SAP eCommerce solutions generally allow customers to go through the entire order-to-checkout process without ever seeing the SAP system (or even know it exists). Customers access a web store, search for products, place an order and pay for it in a simple checkout flow. What the customer doesn’t see is the internal SAP order processing such as interactions with the payment processor, delivery, invoices and various shipping and warehousing processes that are executed inside SAP.
While eCommerce solutions participate in the larger customer experience process alongside marketing, sales and service, the core functionality in SAP connected eCommerce platforms is generally focused around 3 main areas.
- Product Catalogs
- Shopping Cart and Check-Out
- Customer and Order Management
Product Catalogs is what customers see first when they navigate to the eCommerce web storefront. Similar to the paper catalogs from the past, they expose all the products that the vendor is offering in way that (hopefully) is easy navigate and search. In addition to being visible to people visiting the web store directly, eCommerce solutions put significant effort to make the product information readily available to search engines. Large amount of traffic to web stores comes from people searching for products on Google or other (often industry specific) search engines.
eCommerce product catalogs provide a way to organize related SAP materials in a way that makes easy for external customers to find what they are looking for. In addition to exposing products and their prices, they also provide a way to enhance the product information that SAP already has (like name, price description) with rich content such as images, videos, drawings, data sheets, product reviews and other sales or marketing materials that can help convince potential customers to purchase the product from your store (and not continue their search at competitor sites).
As SAP does not natively have a place to store some of this rich content, eCommerce systems usually replicate the product information from SAP into their own internal databases. Multimedia content for products is usually stored and accessed from content management servers that are optimized for high traffic volumes and often located in proximity to where customers are. Depending on which SAP eCommerce platform you choose, the material data, pricing and availability can be show in real time or has to be synchronized daily between SAP and the eCommerce system. Product catalogs usually come in different “flavors”:
- Open Catalog: This is the type of catalog that most B2C sites use. Allows everybody to see all products and their prices.
- Customer specific catalogs: Only accessible to customers who are allowed to purchase from your company. They are often used in B2B scenarios when prices or products are different for different customers.
- Dynamic catalog: Enhances the standard catalog functionality by dynamically generating catalogs based on various data requirements such as customer language, region or purchasing history.
Regardless the type of the catalog, the products it contains, can have fixed prices or be configurable. Configurable products have different prices based on how the product is configured (a good example is buying a laptop - the final price will depend on the selected processor, memory and any other options that were selected). Configurable products usually utilize SAP variant configuration capabilities like characteristics and classes to create flexible products whose final features and price are calculated in real time based on what customer selected.
Both B2B and B2C sites use a “shopping cart” to select all items a customer is interested to purchase. These items can be selected by picking them from the catalog, by searching, or in B2B scenario, also by uploading a pre-set list of products from a spreadsheet. Once the selection is made, the checkout process allows the customer to choose a shipping method and pay for their order using an invoice or bank account (B2B) or credit/debit card or PayPal (B2C).
Checkout process is also where most of the heavy integration with SAP tends to occur:
- When the order arrives to SAP it has to be “mapped” to the proper SAP Order type. Most often it becomes a standard Sales Order (VA01) but sometimes business rules require creation of custom order types like Inquiries, RFQs, Returns, Fulfillment, etc.
- SAP Partner data such as Sold-to, Ship-to and Payer needs to be properly provided to SAP to match selected SAP order type. In some B2C cases, customers are allowed to choose existing SAP partner data or create new ship-to’s and payers, which in turn requires eCommerce platform to also create the appropriate partner records before the order can be processed.
- Shipping and payment methods are usually configurable and can vary from simple selection options to complex integration with third party shipping and payment processors. Shipping and payment integration with SAP often requires bringing specialized 3rd party solutions that can properly calculate the shipping and tax implications based on the products that are selected in the shopping cart.
Customer Order Management:
Customers would often like to view their order status, delivery status and invoices directly within the SAP eCommerce web store. SAP eCommerce sites usually utilize SAP’s internal document flow, so customers can easily find their related documents. All associated outputs from SAP can also usually be accessed from the eCommerce site. This allows customers to view and print order confirmations, packing slips, BOL’s, invoices, etc.
SAP eCommerce stores often provide at least some functionality for tracking customer shopping behavior. One approach that is often used is capturing a “clickstream” (a raw record of timestamps of user mouse clicks during the user session), to track how long a user stays on the website, what products and areas they visit etc. Clickstream data can be analyzed or transferred for further reporting using standard tools such as SAP Business Warehouse.