What Is SAP e-Commerce?
What Is SAP e-commerce?
SAP e-commerce is a web sales channel that shares data with SAP ERP.
There are many ways to conduct e-commerce with SAP as the system of record. The best data architecture for your business depends on your needs.
So what exactly is SAP e-commerce?
SAP offers several ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems. Financial information, product inventory, customer accounts, and much more—all these things live in SAP. SAP e-commerce a self-service digital sales channel that reads and writes SAP data to some degree.
As B2B commerce increasingly moves online, a problem arises. SAP is written in its own language, ABAP, which is difficult to present on the web. Worse, SAP e-commerce really requires live SAP data displayed (and modified) in real time through the e-commerce store.
What is SAP e-commerce? It’s a solution that solves this problem by syncing data between SAP and the e-commerce store–either live in real time, or via batch updates.
What SAP data is typically carried over to the e-commerce store?
1) Contract pricing
In B2B commerce, contract pricing is everything. If you’ve negotiated a discount with a specific account, you want them to see that price when they log in to your e-commerce store. If they see list price, or a price with no volume discount, you may lose the sale—or at the very least, your Customer Service department may get a frustrated call.
A good SAP e-commerce solution will import contract pricing data from SAP. This can be done via batch uploads (automatic or manual), or the solution can present the SAP data live, in real time, via web services interface.
2) Inventory availability
Like contract pricing, inventory availability is a critical piece of data to show your customers. The e-commerce store isn’t really self-service if your customer has to make a phone call to get real inventory levels.
Since inventory data lives in SAP already, why not carry that data to the e-commerce store through a web services interface? This is the most efficient architecture design.
3) Order tracking
Both your Customer Service Representatives and your customers need to track orders. All of this data lives in SAP, so it makes sense to use that real SAP data in the web store.
As you move to a digital-first model, it’s tempting to imagine that all your orders will come through your new e-commerce portal. However, that probably won’t happen—at least not initially. Your customers come from diverse backgrounds, and some will be reluctant to make the switch to self-service e-commerce (though there are many strategies you can implement to drive e-commerce adoption). In all likelihood, your orders will come from a variety of sources—e-commerce, phone, fax, and email. You’ll be living in an omnichannel world.
It’s important to track all of your orders in one place. You want an order-tracking interface that allows your CSRs and your customers to view and interact with your SAP order data in real time. That way, everything is centralized and you avoid data duplication.
4) Credit limits
A good SAP e-commerce solution will query SAP for real-time data on the customer’s credit limits. This allows the customer to see how much credit they have remaining. If an error message is returned from SAP (see below), the customer can take action to resolve the outstanding balance so they can continue placing orders.
What value-add features does SAP e-commerce provide?
Depending on how the solution is architected (i.e. what e-commerce platform is in use, whether data is synced by batch or web services), e-commerce can add a lot of value to companies running SAP ERP systems. Many solutions provide specific functionality and features such as:
1) Mapping of e-commerce users to SAP sold-tos and ship-tos
Some SAP e-commerce solutions may engage a 3rd-party platform for the e-commerce catalog. In this scenario, a registered user of the e-commerce store has to map to an SAP sold-to and/or ship-to. The relationship should be 1:1 to avoid confusion, duplicate account history, and other problems.
2) Return of SAP error messages
A well-designed e-commerce interface to SAP should display error messages from SAP. In other words, if a customer manually enters an SKU that’s no longer valid or not available under their contract, that error will generate an order when it’s posted to SAP. Some SAP e-commerce solutions will return these SAP errors directly to the customer, which allows them to correct the issue.
3) Error-free order posting in real time
Because SAP error messages are returned in the e-commerce store, only 100% accurate orders can be posted to SAP. This removes the burden of error correction from your CSRs and, in the spirit of self-service, empowers your customers to build accurate orders on their own. Once an error-free order is built and placed in the e-commerce store, it’s posted to SAP automatically, with an accurate SAP sales order number.
4) Smart, powerful search for catalog navigation
As B2B e-commerce increasingly takes its cue from B2C, B2B buyers come to expect powerful search functionality that can lead them right to the SKU they need. While “power users” and procurement managers may not need top-of-the-line search functionality, occasional buyers do. A well-crafted e-commerce solution should include intelligent search to make buyers’ lives easier.
5) Personalized catalogs for each customer
This is another way to narrow down a large catalog and make it relevant to the user who’s logged in. You already have data in SAP, tied to the sold-to, letting you know what major products or major machines are associated with the account. Why not carry that intelligence to the e-commerce store and use it to display replacement parts and maintenance products that are relevant to that major machine? It makes your customers’ lives easier, and it helps you sell more.
6) Routine reordering with saved carts
Unlike B2C, B2B buying often includes regular amounts of product purchased at regular intervals. A “saved carts” feature allows your customers to build a standard reorder cart for consumables. This makes repeat buying a breeze, and it guarantees you get the sale. With those reorders automatically posted to SAP, this function allows you to maintain your market share in repeat orders.
7) Your marketing department can control rich content
Another emergent trend in B2B e-commerce: Marketing wants to control the design, layout, product information, and promotions in the e-commerce store. This is especially important for reaching the Millennial segment, who are increasingly taking roles as professional buyers and procurement managers. They expect rich content to help them understand a product and its value. When it’s done right, SAP e-commerce allows Marketing to build the branding, promotions, and rich content that they need to communicate the value of your company.
8) 24x7x365 self-service sales portal
While it’s unlikely that e-commerce will allow you to close your Customer Service call center, it will reduce the burden on your CSRs. A self-service portal works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Some SAP e-commerce implementations actually require no dedicated IT support staff to keep them working. They can represent a great cost savings when built on a lean, efficient architecture.
How can you leverage your SAP data to conduct e-commerce?
There are many ways to approach this problem. Some will work better for you than others. It all depends on your unique business needs.
Here are some possible solution architectures which you can use to conduct SAP e-commerce:
- Stand-alone, off-the-shelf e-commerce store with no integration to SAP. This is fine if you’re starting small and you can handle the manual data maintenance required to rekey e-commerce orders into SAP.
- Customized e-commerce store synced to SAP with batch updates. This is the next step up. You can rely on batch updates, either manual or automatic, to load fresh SAP data into your e-commerce store.
- E-commerce store that interfaces with SAP in real time. This is the thoroughbred of SAP e-commerce. It requires a real-time integration, via web services, to serve SAP data in your e-commerce store and to post orders to SAP in real time.
Curious about SAP e-commerce solutions? Read a case study to find out more.
If you want to know more about SAP e-commerce and what it can do for your business, take a look at our case study on LORD Corporation. We use web services to interface with your SAP system in real time, whether through a Magento-SAP integration, or through our proprietary eCatalog and eCart modular e-commerce system.