Your ERP: the starting point of your B2B e-commerce journey

You’re sitting in a meeting and someone uses a word that you do not know the meaning of. Or you walk into the office and your coworker shouts “How about that game last night! What did you think of the last play?” What do you do? “Google it,”of course.

We now live in a world where we have access to answers and information in a matter of seconds. We don’t even have to type it anymore, in some cases we can verbally speak to our phone and it will spout off the answer.

This same methodology is used when researching business solution tools. Let’s say you are working at a wholesale distribution or manufacturing B2B company. You love your job but you are starting to wonder about the potential of selling your products online. How would that change your workday? More importantly, how would that change your bottom line?

So, you Google “e-commerce”. Boom, 360 million results. Your head is spinning. You try to read through some of the pages, but the topic is so broad you really don’t get the specific wholesale distribution or manufacturing answers you were looking for. Why? Because B2B e-commerce is totally different than B2C/retail e-commerce.

At Sana Commerce, we believe that your ERP system should be the foundation of your B2B e-commerce sales portal for three core reasons; pricing complexity, ordering conditions and order history.

Pricing Complexity

B2B businesses typically have very complex pricing structures. In our experience, most businesses have negotiated pricing with individual customers, resulting in discounts per product, or per product group. Combine thousands of products with thousands of customers and it results in a very large and intricate pricing matrix.

Not to mention all the order discounts, order line discounts, tier pricing and possible promotions. Are you keeping up?

The role of the ERP Luckily for you, pricing complexity and details are typically handled by an ERP system. That is what these systems are designed for. Take advantage of the investment you already made and leverage the power of your ERP when you are setting up your B2B sales portal.

My advice: Do not replicate this complex pricing matrix in your web store. Do not redo all the calculations there that are being done in your ERP already. Choose an e-commerce solution that integrates with your ERP system and uses your ERP system for its strength; the calculation of complex orders. Your customers will be very pleased to see that they get the exact same price calculations online as they would when ordering by phone, or e-mail with you.

Ordering Conditions

Can a certain (B2B) customer buy on an account? If yes, up to what amount? What are the shipping conditions related to the shipping address of this customer? What is the expected delivery time based on his shipping address and shipping method? What are the specific ordering conditions for this customer?

The role of the ERP Again, the ERP stores all this information including complex business rules. By making the ERP system the foundation of your B2B web store, you will benefit from the systems that you’ve already invested in without having to rebuild the functionality. You can show all customer-specific ordering conditions to the customer depending on the details of the order in real-time. All ordering conditions will be shown in your web store by using an out of the box solution with no need for customizations. This e-commerce solution will truly empower your customers. They will be able to see exactly what they can expect from you regarding their order, such as payment terms, delivery time, delivery costs, etc.

Order History

Businesses tend to place orders with their suppliers on a regular basis. In many cases, these orders contain the same products, which are continuously replenished. That makes the order history a far more important piece of information for businesses, compared to consumers, because this overview allows them to easily look up what they ordered last time or simply complete a reorder based on a previous order.

The role of the ERP The order history of “offline orders” is always stored in the ERP system and we always suggest giving customers full visibility of past orders placed. If you setup your integrated ERP B2B e-commerce, all orders placed offline as well as online will be shown in your online sales portal, without any extra work or synchronization of databases. Combine this with “reorder functionality” and you will have a solution your customers will love.

All three ERP foundation points really boil down to one word, “efficiency.” Efficiency of your B2B e-commerce set-up process, efficiency for your sales team to focus on gaining new business instead of being bogged down with repeat orders, and efficiency for your customers who are looking to routinely place repeat orders.

In terms of Google, narrow down your results by searching “e-commerce” plus the name of your ERP system for a more targeted list of solutions. For example “e-commerce SAP” or “e-commerce Microsoft Dynamics.”

Happy Googling.

Michiel Schipperus is CEO of Sana Commerce. Sana is a B2B specialist and delivers a fully integrated e-commerce solution for SAP and Mircosoft Dynamics AX/NAV.

Originally published at on March 26, 2015.

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