Smart Integration: Successful E-commerce in a Multi-configurator Landscape
From the product configurator perspective, there are various strategies to tackle the challenge of heterogenous application landscapes. Our approach: Create a modern API architecture – in the product configuration domain and not in the e-commerce tool. This normalises the most relevant configuration data from your engines regardless of the sales channel, even before they enter the e-commerce or CRM sphere.
Example B2B – Engineering
Let’s look at an example from the B2B context. Our engineering company starts out by providing a configurator for the production of individual parts and small batches. As part of this traditional business model, the target groups configure products from a standard catalogue by parametrising certain product attributes, such as total length, thread length and type of coating. Over the years, the company has gained a significant number of customers globally in this business segment.
Our engineering company has opened up a second source of income in the meantime. The product portfolio in this business model comprises configurable machines for metalworking. Machine components manufactured in-house are combined with purchased components and assembled into stand-alone machines. They have an increasing number of customers opting for the high quality of the manufactured production machines. Over time, an independent configurator has evolved for the new business model.
An analysis of the international customer structure in both business segments has shown that there is a certain overlap of customers who order from both product portfolios. Another finding from the analysis: The traditional production of individual parts and small batches is often an entry-level product for new customers. The good reputation of the parts production has a positive impact on the upsell potential of complete machines. A new directive for the e-commerce strategy is derived from this: All customers must be able to buy from a uniform storefront of the e-commerce shop. Existing experience gaps such as different shopping baskets or checkout processes are to be eliminated across all future sales channels.
The company serves several international markets. An investigation of optimisation potentials of the customer experience has shown that the international market cultivation is to be aligned to two market clusters. Every cluster gets its own shopfront design on which the configuration and sale of products are based.
Solution: Normalised Configuration and Calculation Data for All Sales Scenarios
From a customer experience perspective, all users must be able to configure and shop the exact same way – that is, have a seamless, cross-channel shopping experience. To solve this problem, we begin by employing the principle of cohesion (also see Wikipedia).
In our case we decided to integrate the different configuration engines in the domain of the configurators and not in the e-commerce domain. For that, the standardised data model is implemented with the help of an API layer – with the added benefit that all configuration data that makes it into the sales channels is based on a uniform concept.
The diagram illustrates the underlying principle: The creation of a configuration (yellow in the diagram) and the sale of configured products (red in the diagram) is carried out consistently within the selected storefront for users. Modern API architectures ensure the exchange of the relevant configuration data in real time.
An additional side effect: Traditional sales reps – as soon as they have been integrated into the CRM – can also use the harmonized configuration in their face-to-face sales pitches. This makes sales reps and e-commerce a true dream team.
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Are you keen to talk about your next project? We will be happy exchange ideas with you: Melanie Klühe, Stefanie Berger, Stephan Handschin and Philippe Surber (clockwise).
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Are you keen too discuss your digital tasks with us? We would be happy to exchange ideas with you: Jörg Nölke and Gerrit Taaks (from left to right).