SAP Internet Sales gave manufacturers a powerful entry point to the world of SAP eCommerce. The solution offered many crucial features for B2B — things like real-time pricing and inventory, real-time order posting to the ERP, and self-service order tracking within the portal.
Though SAP Internet Sales was superseded by WCEM (Web Channel Experience Management) and then SAP hybris (now Commerce Cloud), many manufacturers still rely on Internet Sales for their B2B channel. Yet the application is no longer supported by SAP, and manufacturers are struggling to find alternatives that marry deep SAP integration to a modern, mobile-friendly UI.
The problem: Conventional eCommerce platforms don’t put SAP at the core of B2B sales
SAP Internet Sales was a groundbreaking application. Through real-time integration with a backend system (typically the ERP in a B2B scenario, either R/3 or ECC), the solution provided everything that manufacturers’ customers needed to complete transactions online.
Since the early 2000s, the B2B eCommerce market has evolved significantly. It has moved away from the forward-thinking, ERP-first architecture of SAP Internet Sales to an eCommerce-first architecture. Where Internet Sales put SAP ERP at the core, today’s conventional eCommerce platform puts itself at the core of business data and processes.
Of course, it’s understandable that the market would move this way. B2C eCommerce has exploded since the early 2000s. The consumer market cares less about ERP data and more about creating a flexible look and feel that can accommodate unique branding.
For manufacturers looking to replace SAP Internet Sales, conventional platforms like Magento or Salesforce can create problems. Without a complex middleware architecture (see below), these platforms can’t provide the basic features that empowered manufacturers’ customers to buy online through SAP Internet Sales.
So what functionality should manufacturers prioritize when re-platforming off SAP Internet Sales?
Start by looking at what you’ll lose. Here are the top features of SAP Internet Sales that conventional eCommerce platforms will struggle to support.
Real-time, customer-specific pricing from SAP ERP
Since accurate pricing is essential for completing transactions, it’s a make or break feature for manufacturers’ customers. Without it, buyers will have to call customer service for pricing inquiries. At scale, that drives up your cost to serve — and thus defeats one of the primary purposes of B2B eCommerce.
If your customers were getting real-time pricing in SAP Internet Sales, you’ll want to look for a solution that can provide this crucial feature. Ideally, you’ll want to provide this without middleware, as a middleware-based architecture will significantly increase the IT resources required to support your web channel (more on that below).
Real-time inventory from SAP ERP
SAP Internet Sales also provided real-time stock availability to logged-in customers. While conventional platforms may promise real-time inventory through a middleware integration, it gets more complicated if you have personalized ATP (available to promise) rules for different customers.
Whether your customers need personalized ATP or generic inventory data, you should look for a solution that provides real-time inventory automatically, without middleware. (Hint: This is how we architected Corevist Commerce.)
Real-time order posting to SAP ERP
If you’re going to give customers real-time inventory on the web, it stands to reason that you need their orders to post to the ERP instantly. Otherwise, inventory availability in the ERP will get out of date, and there’s no longer one source of truth for business data.
That’s not the only reason to pursue real-time order posting. This functionality also fulfills the customer’s expectation that once they click submit on that order, they’ve done everything necessary to secure stock. Any delay, caching, or batch syncing of order data risks upsetting this certainty. When these delays create unexpected backorders or order errors, customers learn that they can’t trust the B2B eCommerce store. At scale, these issues directly undermine customer adoption of B2B eCommerce, sabotaging your plans for digital evolution.
If you’re going to replace SAP Internet Sales, you should look for a solution that posts 100% error-free orders to SAP in real time. (Hint: This is what Corevist Commerce does — with intelligent error messaging to help the user create a well-formed order.)
Architecture that keeps SAP as the “single source of truth”
Though SAP Internet Sales didn’t offer much front-end flexibility, it got something else right: it kept SAP ERP as the single source of truth for business data and logic. In a B2C scenario, that’s not so important, as B2C transactions are rarely governed by customer-specific business rules. But in a B2B scenario, that kind of tight integration to the ERP is essential to ensure accurate customer personalization and data integrity.
Manufacturers who are replacing SAP Internet Sales should look for solutions that offer even deeper SAP integration for B2B transactions. Most B2B eCommerce platforms aren’t architected to support direct, real-time ERP integration, as it requires the platform vendor to put the ERP first. (Hint: Corevist Commerce isn’t a conventional platform. Our solution acts as a real-time window into your SAP ERP system.)
How to get real-time SAP data and logic in your new B2B web store
With the pace of change in the digital world, today’s B2B buyer needs even more comprehensive, real-time personalization than what’s available in SAP Internet Sales. Many manufacturers have already defined all this data and logic in SAP — they just need a way to bring it to the web.
So how do you ensure your B2B web store will automatically create the right experience, with the right data, for every user?
At a high level, there are only two ways to do this.
Option 1: Conventional B2B eCommerce platform + middleware
If you choose a platform like Magento or Salesforce, this is your only option. Each of these platforms will require duplicating data and business logic in multiple places. Since the ERP, middleware and eCommerce must each maintain their own copies of data and logic, this architecture will require regular synchronization between all three systems. That increases your organization’s technical debt, and it risks creating a bad customer experience when data in the web store is out of date.
While real-time middleware does exist, you can’t avoid the fact that this architecture creates three separate systems, each with its own copy of data and business logic. Those three systems will each require their own set of dedicated IT resources to troubleshoot and maintain.
For manufacturers re-platforming off of SAP Internet Sales, the burden of maintaining these three separate systems may be too much to bear, whether it’s done internally or outsourced.
Option 2: B2B platform that’s built on a direct, real-time SAP integration
Manufacturers don’t have to launch complicated middleware architecture to replicate the functionality of Internet Sales.
In fact, Corevist’s architecture eliminates the need for costly (and risky) middleware solutions. Our platform includes direct, real-time SAP integration from the start — and it covers every step of the buyer journey for manufacturers’ customers.
With this architecture, you retain a single source of truth for data and business logic. SAP ERP remains the system of record, and your B2B web store reads and writes that data directly, in real time, without middleware or the need for duplication and synchronization.
As you re-platform off SAP Internet Sales, you’ll want to consider SAP integration carefully. Do your B2B customers still need real-time data from SAP? (Hint: If they already had it, you can’t really take it away from them.)
If they do need real-time SAP data, you should seek out platforms that provide deep SAP integration out of the box.