One of the most disappointing conversations we hear on a regular basis is the common story of how a distributor has tried several vendors, paid a lot of money, and
still hasn't been able to get their website off the ground.
Many times we find that the cause of this is that a well-intentioned generic e-commerce firm 'thought' they could make this happen.
Unfortunately, integration with P21 is not a simple matter. Creating a B2C website that is successfully integrated with Prophet21 requires a significant understanding
of not only good e-commerce practices but how Prophet 21 functions and the challenges that will arise when dealing with B2C e-commerce as well.
If your vendor has never done an integration with P21 or it is 'one of the integrations we do', then we strongly recommend you ask for references and some type of
guarantee that the product they produce will faithfully utilize Prophet21 data such as pricing and inventory to name a few.
Make sure your vendor is able to utilize the Prophet21 e-commerce tools to import orders into P21 and eliminate double keywork.
You will also want to make sure that the performance of any integrations is going to be suitable for your customer needs. Many e-commerce vendors say they can integrate to P21,
but doing it effectively, accurately, and with an end result that isn't a SLOW website is a challenge.
Often distributors fail to consider the potential challenges that are associated with operating in a B2C e-commerce space. This is understandable given that most distributor customers are B2B customers.
Here is a short list of things to consider when thinking about Prophet21 B2C e-commerce. We will cover each of these in depth further down the page.
Let us show you how we've helped many distributors navigate the challenge and find success.
This isn't an exhaustive list but provides good food for thought regarding B2C challenges.
Many distributors don't have to calculate shipping before the sale. As such, often items are not weighted (or not accurately weighted). For B2C sales on a Prophet21 e-commerce website, B2C customers will expect to know how much shipping is before they complete the transaction. Tools like WebAlliance e-commerce integrate with UPS/FedEx and others to get rates, but if you are planning to get accurate rates from those services, weights are required. Other shipping pricing methodologies may also be used such as tiered shipping or free shipping. Keep in mind that B2C website shoppers are shipping-conscious so keep rates low and don't use shipping as a profit center.
When dealing with B2B websites, many distributors find that their shoppers are tax exempt or the B2B user is used to being assigned tax at time of shipping. As such, they don't always have to calculate taxes checkout. Prophet 21 B2C websites however will require that tax be shown to a customer (since they are going to pay via credit card). This can be a challenge, but most of the time it will require and external source such as Avalara to get accurate tax info. Systems such as WebAlliance e-commerce can use Avalara, but keep in mind that Prophet21 requires that you have an Avalara tax subscription for P21 to calculate tax. In most B2C environments, this is going to be an additional expense you want to consider.
Credit cards are a staple of B2C e-commerce for Prophet21. In a B2B website, users may pay 'On Account', but in B2C, users will have to provide a credit card for payment. Allowing customers to provide a credit card means that you will need a provider to process credit cards. That will typically come with an approximately 3% surcharge that the card company will bill you... effectively reducing the amount you'll receive by 3%. If you plan to do much B2C volume, you'll want to make sure that you have the ability for Prophet21 to process the card automatically. The options for P21 credit card support are limited, so you'll want to make sure to factor in the cost of the credit card processor that Epicor has chosen for your P21 system.
For most distributors, fraudulent transactions are rare. However, in B2C, fraud happens with alarming frequency. We have found that fraud doesn't get limited by the type of product you sell. We've seen things fraudulently purchased that would not typically be sold on the open market. Fraud is a concept you won't be able to avoid. Systems like WebAlliance e-commerce allow you to integrate with MaxMind to attempt to avoid fraud, but 100% avoidance isn't possible. As such, you want to make sure that you will be able to absorb some level of fraud in your margins and still have your Prophet21 B2C e-commerce plans and budgets work.
Most distributors don't deal with a significant number of returns, especially not of opened goods. B2C customers have an expectation that if an item is unsatisfactory in some way, they can return it. This means that as a distributor, you need to have a plan for how you'll handle this merchandise. Will you charge a restocking fee, will you allow returns after 30 days, etc... The way in which your distributorship handles returns will have a significant effect on your public customer ratings. If you get too many bad ratings, your sales will suffer. Successful B2C distributorships have a plan for handing returns that works for their business and the customer.
B2C E-commerce sales are likely to generate far more post-sales support calls than B2B sales. Many distributors are used to selling products to a well educated buyer who knows what they want and understands the product deeply. In Prophet21 B2C e-commerce sales, this can change dramatically. B2C users expect that if they purchase a product, they have an avenue of acquiring support for that product after the sale. Answering questions about the credit card charges, shipping charges, return policy, etc. all can add up and take a toll on profit margins. Successful distributors have a plan for post-sale support.
One of the easiest areas to overlook when considering a P21 B2C website is the impact on existing customers. If you decide to sell to a B2C audience, will you existing customer base feel threatened? This idea is something you want to consider prior to starting your Prophet21 B2C project. If your existing customers will be unhappy when you start to sell on a B2C channel, it could cost valuable core business. Make the decision about your response to existing customers before your project starts.
Often distributors are used to shipping items in large batches to a relatively small number of addresses. When considering a Prophet 21 B2C e-commerce project factor in how your current efficiency will be affected when you ship in small batches to a relatively large number of ship-tos. Will this new dynamic mean that you need more warehouse staffing? Is your warehouse equipped to ship to residential addresses effectively? Considering the efficiency changes is a key to success for B2C distributors.
If you are a distributor considering a Prophet21 B2C website project, you need a trusted partner to help you navigate the challenges of P21 integration, e-commerce considerations, and other barriers to success.
For over 18 years, we've helped distributors get online with websites integrated with Prophet 21. You don't have to navigate this process alone. Our team can help you achieve success.
If you would like to learn more about how we have helped others create a successful e-commerce experience, book a call here.