Basics of a Smart Proof of Concept
It’s no secret that B2B ecommerce can be difficult to sell across a large organization. One path forward, as Practical Ecommerce recently suggested, is a simple proof-of-concept (POC) without SAP integration. The idea is fairly straightforward: Launch a good-looking, low-cost SaaS solution using a B2C-oriented platform and thus prove to the brass that ecommerce is viable.
This is a good option for companies that want to test their customers’ reaction to ecommerce in a limited way. But a non-integrated proof of concept is limited. Here are 3 crucial things you should know, both for your proof of concept now, and for your permanent ecommerce solution.
1. A proof of concept proves… a concept, not a specific solution
An ecommerce platform that’s easy to launch makes a good POC because the barrier to entry is low. With minimal risk, you can launch a SaaS solution with no integration to SAP, take a minimal number of orders, and input them manually into SAP. You’re not trying to prove the solution as a whole. You’re just proving that your customers will use ecommerce.
That means that your proof-of-concept platform may not be the best permanent choice for an ecommerce platform. This is especially true if you use a solution like Shopify or Bigcommerce that doesn’t integrate to SAP out of the box. These platforms can prove the concept of ecommerce while not proving they are the right platform for your business.
Why? Because SAP integration a key indicator of platform fit. Here’s why.
2. Without integration, bad pricing & inventory data ticks off your B2B buyers
In the world of ecommerce, everything starts with the user. What information do they need to make a confident decision to buy? Here’s the essential information for B2B purchases:
- Accurate inventory availability
- Accurate ATP (available to promise) calculation
- Accurate contract pricing
- Accurate quantity price breaks
- Choice of ship-from warehouse (where applicable)
- Choice of multiple sold-to accounts (where applicable)
Here’s why this data matters. Since your proof-of-concept website isn’t integrated to SAP in real time, your customer will have all kinds of questions:
- Is the inventory still available, or has another order claimed it?
- Am I looking at list price, or my negotiated contract price?
- Why don’t I get the same quantity price breaks in ecommerce that I get when phone in my order?
- I need the product ASAP—why can’t I choose the closest ship-from warehouse, like I can when I phone in my order?
Since your ecommerce proof-of-concept can’t answer these questions, your customer will grow frustrated with the user experience. In a limited number of test cases (the POC scope), this most likely won’t damage customer relationships. However, you should seek to address SAP integration in your permanent ecommerce solution.
3. When moving forward from your POC, consider SAP integration
Your ecommerce POC most likely didn’t include integration to SAP. After all, why would it? You’re not testing whether integration will make things more efficient. You’re just testing your customers’ reaction to ecommerce.
But as you move forward and evaluate permanent ecommerce solutions, it’s crucial to consider the integration. Your ecommerce orders have to get into SAP, and at scale, manual order entry gets expensive for you and time-consuming for your customer service staff.
Not only that, but a non-integrated permanent solution will generate order errors. These orders originate in 2 ways:
- Errors in CSR data entry—The order is properly formed and SAP-ready, but the CSR types it in wrong and SAP rejects it.
- Errors in customer order formation—The disconnected ecommerce website allows customers to place badly-formed orders that SAP would never accept.
In the first case, CSRs can double-check against the original ecommerce order and find the error they introduced. Not a big deal, but it will irritate them, and at scale, it could prove significant.
In the second case, CSR workload increases and the process becomes murky. The CSR has to reach out to the customer manually to figure out what they were trying to order. As a one-off case, this isn’t a huge problem; but at scale, it can become disruptive.
Of course, CSR workload isn’t the only reason SAP integration is critical to success. Your customers also need real-time SAP data to help them make buying decisions. Contract pricing, scaled pricing, inventory availability, ATP, ship-from warehouse, and many other data points really are required for customer confidence. Since that data lives in SAP, a real-time integration is most viable way to bring it to ecommerce (and to your customers).
The Takeaway: Integrate, integrate, integrate!
A non-integrated proof-of-concept is a great place to start, especially if your organization is skeptical of ecommerce. However, it’s important to envision SAP integration at some point in your ecommerce journey. It may not be necessary in your proof of concept, but it could make or break your permanent ecommerce solution.
Moving forward: FREE case study
Curious what scalable B2B ecommerce looks like in real life? Download this case study on PARI Respiratory. You’ll learn how this global manufacturer gave Marketing the Magento website they wanted, eliminated CSR manual order entry, and maintained the integrity of their SAP system.