30 Nov eCommerce for B2B companies: The business triangle for an excellent customer experience
The Corona pandemic in particular shows the effects when the classic trade channel in B2B no longer works and only pure online business is possible. However, in order to still have access to customers, to be relevant to the market and to compensate lost sales revenues somewhere else, there are, among others, these two solutions: the change of the sales model and the entry into eCommerce for B2B. Besides the many opportunities, companies also have to confront some special challenges that can be resolved with some software solutions and new systems.
Companies that distribute in the classic three-step distribution model and are dependent on local retailers have especially felt the impact of dependencies in the last two years. If the distribution channel via the local retailer is no longer possible, they can use the following options, among others:
- The retailer offers an online platform to customers.
- The manufacturer uses online marketplaces and other existing online sales opportunities.
- The manufacturer sets up its own online shop for B2B sales.
- Change of sales model and sells B2C or D2C at the manufacturer.
Besides the different depths of customer access through the described models, they are all based on the availability and use of article and product data in different formats, structures and characteristics.
What are the general challenges in eCommerce?
An online-driven sales model is based on article and product data. It is not relevant whether it is eCommerce for B2B, B2C or D2C. Every kind of eCommerce requires data so that the products and services can be found by the target group. Data includes basic information such as an item number, a customs tariff number or a GTIN / EAN. This data can be allocated to each article. In addition, there is data that depends on the type of article or a product group. This can be certain technical data (e.g. product performance, dimensions), information required by law (e.g. REACH, EU energy label) and media data such as images, videos, data sheets, and so on.
The number of data to be handled per item can accordingly be very high and extremely various. In the case of a wide product portfolio with different product groups, the amount of data can quickly increase considerably.
In addition to the described factors for an increased amount of data, there are other factors that influence the management of the mass as well as the type of data:
- The online platforms of the retailers, marketplaces and self-operated online shops expect special or partly different data in order to be able to handle them and to optimally serve the search and filters there.
- It requires data from different systems and files (e.g. prices from the ERP, product data from the PIM) to deliver the data as expected (product data syndication).
- The delivery of data (feed management) must take place on a cyclical or regular basis (e.g. hourly, weekly, live, etc.) in order to keep the data up to date at all times.
Which systems can be used for eCommerce?
The market for PIM or MDM systems is large and offers many systems. Evaluation platforms and market research reports by consulting firms can provide initial orientation. The Gartner Report for Master Data Management Solutions is a report that highlights the solutions of PIMCORE, Viamedici, Contentserv and others.
As a silver partner of PIMCORE, we have always had positive experiences with PIMCORE’s solutions. With the free open source software, quick successes can be achieved when starting out in data management. In addition, very good scaling effects can be achieved when the activities are expanded. PIMCORE also offers very customisable data models, which means that almost any use case can be realised.
In order to optimally fulfil feed management and data provision requirements, our CatalogExpress supports many of our customers in addition to the export options of a PIM system. However, the exports in PIM systems are often custom-programmed and can only be maintained and modified by the appropriate specialist IT staff. CatalogExpress enables the configuration of the required data by employees from sales and marketing or eBusiness. In addition, different and multiple systems and files can be integrated in order to migrate and merge the data (data syndication). After the creation of the data catalogues, the user can define the distribution by selecting an automatically executable export and the type of distribution (by mail, via SFTP, to API, or similar).
For direct customer access and direct sales (e.g. D2C), a shop such as Shopware is required. Shopware is an open source solution and is offered in different editions. Shopware version 6 is the current version. Similar to marketplaces, platforms and online shops of other sales partners, it is imperative here to keep data in the shop up-to-date. The Shopware Connector in CatalogExpress from nexoma takes these jobs off your hands and directly updates new as well as changed data from the PIM in the Shopware 6 shop.
PIM or Shop – Which First?
When entering eCommerce with their own shop, companies are often faced with the question: “Do I first introduce a shop or a PIM system?” This discussion cannot be answered in principle, but varies from company to company.