No doubt about it, SAP Commerce Cloud is one of the most powerful eCommerce platforms on the market today. It consistently ranks high in analyst reports and serves some of the world’s biggest brands in B2C and B2B. For SAP organizations looking at enterprise-wide eCommerce programs, SAP Commerce Cloud is an omnichannel powerhouse.
But what about specific, B2B-only use cases with constrained IT resources? How can subsidiaries launch B2B eCommerce without the massive investment that Commerce Cloud requires?
Here’s everything you need to know about SAP Commerce Cloud for B2B. (Click to jump.)
1. What SAP Commerce Cloud offers for B2B
SAP Commerce Cloud is the de facto standard for SAP clients. It’s robust, it can serve the entire enterprise, and it’s architected for scalability. On the front end, it empowers organizations to differentiate from the competition through unique user experiences — a capability that’s essential for B2C (and for B2B use cases that look a lot like B2C).
- Context-driven services. This powerful technology can drive personalized product recommendations, segmentation and merchandising reporting. For B2B use cases with a strong B2C-style marketing component, context-driven services can provide deep personalization to increase basket size and customer value.
- Embedded PIM (product information management). SAP’s PIM allows you to manage product content and catalogs from a central location and disseminate them to the appropriate channels. This is helpful for eCommerce programs that rely on a unique user experience for competitive differentiation (see below).
- WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) storefront editor. SAP Commerce Cloud allows admins to make changes to the look and feel of the site using an intuitive interface. This is especially important for business cases that lean toward B2C, in which you may want to A/B test different aspects of the eCommerce experience without opening development tickets.
- Full omnichannel readiness. SAP Commerce Cloud supports an omnichannel approach to global commerce, with support for web, mobile, social, and point-of-sale integration.
2. Which B2B use cases are right for Commerce Cloud?
IDC’s MarketScape report on B2B eCommerce platforms describes the ideal use case for SAP Commerce Cloud (emphasis ours).
“Consider SAP [Commerce Cloud] if you are an enterprise looking for an all-in-one digital commerce platform that can handle complex enterprise requirements and can support both B2B and B2C business models or you use SAP for other CX applications. Consider it if your organization is primarily focused on differentiating by building a unique and highly customized commerce experience with a platform offering deep functionality.”
Differentiating based on commerce experience is essential in the B2C space. Consumers don’t have contractual obligations with retailers, which means the eCommerce experience must continually attract (and re-attract) buyers in a highly competitive environment.
In these cases, you can justify the customization required to create that unique experience — because without it, you won’t be able to compete.
But not every B2B transaction is so precarious. In fact, manufacturers often do have contractual relationships with their distribution partners. For these users, a rich B2C-style experience may actually get in the way of doing business.
Consider these common B2B business cases. In each one, SAP Commerce Cloud may be too big for the business case.
- Your organization just needs a dealer portal where existing customers can place orders, track orders and pay off invoices. You don’t need to differentiate based on eCommerce user experience because your dealers have contractual relationships with you. You’re also not terribly concerned about attracting new customers — rather, you’re looking to create a better customer experience for your existing customers. And given those contractual terms, you really need to show personalized pricing and inventory to each logged-in customer.
- You just need to become ETDBW (easier to do business with) for your existing distributors. Your largest customers are using EDI, but the long tail (numerous small customers) are still placing orders via phone, fax and email. You need to reduce the cost of serving these customers so you can increase your profits. You don’t really need an amazing B2C-style eCommerce experience — you just need to capture existing business in an easy-to-use B2B portal. Since each customer has unique pricing, you need to leverage your SAP logic in the portal.
- S/4HANA migration is forcing you to replace your B2B portal for existing customers. Your portal has rudimentary integration to ECC, and when you move to S/4HANA, you’re going to lose the integration. Rebuilding it for S/4HANA isn’t feasible, as the ERP migration has taken up all the oxygen in the room. You don’t need all the bells and whistles of SAP Commerce Cloud — you just need a B2B portal where your distribution partners can place orders, track orders and invoices, and pay their bills through self-service. (Note: Corevist is compatible with both ECC and S/4HANA, and there’s no heavy lifting required to transfer your integration from ECC to S/4HANA.)
As you can see, SAP Commerce Cloud may not be a fit for every B2B use case. If SAP’s solution is a high-performance luxury car, these business cases just need a reliable daily driver. To extend the analogy further, these use cases need a car with a certain kind of motor — a deep integration to SAP ERP that enforces all the relevant B2B logic for each customer. While Commerce Cloud can support that with a third-party integration platform, that’s too much complexity for many IT organizations.
Another factor comes into play here. We often find these use cases at midmarket manufacturers, or in outlying subsidiaries or business units that don’t have a lot of influence over their parent company’s decisions. In these situations, local IT resources are already constrained and overburdened. If the business unit is going to do B2B eCommerce, they’re on their own — largely because the parent company has their hands full with other projects.
In these cases, SAP Commerce Cloud remains out of reach. But it may create too much heavy lifting anyway, given the fact that it doesn’t offer comprehensive SAP ERP integration out of the box.
3. SAP-approved alternative to Commerce Cloud for B2B
For manufacturers that are struggling to swallow Commerce Cloud, there is an alternative — one approved by SAP. Corevist Commerce is built on a direct, real-time ERP integration that works for both ECC and S/4HANA. Our integration ensures that every customer’s experience is driven by the right logic and data in SAP ERP. It’s how we deliver true B2B features without an additional system sitting between SAP and the commerce solution.
Here’s a small sample of B2B-specific features that Corevist offers out of the box (with fixed bids and hard deadlines for implementation).
- 100% accurate contract pricing for every customer, every SKU, and every quantity. Every cart, every order, every time.
- Real-time product availability for every SKU, including ATP (available to promise) calculations where applicable, driven by customer-specific logic in SAP ERP.
- Customer-specific catalogs and picklists automatically driven by SAP logic. If you already limit what SKUs a customer is allowed to buy, you need a way to filter the products that they see in B2B eCommerce. The most efficient way to do that is directly leveraging the logic you’ve already defined in SAP ERP.
- Real-time credit status straight from SAP. This allows customers to see how their order will affect their credit — and whether the order will go on credit block or not.
- Real-time, error-free order posting to SAP. Corevist’s deep SAP integration only accepts orders that conform to the relevant SAP business rules. If the user finds a way to build an order with errors, Corevist returns intelligent messages to help them fix it. The platform posts error-free orders to SAP instantly, updating inventory quantities and the customer’s account standing at the same time.
- Self-service access to full order history and status, plus shipments and tracking numbers, integrated to SAP and major carrier websites.
- Dynamic, real-time SAP reports within the B2B eCommerce portal. Got a unique report in SAP that users need to interact with? Whether it’s customers or internal personas, Corevist supports dynamic reports pulled from SAP in real time.
Let’s be honest, that’s a lot of B2B functionality. To replicate this in SAP Commerce Cloud, you’ll need a custom integration with a third system that sits between SAP and eCommerce. That will create an additional IT workload that will grow more complex over time. It also introduces new potential failure points in your data landscape.
If the powerful B2C-style capabilities of Commerce Cloud are essential, and if your organization has the resources to support that architecture, then you’re in a great place to do B2B on Commerce Cloud.
But what about those use cases we mentioned above? And what about organizations that don’t have the resources to support a complex, bespoke integration? How about scenarios that don’t call for competitive differentiation through a B2C-style user experience?
- Entire business (or business unit that needs B2B eCommerce) does $300M – $5B in total annual revenue. At this size, SAP Commerce Cloud may require too much heavy lifting for specific B2B use cases — particularly if SAP integration is more important than competitive differentiation based on a B2C-style user experience.
- Comprehensive SAP ERP integration required. For manufacturers selling to dealers, distributors or other channel partners who have personalized business logic defined in SAP, integrating Commerce Cloud to SAP may be too expensive and challenging. Corevist’s prebuilt, configurable SAP integration solves this problem.
- B2B eCommerce will be used primarily to serve existing customers (rather than attract new customers). If the B2B eCommerce project is meant to improve the buying experience for existing customers (and improve profit by abolishing the cost of phone, fax and email ordering), then Commerce Cloud’s powerful capabilities for attracting new buyers aren’t really aligned with the business case. In these scenarios, Commerce Cloud comes with a lot of financial and technological weight that doesn’t map to the needs of the business case.
4. The bottom line on Commerce Cloud for B2B
SAP Commerce Cloud is a great fit for numerous use cases.
- B2C retail programs
- Enterprise-wide programs that require one platform for both B2C and B2B
- B2B use cases that require competitive differentiation based on B2C-style user experience (as long as the organization has the IT resources to support a complex SAP integration architecture)
In other cases, Corevist Commerce, an SAP-approved alternative, may be a better fit.
- Subsidiaries or business units that can’t get corporate support for B2B eCommerce on their terms.
- Midmarket organizations that have limited IT resources and limited appetite for the responsibilities that come with SAP Commerce Cloud.
- Any B2B use case in which deep SAP integration is more important than robust B2C-style capabilities.