For system houses, eCommerce is often inextricably linked with immense effort, high costs and the commitment of internal resources. However, IT Südwestfalen shows that this does not necessarily have to be the case: the IT service provider has implemented an eCommerce solution in just four weeks – without any major challenges and at manageable costs. And above all: while continuing to offer individual customer service.
Karlsruhe, 27/04/2020 – When implementing extensive eCommerce projects, system houses are usually faced with a fundamental dilemma. On the one hand, there is the desire to set a good example in terms of digitalisation and to reduce process costs. On the other hand, however, there is also the goal of offering end customers real added value by providing personal advice and individual support during product selection. The self-conception of many system houses is far from simply ‘shipping boxes’, as no one can or wants to compete with big eTailers or online giants such as Amazon – that would be a mammoth task, not just in terms of price levels.
Instead, system houses rely on customer-specific product ranges and order conditions, combined with standardised services and managed services. In classic shop systems, all of this can only be realised with individual development efforts and correspondingly high expenses. Additionally, ordering systems used in the distribution have to be connected, while product content has to be integrated and licensed. This is a feat that quickly overruns all budgets, since the integration of the company’s own ERP system is also necessary.
IT Südwestfalen AG, a regional system house from Lüdenscheid (Germany) with more than 50 employees, was faced with the same scenario – but tried something radically new: eCommerce completely without a traditional shop system, with significantly less effort, at manageable costs and most importantly with continued individual customer service.
IT Südwestfalen AG serves a variety of customers, from companies in the manufacturing industry to cities, municipalities and service providers. These include customers that only require services, customers that require both products and services, and of course customers that only require hardware.
IT Südwestfalen’s main objective is to create stronger customer loyalty and to combine the individual support offered to customers with an eCommerce solution. “Our primary concern was to not simply act as a wholesaler, but to focus on the services we can provide” explains Danny Fischer, member of the Management Board responsible for Sales and Marketing at IT Südwestfalen AG. As Danny Fischer goes on to describe, the service idea should be at the heart of the solution: “We are not Amazon with a huge product range, instead we want to allow our customers to save time in their daily work, by quickly finding what they need on a regular basis.”
For IT Südwestfalen, it therefore quickly became apparent that the appropriate eCommerce solution had to completely fulfil these requirements. However, a webshop based on a traditional shop system was too complex and also too expensive. The ITscope B2B Suite, on the other hand, as an eCommerce portal in which system houses do not have to worry about product data or the integration of distributors, was the perfect solution for IT Südwestfalen.
“For us, the introduction of a classic shop system, such as Shopware or Magento, was not even up for discussion. This is because experience has shown that they are disproportionately expensive, time-consuming and complex for us, especially in view of our objectives. By using the B2B Suite we have to worry about less, because the whole platform including product content and distribution interfaces was offered to us as ‘eCommerce as a service’.”
Danny Fischer, Board Member for Sales and Marketing at IT Südwestfalen AG
Two years ago, IT Südwestfalen began to structure its internal sales force, separate purchasing from sales and optimise purchasing processes accordingly. This was the cornerstone for the decision to move towards a consistently digital procurement process based on the ITscope platform. With the ITscope platform, IT Südwestfalen had already implemented automated purchasing, while the sales department was to be supplemented by a digital channel with the B2B Suite. At the same time, the individual customer support, as a decisive service component at IT Südwestfalen, can still be implemented very well with the B2B Suite. Danny Fischer states: “We didn’t take standard categories and products, but rather put ourselves in our customers’ perspective and put together a suitably tailored product portfolio”. Accordingly, detailed onboarding for each customer is a fixed prerequisite for activation. In the onboarding, the Key Account Manager explains additional functions, such as shared product lists, so that the customer benefits from all the advantages of the B2B Suite right from the start.
In addition to hardware, IT Südwestfalen also offers services, managed services and cloud services in the B2B Suite. This adds value both for end customers, as they are presented with new solutions, and also for IT Südwestfalen, which can generate additional business as a result. “Customers that previously only bought hardware now also purchase services and vice versa” says Danny Fischer, explaining the successful model.
IT Südwestfalen is also pursuing a customer-centric approach to order processing: instead of simply routing orders through to the distribution, the internal sales team checks every order for plausibility and correctness. “We provide the customer with a quality control for each order, giving us added value compared to other shops” adds Danny Fischer. And customers appreciate this too: IT Südwestfalen has so far been able to generate an increase in orders of 40%, which would not have occurred without the system. The principle of not simply conducting hardware business online, but primarily focusing on stronger customer loyalty, is clearly paying off for IT Südwestfalen.
What does the B2B Suite look like in practice as an eCommerce portal?
Using the B2B Suite saves system houses considerable development effort, since the entire platform, including product content and distribution interfaces, is offered as ‘eCommerce as a Service’. This approach is particularly important in times of skilled worker shortages, as it ties up less of your own IT resources. Content does not have to be additionally integrated, suppliers do not have to be connected individually and the time-consuming and nerve-racking build-up of know-how for a special shop system or eCommerce framework is not necessary. The whole ordering process is integrated on the ITscope platform and the order is electronically routed to the distribution interfaces after approval, allowing real-time processes.
In addition, the design can be customised – enabling the shopping portal to be ready in a short amount of time. “And we did all of this in just four weeks! “, reports Danny Fischer enthusiastically. “In contrast, with all interfaces, hosting etc., this would have been impossible with a classic shop system in the same period of time. Carrying out such a project ourselves would certainly have taken several months and required many internal resources.”
The B2B Suite has received very good feedback from all of those involved: “The pilot phase was initially planned until the end of April, but was successfully ended ahead of schedule, so we decided to roll out the system to more customers” says Danny Fischer in reference to the project, where IT Südwestfalen involved customers in the process to see their perspectives. Minor difficulties at the beginning, such as with the custom domain as well as performance, were resolved at short notice. “Of course, there are still a few things that can be improved, but the technical basis works perfectly”.
To use the ITscope B2B Suite, access to the ITscope.com platform is required first. System houses are able to receive a free test account via https://www.itscope.com/en/.
You can read the complete interview with Danny Fischer here.
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