George Anderson


B2B eCommerce ROI: A Total View

Whenever I talk to someone about SAP B2B eCommerce, the question always comes up: is it worth it? Is it really more efficient than phone, fax, and email? Will it increase our market share? How long until it pays for itself?

You can—and should—measure all of that in numbers. (We’ll get to ROI.) But what about the intangibles? How will people feel about eCommerce, and how will that shift in company culture affect your business?

In the process of talking about SAP B2B eCommerce ROI, we stumbled upon a big insight: there’s more than just hard data at play. We knew we wanted to talk about “ROR”–return on relationship. We found out that Ted Rubin had already coined the phrase–Return on RelationshipTM–hats off to him for expressing this so well. We’re going to borrow it. :)

So what return are you getting from your business relationships? In an SAP B2B eCommerce scenario, what factors will influence your ROR?

The total “return” on B2B eCommerce should account for hard numbers (ROI) as well as the human element (ROR). No one is talking about the ROR of B2B eCommerce. I’d like to change that. First, I’ll talk about 5 factors that contribute to ROR. Then I’ll move on to 3 factors related to the hard numbers (ROI).


Business, like life, is built on relationships. You have relationships with your customers, as well as between your employees. But wherever there is a relationship, you have the potential for friction. What if B2B eCommerce could ease that friction, providing a greater “Return On Relationship”?

It can. Here are 5 ROR factors you should consider.

ROR Factor #1: Role-based permissions protect sensitive information

Adding an eCommerce channel can also simplify the politics of B2B selling. For example, say your customers don’t want to communicate credit holds to their employees. Yet these employees are the ones who do the ordering. What can you do?

B2B eCommerce allows you to set up role-based privileges on the eCommerce site. In other words, Employee A can still log in and place orders (as long as credit is in good standing). But if you don’t want that employee to know what the past due balance is, you can set up a simple error message to display when the customer is over their credit limit. For our clients, this message is often something like, “Order cannot be placed at this time—please contact your System Administrator.”

This is how B2B eCommerce honors credit limits without communicating sensitive information to people who don’t need to see it. B2B eCommerce gives you a better Return On Relationship because it can ease friction within both companies—yours and your customer’s.

ROR Factor #2: HQ can pay down invoices online

Just as a B2B eCommerce site can block a customer’s order because of a credit hold (without giving away the reason why), the site can also enable instant payment of invoices, whether current or past-due. When your customer’s employee gets a notification to contact a system administrator, that administrator can look into the issue on the B2B eCommerce site. Because the administrator’s account has greater privileges, she can see the unpaid invoices.

If her account has the relevant permissions, she can pay down the invoices herself with a few clicks. If she doesn’t have the permissions, she can notify accounts payable, and they can pay the invoices immediately.

That means the credit hold can be eliminated in a matter of minutes. The administrator can then contact the customer’s employee again. With neutral messaging like, “ordering is back up,” the administrator can let the customer know that she can place an order—without communicating the cause of the disruption.

B2B eCommerce offers a great Return On Relationship by enabling faster payments for the vendor and better service for the customer.

ROR Factor #3: Your CSRs can focus on more challenging problems

Because SAP B2B eCommerce increases your customers’ self-service ability, it reduces the burden on your CSRs. Your employees can focus on resolving unusual problems, rather than mundane and repetitive tasks like routine order entry.

It’s well known that people stay in a job that’s meaningful. As B2B eCommerce takes over the simple, repetitive task of getting orders posted in SAP (without errors, by the way), your CSRs are free to pursue more engaging, unusual problems that may arise with your customers. For example, your CSRs can help to resolve inventory or backorder situations, offer alternative products or quantities, or advise customers on new products to support new business initiatives at the customer’s company.  

Since these issues require creative problem-solving, your CSRs will feel more challenged and productive at work. They’ll be contributing to the greater good. That’s a great Return On Relationships–both the relationship with your CSRs, and with your customers.

ROR Factor #4: Your customers experience less friction after checkout

Once you get up and running with B2B eCommerce, your customers can log in at any time to get delivery status that is accurate, up to the second, and pulled straight from SAP and/or shipping carrier data.

This is an ROR point that is tied right to hard ROI. How much time could your CSRs save if they didn’t have to give order updates? Once you have a self-serve portal, your customers don’t need human interaction to get order updates.

ROR Factor #5: SAP B2B eCommerce is future-proof

Yes, it’s a HUGE change to go from phone/fax/email to eCommerce. It’s like moving. You hope you don’t have to do it again anytime soon.

The good news is—if you choose a powerful, flexible, scalable eCommerce platform that integrates directly with SAP, you won’t have to re-platform in the future. A good platform is a foundation that can handle expansions and modifications on top of it. B2B eCommerce may look very different in 5 or 10 years, but the right platform is one that’s been built ahead of time with those expansions in mind.

(Hint: I’m talking about Corevist.)

Of course, technology isn’t the only thing changing in B2B. The workforce is changing, too. As we see more and more Millennials entering the workforce, a friction-free buying experience will become more and more important. Millennials are “digital natives,” and they expect a seamless eCommerce experience (modeled on B2C) when they’re shopping for their employer.

In both areas, a good B2B eCommerce platform is “future-proof.” It can handle expanding technology, and it meets the growing expectations of younger buyers. In that sense, it offers a wonderful ROR now and in the future as the workforce becomes increasingly digital-first.


Let’s talk about money. How much is B2B eCommerce going to cost? Will it pay for itself? These questions are just as important as ROR. Here are 3 factors to consider.

ROI Factor #1: More revenue through existing accounts

It’s pretty simple: B2B eCommerce means more revenue. That increase happens through two paths. The first path is more revenue from existing accounts.

Some of your current customers are not buying from you at the capacity they could. They most likely buy product from multiple companies—some of which may have already built a friction-reducing eCommerce store. As you eliminate friction by enabling self-service, you create a huge value-add in the buying process. That absolutely means more revenue from existing accounts.

Of course, it’s up to Marketing to communicate the value of the new eCommerce store to existing customers. Marketing needs to think of eCommerce like launching a whole new business. It really does need that much support to get existing accounts engaged.

ROI Factor #2: More revenue through new customers

More revenue also happens by attracting new customers. SAP-integrated eCommerce is The Big Thing that Marketing has been looking for. Even better, SAP-integrated eCommerce keeps IT happy because it doesn’t duplicate any ERP data.

An easy-to-use eCommerce store, talking to SAP in real time, allows you to impress first-time buyers. When you delight people, they come back. All Marketing has to do is drive people to the site—and now they have a web portal that they can link to in email newsletters, social media, and from the company’s main marketing website.

ROI Factor #3: More revenue through personalization

Did you know that a good B2B eCommerce platform can “know” its logged-in customer, just like Amazon “knows” you?

It’s true. And it’s a huge value-add, both now, and in the future as the B2B eCommerce market matures.

When your customers shop online as consumers, recommendations follow them around the eCommerce site. These recommendations are powerful, informed by real data on what they like to buy.

We’re already doing it in SAP B2B eCommerce. Why not join us?

Imagine an eCommerce site that not only offers direct shopping by SKU, but actually recommends products based on SAP data for that customer. That’s huge.

Personalization enables the website itself to become a value-add to the customer. When the website recommends the product that the customer needs, he doesn’t have to get a part number out of the manual, and he doesn’t have to search a catalog of 50,000 SKUs. The website becomes a point of differentiation for you against your competitors.

That means customers will come back because your eCommerce website knows what they want to buy, and it helps them find those products. That’s a huge potential revenue boost, and it will only increase as personalization gets better and better.

The Takeaway

I’ve talked a lot about the “hard ROI” of B2B eCommerce—and I’ll continue to talk about it. But hopefully I’ve given you a little insight into ROR—the people side, and the ways in which it can actually improve hard ROI, too. Hopefully you see how they’re all interconnected.

If you have any questions about the capabilities of our eCommerce platform, how it talks to SAP in real time, and how it can adapt to your unique business needs, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I’d love to hear from you.

Email me today: ariel [DOT] mordetsky [AT]

–Ariel Mordetsky, Director of Sales

Image courtesy of NBT Natural Building. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.