SAP Ecommerce Integration: The Big Picture
When it comes to SAP ecommerce integration, it’s important to know what you’re buying. If you’re launching a web channel but don’t have domain expertise in that area, it’s easy to get bogged down in technical problems due to the complexity of integrating ecommerce to SAP.
What goes into a successful SAP ecommerce integration? Contract pricing from SAP, real-time inventory from SAP—data points like these are essential to creating a good customer experience, but SAP-integrated ecommerce is more than any one data point coming over from SAP. A larger question looms behind these details:
Who’s responsible for your SAP ecommerce integration as a whole?
In other words, are you spreading the responsibility for hosting, implementation, integration, and support among multiple 3rd parties? Or are you working with “One Throat to Choke”—a vendor who covers it all?
A Tale of Two Approaches
At Corevist, we think of it like this: there are only 2 high-level buckets of approaches to SAP ecommerce integration. One approach relies on multiple 3rd parties, while the other relies on one provider who “owns” ecommerce from top to bottom.
Here’s what we call these approaches:
- The Alliance of SIs and/or FTEs: Responsibility for your ecommerce platform, including SAP integration, is distributed among 3rd party SIs (systems integrators) and possibly FTEs (full time employees of your company). When something goes bump in the night, you have to triage the situation and contact multiple parties to start figuring out a solution.
- One Throat to Choke (the Corevist Commerce model): A single ecommerce provider is responsible for all aspects of your web channel, from hosting to implementation, SAP integration, management, and growth consulting. If something ever goes bump in the night, you know who to call.
Spoiler: Most companies will take Path 1, the Alliance of SIs and/or FTEs.
However, that path comes with many risks.
Before you go down that road, let’s look at 11 key data points in SAP ecommerce integration. For each data point, we’ll examine the best path to deliver a seamless customer experience.
1. SAP-integrated ecommerce pricing
What it is:
If you know SAP, you know it can do a whole lot with dynamic pricing. Since many customers have negotiated contract pricing, and since you may offer quantity discounts on some or all products, pricing in SAP can get pretty complex.
Why you need SAP-integrated ecommerce pricing:
Often, the goal of launching SAP-integrated ecommerce is not only to grow sales, but also to transition existing business relationships online. If customers can’t get their personalized pricing in the SAP ecommerce integration, and if they can’t get pricing breaks by quantity, they’ll end up calling Customer Service.
If that happens, SAP-integrated ecommerce isn’t doing one of its many jobs. It isn’t moving business online, and it isn’t making the buying process easier for customers.
To move existing business online, and to make the buying experience easy for new and returning customers, you need to display real-time pricing from SAP in your ecommerce integration.
How to nail SAP-integrated ecommerce pricing:
Steer clear of any solution architecture that forces you to rebuild all your pricing rules in ecommerce. Often, this is the approach which you’re forced to take if you go with the Alliance of SIs and FTEs. That means maintaining pricing rules in two places (or three, if middleware is involved). If you choose this path, make sure you have a clear understanding of which SI or internal team is responsible for maintaining accurate pricing rules in your SAP ecommerce integration.
If you choose a solution like Corevist Commerce, you work with one trusted partner who manages the entire solution for you. No more Alliance of SIs and FTEs. What’s more, Corevist Commerce integrates to your SAP pricing rules, right out of the box.
2. SAP-integrated inventory/ATP calculation in ecommerce
What it is:
As the world’s leading ERP solution, SAP offers powerful functionality surrounding inventory. Not only can you display actual inventory numbers to all customers, but you can use available to promise (ATP) calculations instead.
In a nutshell, ATP allows you to show customers a fraction of total available inventory rather than showing them the full quantity that’s actually in stock. This allows you to distribute product among customers in the way that’s best for your business, and it prevents one customer from buying up all of your existing inventory.
Why you need SAP-integrated inventory in ecommerce:
This one’s fairly self-explanatory. If your SAP ecommerce integration is supposed to be 100% self-service, it has to display accurate inventory information—period. Availability of your products can make or break the sale if a customer’s business process depends on that availability.
If that’s not enough, research has proven that poor inventory information is the #2 problem which B2B buyers encounter when they use ecommerce. It really can kill sales. And if it happens often enough, customers may not come back to the web channel.
How to nail SAP-integrated inventory in ecommerce:
Like real-time pricing in SAP-integrated ecommerce, inventory/ATP is difficult to get right in any architecture that requires you to rebuild SAP business rules in another application. Since the Alliance of SIs/FTEs route generally means rebuilding business rules, real-time inventory usually suffers if you take this path.
With a One Throat to Choke solution (like Corevist Commerce), real-time inventory is included in your SAP ecommerce integration, right out of the box. You’ll never have to troubleshoot a problem with inventory/ATP in ecommerce because we manage the pre-built integration for you.
3. SAP-integrated ecommerce picklists
What it is:
This is an anecdote from road less traveled in SAP ecommerce integrations, but it’s still worth noting. A personalized pick list is a curated list of products in SAP which a customer is allowed to buy from. For businesses which only take orders via phone/fax/email, personalized pick lists come into play when a CSR (customer service representative) is advising a customer on what they can order (or is placing the order on the customer’s behalf).
Why you may need SAP-integrated ecommerce picklists:
Again, this is a rarer case in SAP ecommerce integrations, but for some businesses, it’s essential. In a nutshell, a personalized pick list in SAP-integrated ecommerce allows you to display a limited subset of products to the ecommerce user. This can help the customer buy only products from a certain plant, which is particularly important if the customer is trying to control freight charges (see the next item).
How to nail personalized picklists in your SAP ecommerce integration:
While pricing and inventory might work out in the Alliance of SIs/FTEs path, personalized picklists generally don’t. There’s simply too much data that requires constant manual intervention to keep up to date—particularly when you need to provide each customer with a personalized list by plant of origin. For more, see this post: Personalized Picklists in SAP-Integrated Ecommerce.
In contrast, Corevist Commerce allows you to leverage your SAP picklists in ecommerce. With a real-time ecommerce integration to SAP, Corevist Commerce can display your SAP-curated pick lists on the web. No duplication of data or business rule maintenance.
4. SAP-integrated weight calculation
What it is:
This is another less-common requirement in SAP ecommerce integration, but it’s still worth considering. For manufacturers that send large shipments to their distributors, order weight calculation in SAP allows your customers to ensure they fill up a truckload and get the best value for their freight charge.
Why you may need SAP-integrated weight calculation:
If your customers currently call Customer Service to get total order weight before placing an order, you’ll need to account for that in your SAP ecommerce integration. Without this key component of the user experience, your customers won’t be able to complete their orders online (since they have to phone in to get that total order weight).
If they have to phone in, then ecommerce isn’t really integrated to SAP, and it’s not doing its job of providing 100% self-service.
How to nail order weight calculation in your SAP ecommerce integration:
This is another data point that suffers under the Alliance of SIs/FTEs model. Who’s responsible for getting line item weight from SAP to display in ecommerce? In contrast, under the One Throat to Choke model, you work with one partner who takes care of SAP-integrated weight calculation (and everything else).
As you consider solutions for your SAP ecommerce integration, make sure you choose one that can show both line item weight and total order weight within the web shop. Corevist Commerce can deliver this capability—both line item weight straight from the material record in SAP, and total order weight for everything in the shopping cart.
5. SAP-integrated credit status by customer account
What it is:
A customer’s credit status determines whether they can keep placing orders on credit. If your customers currently place orders by phone/fax/email, your CSRs (customer service representatives) may perform a credit check, depending on your policies, before posting an order.
A credit check ensures that you get paid in a timely fashion (and that your customers keep their accounts in good standing). However, if customers don’t have visibility into their credit status, and don’t have the ability to pay down invoices through self-service, credit block can actually keep your customers from placing orders.
Why you may need SAP-integrated credit status in ecommerce:
If you’re going to launch SAP-integrated ecommerce, you should consider displaying credit status in the web store and offering self-service invoice selection and payment. Not every business chooses to go this route; but if you do, you’ll empower your customers to maintain good account standing on their own. Customers get a friction-free account management experience (no phone calls to Customer Service), and you can reduce the workload of your Customer Service department, as they no longer have to field routine calls about credit status.
How to nail credit status in your SAP ecommerce integration:
Once again, the One Throat to Choke path ensures you get credit status from SAP displayed in ecommerce, whereas in the Alliance of SIs/FTEs path, you have to make sure one of your partners has this covered. A solution like Corevist Commerce supports real-time credit status, invoice selection, and invoice payment out of the box—and we manage the solution for you. This expands the usefulness of your ecommerce portal and makes you easier to buy from.
6. SAP-integrated order status (for all channels, not just ecommerce)
What it is:
As B2C consumers, we all want to know the status of our orders. We keep a close watch on Amazon orders as they’re shipped out and updated. As a manufacturer, your customers need to keep tabs on their orders, too—particularly when the products support a business-critical operation with a hard deadline.
Why you need SAP-integrated order status in ecommerce:
If your customers can buy online through your SAP ecommerce integration, they should be able to check their orders online, too. It’s really that simple. If your ecommerce solution doesn’t include SAP-integrated order status, your customers will have to call Customer Service to get updates. This creates friction in the online buying experience and reduces the value which your customers get out of ecommerce. The less value they get from it, the less likely they are to become regular users.
How to nail order status in your SAP ecommerce integration:
Choose an SAP-integrated ecommerce solution that offers real-time order status straight from SAP—not just for ecommerce orders, but for ALL orders, regardless of placement channel. Corevist Commerce provides this visibility to your customers. Phone orders, fax, email, ecommerce—Corevist Commerce displays full history and status for all types of orders through our real-time SAP integration.
7. Intelligent, SAP-integrated error messaging (& 100% error-free order posting)
What it is:
When your customers call Customer Service to place an order, a CSR often handles the complexity of the B2B relationship on behalf of the customer. If the customer requests an SKU which is no longer available (or isn’t available to that particular customer), the CSR will catch the error and correct it. This ensures that customers get the right products with minimal delay caused by order errors.
Why you need error messaging from SAP in your ecommerce integration:
If you’re launching SAP-integrated ecommerce, all kinds of complexities arise. What part of your product catalog in SAP will be available in your web channel? The question gets more complex if you have multiple geographies in play with multiple storefronts. (Note: Corevist Commerce excels in scenarios with multiple storefronts. We’re built to scale up for global businesses, and our solution supports the geographical restrictions which you have built into SAP for different product lines.)
These complexities, plus simple human error, can lead to errors when customers place orders by SKU number. Customers may have an old SKU list, or they may order an SKU that was never available in their geography.
Here’s where many SAP ecommerce integrations fall down. Without intelligent, real-time error messaging from SAP, the solution may allow customers to place orders that can’t be fulfilled. These orders will need manual intervention from a CSR, most likely a phone call or email letting the customer know there’s a problem and suggesting a different product instead. A workflow like this creates friction for the customer. If it happens again and again, it doesn’t help the web channel become “sticky” for the customer. In fact, it may drive them away.
How to nail 100% error-free orders in your SAP ecommerce integration:
Choose a One-Throat-to-Choke solution like Corevist Commerce that includes this functionality out of the box. Corevist checks your SAP system to see whether the SKU is valid (and whether the customer is allowed to purchase it in that quantity). If there’s a problem, Corevist returns an intelligent error message that tells the customer how to fix the order.
Corevist will only accept 100% error-free orders that abide by all relevant SAP business rules. That means no manual intervention from your CSRs, and it gives your customers assurance that once they’ve placed an order, it’s 100% error-free and won’t require more back-and-forth before it ships out.
Can you achieve a solution like this following the Alliance of SIs/FTEs path? Probably. But it will be far more complex, with more bumps in the road, than working with a One Throat to Choke provider.
8. SAP-integrated ecommerce SKU substitution
What it is:
Outdated SKUs are a fact of life in manufacturing. The product lifecycle may vary for each item in your catalog, but chances are, you’re going to refresh each product at some point. When customers order an old SKU through a CSR (customer service rep), the CSR can make the product substitution manually (or through substitution rules in SAP). This is an essential part of keeping your product offerings up to date in the customer’s buying experience.
Why you may need SKU substitution in your SAP ecommerce integration:
If your products go through any sort of refresh or upgrade cycle involving new SKUs, your SAP ecommerce integration will have to account for that. If it doesn’t, you risk introducing confusion and friction into the buying process. If your customers have to call Customer Service to get the right replacement product—or, conversely, if orders with old SKUs require manual intervention—that’s unnecessary friction.
How to nail SKU substitutions in SAP-integrated ecommerce:
A solution like Corevist Commerce carries your SAP business rules to the web. That includes material substitution rules from SAP in the ecommerce store. There are 3 ways to handle product lifecycle transitions in Corevist Commerce: Removing the retired product from ecommerce, SKU substitution without notification, and the guided SKU substitution. Read this post for more.
While you can achieve SKU substitutions in ecommerce following the Alliance of SIs/FTEs path, the journey will be more complex, and you’ll have to manage communication between multiple parties to get your integration off the ground and keep it working. In particular, rebuilding SKU substitution rules in middleware and ecommerce (required on the Alliance of SIs/FTEs path) will create duplicate investment, as you’ll have to maintain that complexity in 2-3 places.
In contrast, Corevist Commerce reads and writes to SAP in real time, without middleware. You don’t have to rebuild any business rules. Maintain them in SAP, as you already do, and they’ll translate into your Corevist Commerce web channel.
9. SAP-integrated related product suggestion (cross-sell/upsell)
What it is:
If you sell ancillary or related products, or if you have a tiered family of products, the relationships between those products are defined in SAP. A Sales rep or CSR uses this information to help them suggest related products to customers, or to upsell the customer on a higher-value product in the same line.
Why you need SAP-integrated product suggestion in ecommerce:
Cross-selling/upselling is a critical feature of B2C ecommerce—think Amazon product recommendations. It’s a crucial function in B2B ecommerce, too. Any user who uses the catalog to order product (rather than typing SKUs directly into the cart) is a candidate for cross-selling/upselling. If you don’t show related products in your SAP-integrated ecommerce store, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to increase AOV (average order size).
There’s a business intelligence facet to this, too. With enough time and purchasing data (which Corevist Commerce provides), you can figure out which combinations of products actually sell best. That gives you all kinds of intelligence for planning future promotions, product packages, and more.
How to nail suggested products in SAP-integrated ecommerce:
Look for an SAP ecommerce integration that supports your related product rules in SAP and brings them to the web. Corevist Commerce does this, allowing you to merchandise to your customers within the catalog through cross-selling/upselling. See this article for more (scroll down to Step 3).
10. Multiple ship-to/sold-to in your SAP ecommerce integration
What it is:
B2B relationships are complex. A customer may place orders on behalf of more than one entity. Likewise, a Sales rep has more than one end user whom he/she services.
Why you may need multiple ship-to/sold-to in your SAP ecommerce integration:
If your customers buy on behalf of multiple entities, or if your sales reps place orders on behalf of multiple customers, then your current buying process already supports multiple ship-to/sold-to. Any SAP-integrated ecommerce solution will have to do the same, or it risks introducing friction into the buying process. Think about it: if your customers have to call Customer Service to get the order assigned to the right ship-to/sold-to, or if your field sales portal doesn’t support multiple ship-to/sold-to, then the solution isn’t working.
How to nail multiple ship-to/sold-to in your SAP ecommerce integration:
Make sure your SAP ecommerce integration supports mapping multiple ship-to/sold-to IDs to a single ecommerce ID. This ensures that every user, whether it’s an internal Sales rep or a customer buying on behalf of multiple entities, can assign orders to the appropriate organization. For more on how we do this in Corevist Commerce, see this post: Ordering on Behalf of Multiple Customers in SAP-Integrated Ecommerce.
11. Payments in your SAP ecommerce integration
What it is:
You have a payment workflow (or more than one) in place already. These are the terms by which your customers pay. Maybe you accept credit cards over the phone, or maybe you only offer net 30/60/90 terms via invoice.
Why you need to define payments in your SAP ecommerce integration:
At the risk of stating the obvious… you need to get paid! 😊 You should make it crystal-clear to your ecommerce users how they should pay, and when. Your SAP ecommerce integration must provide some form of payment integration, even if it’s just payment by invoice.
How to nail payments in your SAP ecommerce integration:
Define the payment terms and methods which you want to offer in ecommerce. For example, if you don’t currently accept credit cards, you may find that your customers would actually prefer to pay instantly via credit card, ACH, PayPal, or some other method when doing business with you. If you offer these services in your SAP-integrated ecommerce store, you meet your customers’ needs and become easier to do business with.
Hint: Corevist Commerce partners with Delego for SAP-integrated ecommerce payments. What’s more, our Customer Dashboard (which is available separately or in our full Corevist Commerce implementation) offers real-time, self-service account management and invoice payment to your customers.
The Takeaway: Cover all the bases in your SAP ecommerce integration
Integrating ecommerce to SAP isn’t for the faint of heart. If you choose the Alliances of SIs/FTEs path, you’ll need some degree of domain expertise in ecommerce, both to understand the requirements of your project as a whole, and to communicate to your SIs/FTEs what you need from each of them.
Many manufacturers come to us because they don’t have the domain expertise to handle this themselves. Others come to us with the battle scars of failed SAP ecommerce integrations in which the Alliance of SIs/FTEs simply didn’t come through. That’s why Corevist Commerce exists. As the only One-Throat-to-Choke provider in SAP-integrated ecommerce, we take care of your web channel, top to bottom, so you can focus on running your business.
Moving forward: FREE case study
Want to see SAP-integrated ecommerce in real life? Download this case study on LORD Corporation. You’ll learn how this leading manufacturer got off SAP ISA, which was being sunsetted, and launched a powerful SAP ecommerce integration with Corevist Commerce.