Technologies such as mobile devices and social media have dramatically changed the consumer experience. With a seamless, sophisticated, individualized, self-service experience now the norm in their personal transactions, enterprise buyers are coming to expect the same from their business transactions as well. So, how can you meet the changing user experience expectations of your enterprise buyers without adding complexity? What are your options for bringing a B2C look and feel to B2B sales transactions when you are running SAP ERP?
Check out the chat replay and the full, edited transcript below for insights from CNBS Software’s Gerald Schlechter and Jon-Paul Kroger on bringing a customer look and feel to e-commerce transactions.
Meet the panelists:
Jon-Paul Kroger, Product & Delivery Director, CNBS Software
With more than 17 years of experience in Information Technology, Jon-Paul has built his career providing valuable solutions to meet the needs of his clients. Jon-Paul has extensive experience providing SAP solutions in the areas of Sales & Distribution, E-Commerce, Project Management, and Solution Architecture in a wide range of industries. He is customer-focused and has always achieved the highest satisfaction rating from his clients. In his current role at CNBS Software, Jon-Paul is responsible for delivering SAP solutions such as WECO E-Commerce and Web AR.
Gerald Schlechter, CEO and Co-Founder, CNBS Software
With more than a decade of experience with ERP systems, Gerald Schlechter has provided his clients with a dynamic partner, guiding them in their SAP® implementation, migration, and e-commerce projects. Gerald’s talents go well beyond the intricacies of SAP. He applies extensive business intelligence to help companies untangle and find solutions for their complex business challenges, often anticipating their needs before they even know they have them. As a founding member and manager of two companies, Gerald knows how to drive the momentum that creates patterns for success, meaningful industry change, and dynamic consulting communities. Gerald launched CNBS Software several years ago, which provides state-of-the-art SAP solutions such as WECO E-Commerce™ and Web AR. Gerald’s education and achievements are international, spanning two countries and many clients with global reach.
Natalie Miller, Moderator: Hi, everyone! Welcome to today’s Q&A on launching a successful B2B e-commerce platform. I’m Natalie Miller, features editor of SAPinsider and insiderPROFILES, and I’m thrilled to introduce today’s panelists: CNBS Software’s Gerald Schlechter, CEO and CTO, and Jon-Paul Kroger, Product and Delivery Director.
Hello, JP and Gerald, and thank you so much for being here today to answer readers’ questions on how to simplify B2B transactions in SAP ERP!
Gerald Schlechter, CNBS Software: Hi and welcome! I am very excited to have 100+ people joining us today. I see we already have a lot of great questions coming in, so I better put my e-commerce hat on.
JP Kroger, CNBS Software: Hello. I am very happy to be here with you today, and I look forward to answering your questions.
Natalie Miller, Moderator: As readers get their questions in, JP and Gerald, can you share how companies can better connect with enterprise buyers and make it easier to do business with them, and at the end of the day increase revenue, all without adding complexity?
Gerald Schlechter: This is a big one, but I’ll try to keep it to the point. In the last year, B2B platforms morphed into a more B2C look and feel — not just from a user experience perspective, but especially from a content point of view. All that matters is that the content you present adds value for the B2B buyer. The focus areas during B2B implementations we see are around customer/buyer-specific catalogs — and hopefully those are dynamic, meaning reacting in real time to the customer’s buying behavior and past order history.
Pre-built shopping carts/templates and product recommendations (cross- and up-selling) are not just a feature of B2C anymore. They are very relevant for B2B buyers. The trick with a well-designed B2B platform is not to go overboard on B2C features, but still give the buyer the new and modern B2C look and feel. In the end, a B2B buyer mostly wants to re-order or expand on the products they have, so the focus is simple ordering and checkout. Focusing on using your history with your customer and learning about what your customer likes and wants (via click-stream analytics) to streamline that process for your customer will pay off.
A big factor in today’s e-commerce world is real-time integration — data cannot be out of sync anymore and it needs to match your SAP system. The more integrated a solution, the more powerful it will be for your organization to make changes quickly and enable information wanted by your customers. Tight integration without complex data sync queues, etc., will greatly simplify maintenance for your internal team, which lets them focus on improving the customer experience instead of fixing or changing integration scenarios.
Another key to a successful B2B implementation is completeness of products available and available business processes. This means if key products are not available on your portal, or more advanced business processes like returns, consignment, open invoice payments, etc. are not supported, and a buyer is forced to call customer service, then this will slow down your adoption with buyers dramatically. Real-time inventory and ATP is, of course, key as well.
Comment from Augustine: I would like to know more about hybris integration with ERP/CRM.
Gerald Schlechter: hybris does not run within SAP, but it does provide a pre-built integration framework. This means that implementation partners don’t need to build complete integration from scratch. Click here for more information.
Comment from Kathy: Why would I want a B2C look when my customers are distributors buying bearings? My customers want to drive their PO into my system, and we do that through EDI. Is this better than EDI?
JP Kroger: Our solution’s look and feel can be customized based on audience. One of the major benefits of our solution is the multiple ways it enables for ordering. Users can order via a catalog or upload, or using templates or past order history. It is one interface providing multiple methods for ordering. In addition, some clients use the e-commerce platform as a secondary option for their customers.
Gerald Schlechter: Kathy, if you can do EDI for your large customers then that is, of course, the more efficient way for order entry. But EDI does not solve issues around order tracking, inventory checks, open invoice payments, statements, etc. For those areas, a simple and efficient B2B platform is key. What we see is that even organizations that handle 70-80% of their business via EDI are implementing B2B platforms as a second choice and for self-service. We have one client that uses it for order change requests, which would otherwise need to be handled via a call to customer service.
Comment from Rick Smith: We are using Liaison Technologies for document brokerage. Does CNBS operate in this space?
Gerald Schlechter: Rick, when you are saying document brokerage, do you mean data exchange/transaction exchange and integration? We have enosiX in our portfolio that provides answers in those areas.
Comment from Rick Smith: I see that enosiX is a .NET platform that facilitates integration with SAP. Should I think of it as able to eliminate the current requirement that we wait for ABAP developers to create/modify RFCs, and can we instead rely exclusively on a .NET developer to create an integration — for example, a function to submit or modify a sales order?
Gerald Schlechter: Yes, exactly. No waiting for ABAP developers. But we are now beyond .NET. We can support a lot of other platforms — for example, SharePoint, Salesforce, and HTML5 (Java) — if needed.
Comment from Guest: We’re considering creating an online store but want to make sure customers have a good experience across various devices. Any best practices you could share?
JP Kroger: Certainly. There are two sides to this: the customer experience, but also the maintenance perspective of the business. Our solution is built using HTML5 with responsive design. The same e-commerce application is delivered to multiple devices, whether it’s mobile, desktop, or laptop. For the business, the logic on the back end is the same, and only one application needs to be supported.
Comment from Guest: What are the options for implementing a B2B e-commerce platform within my existing SAP ERP system? Do I need to change my existing system to support a digital platform?
JP Kroger: The best option for a B2B e-commerce application is one that is integrated into your SAP ERP system and accesses data and business logic in real time with no interfaces or data synchronization. Our solution sits within your ECC environment and accesses the data in real time. The solution also uses standard SAP Order Simulation and Order Create so your current business logic is honored.
Comment from Sasa: Do you offer solutions that are customer-scenario-oriented? For example, you might have an end-user client and a partner scenario. The differentiation between scenarios can be UI-related, but it could also be the functionality you allow the different users to see or use. What would be your approach?
JP Kroger: Sasa, our solution offers a variety of customer-oriented options out-of-the-box. This can be areas such as customer-specific welcome pages, product catalogs, and also general usability in regards to what actions they can perform on the e-commerce site.
Comment from Guest: Gerald, can you expand your comment about pre-built shopping carts being relevant for B2B buyers?
Gerald Schlechter: Typically, B2B buyers want to re-order products that they already have approved and budgeted for — so instead of letting them pick from scratch every time through a catalog, B2B platforms can pre-populate a “shopping cart” as an order proposal. The buyer then only needs to fill in the quantity for a line. Additional items can, of course, be added via traditional product catalog browsing/search.
Comment from Guest: Gerald, thanks for the additional details on the shopping carts. When they’re pre-populated for repeat buyers, can any special pricing/offers for that particular customer be already reflected?
Gerald Schlechter: Yes, definitely. This is exactly a case where real-time and seamless integration to SAP is key. All configuration of SAP SD can be completely leveraged and reflected in the shopping cart.
Comment from Guest: Can you talk about security concerns related to a B2B e-commerce app?
JP Kroger: Security is always a major concern both from an infrastructure perspective as well as an end user perspective. Our solution is installed on the SAP ECC system and therefore resides behind your firewall and DMZ. Connections to the ECC system are handled via reverse proxy, so external users never have direct access to the ECC system. From an end user perspective, our solution leverages the standard SAP security model to control access to transactional data.
Comment from Guest: What about companies with complex and expensive products? Is an online sales platform suitable? If so, what are some best practices to consider?
JP Kroger: In regards to complexity, as an example, we have several clients with complex ordering using variant configuration. Our solution supports this out-of-the-box.
Comment from Sasa: What about integration with SAP CRM as the back end?
JP Kroger: Typically the orders will reside in the ECC system, but integration to SAP CRM for content management is possible. For more information on integration with SAP CRM, please have a look at our enosiX product offering.
Comment from Guest: We need to be PCI compliant. What requirements should we be focused on for an e-commerce platform?
Gerald Schlechter: Make sure the solution you pick is pre-integrated with a PCI-compliant solution. We have chosen Paymetric, but others are of course possible. They will take care of tokenization and make sure that only tokens touch your system and are stored on your customer’s master data. The key is that the tokenization of payment cards for e-commerce happens on the client’s and not on your SAP system environment. As soon as a raw card touches your infrastructure, you are out of compliance.
Comment from Guest: How long does a typical online store implementation take, and what are some tips for ensuring it stays on target and on budget?
JP Kroger: For our solution, an out-of-the-box implementation takes approximately three months, depending on complexity and enhancements. To ensure the project is delivered on time and within budget, we have a strict methodology we employ from start to finish with key milestones along the way.
Comment from Praveen: Does your product offer multi-language support? Does the same payment function (credit card, for example) handle error and system messages in different languages?
Gerald Schlechter: Yes, of course. Our solution enables the customization of all messages to your business. This counts as well for all SAP messages. Simple Excel upload is available.
Comment from Guest: Can you share some business cases and benefits behind a digital B2B e-commerce platform versus traditional ERP?
JP Kroger: Certainly; the key benefit to an online ordering versus traditional ERP system is 24/7 access. Self-service is another huge benefit, which allows your customer service and sales teams to focus on more value-added tasks within the organization. One client in particular, after implementing our solution, increased orders exponentially.
Natalie Miller, Moderator: That concludes today’s chat about B2B e-commerce. Many thanks to everyone for joining us, and a big thanks to JP and Gerald for these insightful answers!
JP Kroger: Thanks to everyone for attending. It was a pleasure to answer your questions. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any additional questions at email@example.com.
Gerald Schlechter: Thanks a lot for the interesting questions. Have a great day! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.