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Why B2B eCommerce Is Essential for Today’s SAP Manufacturers, Customers, and Distributors

November 17, 2021 | By: enosix

If you build it, they will come: Direct buyers and distributors both want the modern eCommerce experience and it’s time for manufacturers to listen.

Key Takeaways:

  • Some manufacturers have plans to move as much as 60% of their sales online
  • Moving sales online has become a necessity due to remote-working changes wrought by the pandemic
  • A fully integrated B2C-like experience is necessary to remain competitive
  • The B2B eCommerce experience is pretty awful, with customer experience ratings (averaging below 50%), far behind their B2C counterparts (65% to 85%) 
  • An effective eCommerce site depends on data integration between SAP and the front end, Salesforce Commerce, which only takes a few weeks with pre-built integrations
  • After integration, all that data is available in Salesforce to feed into your eCommerce site

Manufacturers have been late to the game when it comes to effective eCommerce, but it’s top-of-mind for many – 66% of US manufacturers say that implementing digital sales and marketing is a high priority. In fact, some have plans to move 60% of their sales online. 

Ambitious, but necessary. While manufacturers have spent time and resources on external distributor channels, they have often neglected their own websites to the detriment of the customer experience and, in the shadow of the pandemic, their growth – which was only about a third of what it was the year before.

Because physical sales were close to impossible during the pandemic, business buyers often worked remotely and purchased online. This shift – and analysts say it’s a permanent one – served as a wake-up call to firms that suddenly realized their old model of in-person sales was impossible and they needed a new paradigm.

The lack of robust eCommerce sites strengthened distributor-customer relationships to the detriment of manufacturers’ relationship with both. This and other challenges, such as global supply chain problems, mean a fully integrated, B2C-like B2B eCommerce portal is essential to remain competitive. 

The question is: What do these buyers want and how do you achieve it? 

What B2B buyers want in an eCommerce site

Business buyers want the same seamless, customer-centric experience they get when they buy something personal online. However, B2B customer experience ratings are far behind their B2C counterparts, while B2C companies get scores between 65% and 85%.

To satisfy B2B buyers, whether they are distributors or direct buyers, your eCommerce site needs:

  • 100% accurate information from their transaction history to product availability and pricing
  • Comprehensive product search capabilities
  • Product recommendations 
  • Inventory visibility and availability 
  • Their customer-specific pricing
  • Easy access to order and invoice history
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Quick reorder capabilities  

The goal is to give them what they want, when they want it, with no friction. This requires a 360-degree view of your current and potential customers, and that means gathering and using as much data as you possibly can, which in turn requires the right technology solution; one that can be implemented quickly and efficiently while boosting purchases. 

Build the right digital commerce experience

It’s not all about technology, so that’s not the right place to start. Before you build, you must plan out your eCommerce experience and the digital capabilities you need. That planning takes leadership and expertise. Consideration must be paid to branding, product management, and marketing.

It’s important to pinpoint your target audience; set user content requirements; and then determine the layout, navigation, and branding you will use. Design is a very important element in usability, and an unappealing, cluttered design leaves users wondering if what they buy will live up to expectations. All of this takes eCommerce expertise in the manufacturing sector, which has complex requirements.

It starts with data integration

You need data to power your eCommerce site, but it’s sitting in SAP.  What do you do then? To get the information you need in real-time, integration with your front end is mandatory. Your integration solution should make sure your Commerce site’s customer and product data are always visible and accurate, so you can provide the ultimate customer experience. 

You’ll eliminate customer disappointment by guaranteeing inventory availability, and upon submission of the shopping cart, an accurate, SAP-validated order is created automatically in SAP. It also enables visibility into order histories created across all channels, as well real-time, accurate pricing — including customer-specific pricing, discounts, and tax. 

With this kind of integration in place, orders can be validated against and created in SAP in real-time, and your custom business logic is automatically applied, which means the orders are always correct. For Salesforce B2B Commerce Cloud, rather than use middleware software suites that take months to implement, many companies are opting for pre-built integrations that leverage native Salesforce Lightning objects to communicate with native SAP components, which get you up and running fast.

It ends with the right eCommerce solution

Many eCommerce solutions are quite limiting or far too complicated, often requiring a lengthy setup period that can take up to 12 months. You might consider a custom solution, but that carries a hefty price tag. 

You know you’re already behind, so you need a swift solution that works well with Salesforce B2B Commerce and the right team with the right expertise to execute it. A solution with custom modules added to Salesforce B2B Commerce on Lightning Experience results in accelerated implementation in a short time and is much less expensive and efficient than any custom build.

You need a solution that understands the unique, complexity of manufacturing eCommerce and gives you the tools you need and the features your B2B customers demand. It should also help boost checkout conversions and the provide ability to shift 100% of orders to a self-service model. 

Most-wanted customer features include a homepage that puts your brand front and center, a streamlined buyer’s journey, and product carousels with relevant recommendations.

If you’re ready to take the next steps to get your B2B eCommerce site up and running, reach out to the enosix team and get in touch with Shift7.