To sell more product. Plain and simple.
Last December I wrote about how we were dedicating 2011 to integrating Magento with SAP's Business Suite platform (R3, ECC, All-in-One) via our b2b2dot0 service. We've learned a lot in the past seven months and today, on the eve of Office Relief's ecommerce website going live; I'm going to start to share some of our findings with the community as a whole.
Is there a direct correlation between providing our SAP Integrated Webshop to your customers and the performance of your company? Well, I've always felt that there was and now there is corroborating evidence.
It's not often that you see a press release dedicated to celebrating the addition of an Order Tracking capability to a manufacturer's website. In fact, in the 15 or so years that I've been in the SAP B2B eCommerce business, I can't ever remember seeing a single one! So when TMI, LLC took the time to tell the world that they had done just that, I thought I'd better investigate a little further.
Last week I posted on a problem that I had uncovered with the Thule Distribution Channel. I was desperately in need of finding a replacement key for my car top carrier before the long Memorial Day holiday weekend. What I found was that Thule had set up an intermediary service called Shopatron that in the name of preserving the integrity of their distribution channel, was actually standing in the way of a timely delivery of that key.
Today I want to update my experience and give a very loud shout out to Steve D. who is Thule's Internet Manager! He not only found, and professionally responded to my blog post, but he personally expedited my key order. I hope Thule knows how wonderful an employee Steve D. is. In my experience, he is a rare find and Thule is truly lucky to have him in their employ!
There is a right way, and a wrong way, for a Brand Owner to deal with channel conflict.
The right way delivers a win-win-win solution to the entire demand chain.
The Manufacturer drives traffic to their website and educates their potential customers 100% in accord with their brand promise. If the consumer chooses to buy the product right then and there, the Manufacturer makes sure their distribution channel gets the order and fulfills and services it according to their contractual agreement. In return, the distribution channel gets to "own" the customer and receive fair compensation in return for their services. The consumer gets the right product at the right time at the right price. Everyone plays their role like a fine tuned orchestra.
The wrong way makes the end consumer pay the price for harmony in the distribution channel.
Unfortunately, I find myself on the receiving end of this lesson as I write this blog post. It concerns my grandson, a missing key to a Thule car carrier, and the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.
It started innocently enough last Thursday with a call from my daughter. She and her family live outside of Philadelphia, PA and I live in Raleigh, NC. Since we were going to be meeting in Arlington, VA (exactly half way between us) over the weekend, she suugested that I bring our Thule car top carrier and give it to her as discussed weeks ago. That would make it easier for her to pack all of the paraphernalia that a young family of three (and their dog) would need to spend the Memorial Day weekend with us the following week.
"What a great idea" I thought.
I went to retrieve it from the attic, the Thule's resting place for the past 7 years since our last documented camping trip. It was just where I'd left it, with all of the hardware required to mount it to a car roof, safely locked inside of it. Unfortunately, I had no idea where the key was so, off to the web I went.
A quick google search revealed that I wasn't the only person on the planet in this predicament. This truly is a great use of social media! The solution to my problem was just a click away at the Thule website. Armed with the serial number engraved on the lock, I was able to place an order for a replacement key. Unfortunately, I was only given one shipping method to choose from and that was for the painfully slooowwww 3-7 business days. No overnight or express! I placed the order nevertheless and received the following order confirmation moments later.
That's when I started to understand what was going on with my order. It wasn't being managed by Thule at all! It was being managed by a company called Shopatron who supposedly was doing Thule and their dealers a favor.
Here is a part of the order confirmation that I received:
There are two immediate problems with the order.
First of all, the order total is only an "estimated" total. It could go up based on taxes. (Never mind that I'm already paying $4.95 to ship a $2.75 part...I would have paid more to get it quicker if it could keep the peace within the family!)
Second, only "standard shipping" was available...and noone to talk to, or write to, to inquire!
The bottom half of the order confirmation was even more confusing:
So what's going on here?
Back in 2000, when the whole eCommerce industry was abuzz about "disintermediation" Shopatron had a brilliant idea. They went to major Brand Owners and simply said, "Keep your distribution channels happy. If you are going to take an order on your website, pass it on to your distributors/dealers to fulfill. This will keep them happy and they will continue to sell/support your products".
Seriously. My order gets posted to a website, where Thule's dealers get to log in at their leisure to decide whether or not they want to fulfill it. The one lucky dealer who services my zip code is usually the one that is given first dibs. Meanwhile, since I placed my order on Friday, three days have already passed.
Wouldn't it be easier if Thule took my order, shipped it out of their warehouse, and passed the commission to my local dealer? I know I'd be happier.
According to the Shopatron website over 1000 brands and 12,000 of their retail partners have signed up in the ensuing years. But that doesn't make them right. That just makes them behind the times.
Unfortunately, the bar has risen in the last decade. With free 2 day shipping from Amazon and unquestioned returns processing by Zappos, I really don't think that waiting a week to "maybe" get a replacement key will cut it.
If Thule doesn't want to take orders on their website (which might make sense for their business model), they would be better served to help me find an online dealer that can take my order in real time. All they did with the Shopatron process was delay my order, give me confusing information and potentially inaccurate processing.
Thule and their dealers may be living in peace, but I have a locked car top carrier that will not be adding any value to my Memorial Day holiday!
When the Oracle speaks you have to listen.
So when "Reinventing the Web Channel to Maximize Sales and Customer Satisfaction" by Oracle's recently purchased ATG product line came across my inbox, I had to read it...and boy am I glad that I did. It's wonderful! (For your convenience, you can download a copy here)
It's been almost two weeks since I facilitated our Project Initiation Workshop at the Oakland, CA HQ of Office Relief. It was an intense and exhilarating two days where we demonstrated a live B2B eCommerce website integrated to their SAP QA system. We "threatened" to put the website into production the following Monday and asked the simple question of "why can't we?". (This is how our standard Agile Implementation Methodology, that I've written about over the years, works.)
I had the honor of presenting to a group of budding entrepreneurs this past week at a local (Raleigh, NC) Council for Entrepreneurial Development Fastrak course. I spoke on Market Analysis and followed an NC State Graduate School Instructor who presented an overview of Market Research. He ended his 60 minute lecture by introducing me as the person who would explain "what to do with all of the Market Research that everyone in the room was now equipped to gather".
Feeling the pressure, I stood up in front of the room, scanned the crowd, took a deep breath and started my presentation with... the "F" word.
A company's Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is based on your customer's answer to a single simple question:
"How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?"
Answers to this question segment your customers into detractors, passives and promoters. Subtracting the % of detractors from % of promoters results in your NPS.
According to the creators of the NPS:
"In most industries, this one simple statistic explained much of the variation in relative growth rates; that is, companies with a better ratio of Promoters to Detractors tend to grow more rapidly than competitors."
Today's post was originally created in response to a question posed in an Agile Business Yahoo Group that I belong to. The question had to do with the relationship between software providers (like b2b2dot0 and SAP) and their customers during projects. It garnered enough interest in the Agile community that I thought I'd make it available to the readers of this blog...so here it is.
The headline into today's Raleigh, NC newspaper, the News and Observer (N&O) reads: "AmEx Will Cut 1,500 Jobs in Greensboro".
According to the N&O article:
"As customers shift to electronic bill paying and online customer service, the volume of calls the center handles has dropped."
I've written often about the value of Google Analytics to our business and to our client's business. Today I'm going to recap how our nine client B2B microsites performed over the course of 2010 according to Google Analytics. Here is what our recap looked like last year.
To begin with, $201M of revenue flowed through our webshops directly into our client's SAP systems. Although, truth be known, it wasn't all in US Dollars. Our webshops transacted business in Euros, Swedish Kroners, British Pounds, Russian Rubles and Canadian Dollars.
This revenue was spread across 88,387 transactions. That puts the average order size at $8,187. What was real interesting to see was depending on microsite, the average order size varied greatly...anywhere from $390 per order to $21,969 per order. That makes sense when you stop to realize that these webshops are being used to support B2B Customers and Dealers as well as Distributors. Distributors obviously place much larger orders...some of them are uploading orders with hundreds of line items to our webshops.
We sold 6,115,044 individual items through our webshops. I guess if you do the math, that means that the average cost of an item purchased was $32.89.
We've leveraged Goals in Google Analytics heavily. Every time a webshop customer either places an order, tracks an order, reprints a document (order confirmation, bill of lading etc.), or manages their own invoices, we think they've accomplished a goal that has real business value to our clients. It means that our client's CSR's don't have to spend their time. That saves real money. In 2010, our webshops registered 157,364 Goals. That translates into $2,319,289 of efficiency gains for our clients! Another way of looking at that is that we freed up over 40 CSRs to do more meaningful work than key in orders and respond to routine email and phone inquiries about order and account status.
Lastly, we definitely handled traffic from all over the world. In fact, we had 36,904 unique visitors come to our webshops for 231,748 visits and register 2,175,294 pageviews.
I think you can safely say that we had a positive contribution to our client's businesses in 2010.
If they're happy, we're happy.
Here's to a great 2011!
SAP's Business All-in-One is a brilliant offering designed to allow a small to mid size corporation to transition onto a fully integrated ERP platform in less than 4 months.
Content is king.
That's the conclusion we've come to as we enter our fourth year of business at b2b2dot0. Real time integration into SAP are the table stakes when deploying a B2B Webshop.
This is one of those matches made in heaven. It just makes so much sense!
eCommerce websites and credit cards are like bread and butter. Each is good by itself, but they are so much better together.
Every feature that goes into our b2b2dot0 B2B ecommerce service is a multi-party negotiation. On the one hand, we consider the voices of our existing clients, active prospects and market forces. On the other hand, we juggle development, implementation services, ongoing support operations, and the realities of our financial and human resource constraints and goals. But above all, we constantly remind ourselves that the greatest weight always goes to our client's customers, for they are the ultimate users of our service.
A little over two years ago, b2b2dot0's SAP B2B ecommerce service was christened with a single order for 685 products valued at $9490.85. Since then we've grown to 13 B2B ecommerce websites and 10,000 registered users who have:
Along the way we've learned an awful lot about what it takes to implement and support this level of ecommerce activity. On the occasion of this second anniversary of that first order, I'd like to share some of our more important, and hopefully useful, insights with the community.
It's not something to be proud of.
No manufacturer wants to pack and ship a "less than perfect" order.. but they do. On a daily basis, customers open up their shipments to find parts that are short-shipped, totally missing, defective, or that weren't ordered altogether. And these shipping errors have very real consequences!
Beware of shortcuts because they seldom are, especially when it comes to talking to your customers!
It is so tempting to follow the lead of a "savvy surrogate" when it comes to steering a software project. After all, it's so much easier to present her a demonstration of the application and get positive feedback than it is to deal with all of the logistics, and anxiety, of recruiting real customers to a customer focus group. Not to mention having to listen to them and analyze and interpret their feedback!