much the customer orders, their experience in Corevist Commerce will fall into one of these buckets:

  • If the customer orders less than the remaining ATP inventory for Product A, no substitution occurs. The order is filled with Product A exclusively.
  • If the customer orders more than the remaining ATP inventory for Product A, Product B will be substituted invisibly for the quantity above what’s available for Product A.  

Best Practices for the Guided Transition

Silent substitution is more the exception than the rule. For more complex products, to fulfill marketing objectives, or for product transitions that will directly change the business processes of your customers, choose the Guided Transition. This will allow you to prepare your customers for the switch to Product B and the impact to their business.

Here are 3 key questions to ask yourself as you construct a plan for the Guided Transition:

1. When (and how) should I announce the new product?

The question of “when” is determined by your customers’ buying cycles and the lead time for manufacturing Product B (and the marketing approach, if any).

What is the ideal customer experience, and what are the goals for the new product? Is there likely to be resistance, or are retirements commonplace? Is this a promoted launch, or an “FYI” replacement? Asking questions like these will help you figure out when to announce the launch of the new product.

How should you handle these communications with customers? That depends on your business. If the product transition is disruptive to your customers’ daily operations, you should build a full communication plan, including personal touchpoints from Sales/CSRs, to help guide customers and give them ample opportunity to ask questions. At a minimum, if the customer uses your SKU to place orders, they’ll need to know that you’ve replaced the old SKU with a new one.

2. When should I start promoting the new product within Corevist Commerce?

Corevist Commerce has several tools to advise your customers that Product B is coming soon–right in the platform they will be placing orders! The timing is important, however, and you want to ensure you don’t cause confusion. Your customers won’t be transacting with Product B in Corevist Commerce until it’s set up in SAP, so make it clear that you’re simply educating them about the product ahead of time, not actually offering it for sale at this point.

If you want to avoid the possibility of that confusion entirely, we recommend running awareness  campaigns first, in other channels (email, social media, etc.), with a clear future launch date for the product. Once the product is available for purchase, you can point customers toward Corevist Commerce and leverage your catalog to promote the new product.

3. How do I get rid of inventory for the old product? When do I put it on discount?

This is where the Guided Transition gets a little more complex than the Silent Transition, particularly if you offer customers the option to buy Product B while Product A is still around. Because you’re educating customers about the benefits of Product B, they may switch before inventory for Product A is depleted.

While this will look different for every business, common practice is to run some kind of promotion on Product A to get rid of it. That could be a pricing discount, a bundle, you name it. Whatever kind of promotion is most attractive to your customers, Corevist Commerce supports your efforts with the capability to do banner ads, displaying pricing discounts straight from SAP, and more.  

The technical side: Leveraging SAP functionality for product substitution in Corevist Commerce

The beauty of Corevist Commerce is that you can build your product transition rules in SAP, and those rules will carry forward to your Corevist web store automatically, hands free.

Here’s how all this works in SAP:

  • Material determination in SAP allows you to specify that when an order comes in for Product A, SAP should substitute Product B. You can set this up to happen automatically, or to require manual intervention.
  • Combining material determination with ATP calculation allows you to run the product substitution ONLY after the customer has ordered more than is available in ATP. You can use this functionality to ensure you don’t sell Product B until Product A is fully depleted.  

Once you’ve chosen how you want this to run in SAP, and you’ve set it up in SAP, those business rules will function in Corevist Commerce automatically. (That’s just one small example of why Corevist is built on a real-time direct integration architecture—so you don’t have to invest in the same functionality twice. Build it in SAP, and Corevist Commerce will mirror it in real time.)

Moving forward: FREE case study

Want to see how a B2C-style user experience works for a real manufacturer? Download this case study on Mannington Mills. You’ll learn how this flooring manufacturer launched Corevist Commerce with a full catalog and grew web channel sales by 150%.

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