December 13, 2018

eCommerce Platform to Support Self-Quoting

Minute Read

Two months ago we released an article here that guided B2B organizations on how to take an ERP catalog. We then partnered with BloomReach and Salsify in a webinar to unpack the technical details......

THE DIGITAL EDGE
eCommerce Platform to Support Self-Quoting


chess board

Two months ago we released an article here that guided B2B organizations on how to take an ERP catalog and turn it into a beautiful, browsable web catalog.  We then partnered with BloomReach and Salsify in a webinar to unpack the technical details.  We will be occasionally referring back to these resources as Phase 1. So if you need to, just switch back to the original post for a refresher.

Today, we are moving on to the second phase, which is how to make that catalog actionable and allow for your employees and customers to create quotes that can be sent to your sales teams for approvals (step two on the following diagram).

Online SKU Discovery for B2B

Purposes of Phase 2: Quoting

The main purposes of having this intermediary step between a browsable catalog and a full online store is when

  • You want to avoid channel conflicts, and take a crawl, walk, run approach to your digital strategy
  • You have a hybrid catalog of highly configurable SKUs and simple SKUs (you can think of service agreements as a simple SKU as well)
  • Your sales representatives take a lot of time creating and discarding quotes when dealing with high-touch customers

When looked at from these perspectives, it makes a lot of sense to offer this intermediate quoting route. One of our manufacturing customers showed a savings of $1.2 million dollars a quarter when leveraging this approach.

So what does it take to move beyond phase 1? It depends on the complexity of your catalog.  For the purpose of this article, we will focus on enabling quoting for relatively simple SKUs, though if you want to learn what it would take to enable quoting for more complex, configurable SKUs, just shoot me an email here.

Enabling quoting for simple SKUs

For enabling quoting on simpler SKUs, you will want to add a SaaS commerce platform like Oracle Commerce Cloud, Commerce Tools, or Elastic Path to your technology ecosystem.  These systems will plug-in directly to your ERP, or if you followed the template in our original post, to your PIM, CMS, and CRM. This eCommerce system will need to have some distinct capabilities to work in this model:

  1. It will need to be an API-first architecture so you can get data in and out easily
  2. It needs to be able to easily consume your catalog data from your PIM or ERP
  3. It will need to be able to represent multiple ‘carts,’ or quotes (more about this next).
  4. It will need to be able to temporarily or permanently store those carts at both the account level and at the individual level
  5. The quote should be stateful, i.e. the platform needs to be able to maintain multiple ‘states’ (such as open or closed)

Item #2 on this list will be one that you eliminates the most platforms from your list, because this is something very specific to B2B organizations. For example, even Amazon.com does not support this on the consumer site; to test this, go on to the site and try to ‘save’ multiple carts? You won’t be able to — the best you can do is create different ‘lists,’ but these are very different than carts.

Determining the details

Once you have an idea of what platform you want, you need to decide whether this platform will be where you store quotes for the rest of your organization, or whether it will simply be a pass-through.  Since most organizations already have a quoting system (spreadsheets, ERP, CPQ, etc.) we recommend that you use this as a pass-through. It adds about 3 weeks of effort on your implementation, but removes months of planning and training from your long-term goal, since your sales force can continue to use the tools you have in place today.  Essentially, your eCommerce platform will control the UX of the quotes, keep a record of them, and then communicate with your quoting platform to persist and edit the quotes.

Finally, you have to decide who can access these quotes.  Typically, we recommend that you add in an integration to your CRM platform, to automatically track quotes as opportunities within your ecosystem.  If you have a high percentage of quotes that are created but don’t close, then simply open the opportunity (and close it as won or lost) at a state that makes sense in your quoting pipeline.

Hopefully this provides you meaningful primer on how to take your online catalog and turn it into a customer facing quoting solution.  If you have additional questions or comments, or want to learn how Object Edge is helping companies adapt to technology disruptions to exist for future generations, please email or call us.

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