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The Increasing Role of ERP in Customer Experience and B2B E-Commerce

Guest Author
When most people in e-commerce talk about B2B they often talk about the consumerization of B2B and things they can relate from their experience in Retail (B2C).  I always want to tackle the bigger issues that are very specific to the B2B e-commerce community and the challenges that you face.  One of our greatest challenges is the role that our ERP systems play.

The increasing role of the ERP system

The complexity of our ERP systems is one of the key differences between B2B and B2C.  The reality is that we have to focus a tremendous amount of resources on integrating the ERP as it is the lifeblood of our company.  Think about this:
  • Integrating to the ERP system(s) will most likely be one of your biggest initial and ongoing cost in your B2B e-commerce project.
  • Most B2B companies have more than one ERP system because of multiple acquisitions and the time and cost involved in consolidating into a single ERP.
  • Many of the B2B features that exist on websites today are really just about making ERP functions customer facing.

You may now be asking "With all of that complexity, you see the role of the ERP system increasing?"

I do.

ERP the Foundation of a Great Customer Experience

In an  article by Manufacturing Business Technology magazine, their survey describes the increasing role of the ERP system in the Customer Experience.

The ERP has a significant role in streamlining interactions with suppliers and customers:

  • Nearly 40% of all IME manufacturers surveyed believe the ERP is vital as the platform that connects the back office and front office
  • Nearly 85% of large IME organizations with 5,000 employees or more indicated that their ERP is a vital platform for delivering a good customer experience
  • IME manufacturers have come to realize that providing superior customer experience has to be one of their top initiative

To improve our Front Office, we have to consider our Back Office.

When you think about it, most B2B e-commerce sites are simply about exposing specific functions of their ERP system to customers.

Take for example the shopping cart.  By providing an online shopping cart you move the transaction from your inside sales team entering orders into the ERP,  to your customer.  By giving them their pricing based on their terms and conditions and contract online moves that function from the back office to your customer.

Customer Facing ERP

Order status, inventory availability by location, ATP (available to promise), taking payments, and even providing the catalog itself is about giving your customers transparency into your back office.  Product content used to be housed only in marketing catalogs and cryptic codes in the ERP, now we have customer facing product content.

This transparency started very basic, but take a look at your backlog of customer requests.  Do you pick up any patterns related to your ERP?  I do not see that stopping.  If I am correct in stating the secret of B2B e-commerce is about helping your customers do their job easier on your site then that means giving them more and more access to complete self service.   ie More transparency into the ERP.  The new Customer Facing ERP.

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