Categories: COVID-19 Strategy


George Anderson


COVID-19 Agility

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing innovation in all kinds of markets—and these stories have powerful takeaways for manufacturers.

For example, NBC News has reported on a nonprofit which is empowering cash-only restaurants in Manhattan’s Chinatown to take electronic donations through Square Online Stores. Since these restaurant owners prefer to do business in cash, the nonprofit handles the electronic transactions for them, then sends them cash payments.

In essence, the nonprofit has taken out the barriers which kept these cash-only restaurants from taking donations safely during the pandemic. They did it by using a templatized, out-of-the-box technology which was easy to stand up quickly and didn’t require much effort from restaurant owners.

Manufacturers can apply the same thinking to their B2B eCommerce projects. Here are 3 keys to doing so.

1. Acknowledge customers’ need for a web channel

To benefit from electronic donations, the Chinatown restaurants first had to acknowledge their need. COVID-19 forced them out of a cash-only mindset and drove them to undertake small-scale digital transformation with the help of a partner (the nonprofit).

Likewise, manufacturers without a web channel are facing their need for digital customer interaction. With sales, customer service, and customers themselves all working from home, old models for customer interaction are causing friction. Even before the pandemic, 97% of procurement managers preferred to use a customer portal—and COVID-19 has only heightened that need.

Most telling of all, 80% of B2B leaders with a new digital selling model plan to retain it even after the pandemic ends.

In other words, digital customer experience is the new normal.

So how can manufacturers launch B2B eCommerce with minimal resources? The key is to choose a templatized solution which launches fast, and engage a partner who “gets it”—just as the Chinatown restaurants did.

2. Choose a scalable, templatized solution which launches fast

The Chinatown restaurants succeeded because their technology was templatized, ready to go out-of-the-box, and quick to stand up. Since these businesses were in survival mode, there was no point in developing bespoke solutions. Square Online Stores offered a ready-made solution to help restaurants survive the pandemic, and it was a great fit.

Manufacturers can learn from this example. The pandemic intensifies the need to extract maximum value from a B2B eCommerce solution. To facilitate this, manufacturers should look for a solution which:

  • Is 80% done on day 1, including built-in SAP integration.
  • Comes with a templatized look/feel out of the box to minimize customization and heavy lifting.
  • Leverages your existing investment in SAP ERP for business rules (and doesn’t require duplicating/rebuilding them).
  • Launches in 90 days or less.

Corevist Commerce checks all these boxes. It’s a cloud-based, SAP-integrated solution, and it’s built to empower manufacturers to thrive without reinventing the wheel or wasting resources. Read more here: Corevist Commerce.

3. Engage a partner who gets it

The Chinatown restaurants found success because they had a partner who understood and met their needs without adding unnecessary bells and whistles. The nonprofit organization simply launched Square Online Stores, collected payments on behalf of the restaurants, and distributed the payments in cash.

Likewise, manufacturers should seek a partner who “gets it” when it comes to their core needs in a web channel. COVID-19 has intensified the need for self-service B2B eCommerce—and the pandemic has also forced manufacturers to take a lean approach in launching a digital channel.

Unfortunately, conventional platforms aren’t conducive to this lean approach. Without built-in integration to SAP ERP, conventional platforms will require duplication of ERP business rules in eCommerce, plus in a middleware solution to connect the two. As we’ve documented elsewhere, that’s a cumbersome, high-risk, high-cost architecture.

The solution is a platform that includes prebuilt SAP ERP integration, right out of the box (as Corevist Commerce does). Learn more here: Our 53 SAP Integration Points.

The Takeaway: Choose the simplest path to a great customer experience

Don’t reinvent the wheel. At a high level, customers’ needs are actually fairly simple, both now during the pandemic and in the future: they need the ability to place orders and manage their accounts online. Orient your web channel project around those needs, and choose a solution that meets them efficiently.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Want to see lean, agile transformation in real life? Download this case study on Blount International. You’ll learn how this leading manufacturer of forestry equipment launched Corevist Order Tracking, then expanded it to the full Corevist Commerce suite for browsing and purchasing—and grew online revenue 325%, all with no additional IT resources required.

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