Dear community members,
SAP Web Channel Experience Management (WCEM) is the latest E-Commerce solution by SAP.
After a successful rampup phase with great customer adoption of 30 customers WCEM 3.0 becomes globally available on May 29, 2013.
Implementing a powerful e-Business solution or switching from an existing one should be well thought and analysed before a decision is made.
Therefore in this blog I would like to provide you a journey through the evolution of SAP's E-Commerce solutions, from the SAP Online Store back in the 90's via the Internet Sales/SAP E-Commerce/Web Channel Enablement solutions to the new SAP Web Channel Experience Management.
I have seen all these solutions and their product catalogs behind it and implemented some of them for customers as a consulting expert and later as a project manager. None of them impressed or convinced me in a way the new WCEM solution does, and I mean it from a customer benefit and end user perspective, not an SAP licensing point of view...
Without doubt the former web shop solutions all have their strengths and key areas where they truly excel in their time. Web technology evolves fast, and so does E-Business.
More than ever before user demands a great user experience across all sales and information channels.
latest web technologies, an appealing pixel perfect UI, deep integration with backend systems and last but not least the extensibility with 3rd party solutions like a Web Content Management solution, Web Analytics, carrier tracking, knowledge bases etc., not only in B2C businesses, but also in B2B.
In this blog I compile first hand knowledge and expertise about the evolution of SAP's E-Commerce solutions, outlining the purpose, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of each solution, with a special view on the new SAP Web Channel Experience Managément. After reading this article you may understand why the new SAP Web Channel Experience Management solution is different because almost everything (in my opinion) was done right for a .
Ok, let's start:
Online Store (~1996 to 2003 or so)
Back in the good old times of SAP R/3, the Online Store was SAP's first E-Commerce solution and offered just one shopping (B2C) scenario. With an early login it could be used for B2B as well.
Starting with R/3 3.0F the Online Store was a SAPgui based transaction (WW20), which was translated into HTML by the so called Internet Transaction Server (ITS) using templates. This made it very easy for SAP developers to debug and to extend functionality. But it used a proprietary SAP UI and interface technology, which made it hard for web design companies to change the look and feel without having SAP ABAP coding knowledge. Another backside of the Online Store was the direct access from the internet users to the ERP system causing an unpredictable load from the webshop users to the productive enterprise system. Well, don't smile about it, it was 1996 and Amazon was still a startup.
The Online Store used the R/3 Product Catalog (transaction wwm1/wwm2) as a catalog basis with its (static) hierarchy and reliable but poor functionality. In these days the consulting solution CatMan was born and has been continuously improved ever since. Today the CatMan Suite is a comprehensive extension of the R/3 Product Catalog and a MUST for all companies who use the R/3 ERP product catalog.
While the Online Store functionality was simple but OK for these early days, the solution had the big SAP advantage to show realtime information, especially customer specific prices - a killer criteria in B2B businesses. It even supported the Retail Generic Article (showing selectable attributes like color, size), a feature that was missing in the upcoming Internet Sales times and that was recently re-introduced in the new SAP Web Channel Experience Management.
I loved the Online Store and the Product Catalog when I was a young consultant. Especially retailers have been very open-minded in trying out new channels and markets. Streamline.com in Boston/MA was selling food, even fresh and frozen food, combined with a weekly delivery to business members (see Fig.1) by unsing the Online Store - in my opinion the most beautiful and functional Online Store implementation ever.
Woolworths PLC in the UK was feeding a Digital Interactive TV shopping platform with data from the R/3 product catalog - great for elder people to buy books and stuff at a time when using the Internet wasn't as easy as it is today (see Fig.2).
I was also part of a team who implemented the Online Store for a famous Champions League soccer club selling fan articles worldwide, where SAP's multi language support was key. Vobis computers sold IT equipment with it.
A great time, which moved forward very fast.
Fig.1: SAP's Online Store for streamline.com, extended to meet the requirements for a fresh food E-Business with delivery service
Fig.2: Woolworths PLC in UK, Digital Interactive TV platform "OPEN...", fed by SAP R/3 product catalog data (screenshot taken from a TV)
SAP Internet Sales / SAP E-Commerce / SAP CRM Web Channel / Web Channel Enablement Management (~2002 to 2010)
SAP Internet Sales 2.0x
Around the millenium SAP's first CRM solution was released and was designed to cover all interactions with customers. Some even believed it would replace SD. A CRM of course had to cover the ever growing demand for a web channel solution. Therefore SAP created the "Internet Sales" solution and version 2.0b was the first official release. Internet Sales 2.0x still used the ITS with it's rendering technique and ran against the SAP CRM Sales Order and used the CRM product catalog. In CRM based Product Master records more product and marketing related information can be managed than in ERP. CRM Interaction Center could be used to process orders from the web.
The Internet Sales 2.0x offered a B2B and a B2C scenario, both deployed independently from each other. By using the CRM backend first E-Marketing features like Top N product recommendations, proposed cross/up/down selling products etc. were possible.
Another advantage of using the CRM system for customer interactions was the reduced load on the productive ERP system. The Internet Pricing Configurator (IPC) was introduced as a new component to perform the real time pricing and also the product configuration. The ITS was still used to translate the business logic into HTML, but as an evolution to the Online Store no SAPGui transactions were required anymore. Instead an ITS based "flowlogic" was introduced, a SAP proprietary set of commands to retrieve information form the CRM backend. This made it hard for web designers to change the UI and look& feel without the support of an SAP skilled flowlogic developer. Also SAP developers faced restrictions due to the limited programming freedom.
Nevertheless, some great web shop used Internet Sales 2.0x, like COOP in Switzerland, to run their first version of the food delivery web shop. I have seen some food webshops being stopped during implementation, or closing their business when the internet hype was over, but COOP successfully survived this time and is still running their current COOP web shop with a new version of SAP's Internet Sales, offering a delivery service, in-store pickup, and much more including a mobile app for iOS and Android. A shining beacon for the Internet Sales success story and fresh food webshops - well done!
SAP Internet Sales 3.0
With time, SAP CRM quickly became a backend of almost equal importance than ERP for many businesses. Internet Sales 2.0x was causing direct and unpredictable load to the CRM. Therefore Internet Sales 3.0 brought a paradigm change as it was developed as an independent Java J2EE solution outside the SAP CRM system.
CRM and it's product catalog were still used as backend, but most of the business logic was now running on the Java solution, even the shopping basket was held in Java and not as a CRM Sales Order anymore.
With the introduction of Java the UI technology changed from ITS based FlowLogic to Java Server Pages (JSP). At this time both ISA 3.0 B2C and B2B scenarios were based on frames.
SAP Internet Sales 4.0
Many customers, most of them B2B businesses, have not been willing to run a CRM just for a webshop, and those customers who had not been willing to implement and run a CRM for their entire customer channels asked for an alternative.
Therefore with Internet Sales 4.0 the SAP ERP system was again supported as backend as an alternative to SAP CRM. This webshop solution without CRM was called "SAP E-Commerce". Of course CRM based features like E-Marketing, cross/up/down selling, product alternatives, product recommendations etc. have not been supported with an ERP backend, but for many customers, most of them B2B businesses, this was not the highest priority. Key for them were the realtime customer specific prices (considering discounts, contracts etc.) and stock-availability.
With Internet Sales 4.0 the whole B2C scenario UI was redeveloped to get rid of the frames technology. B2B kept their frames until today, but was extended towards Partner Channel Management. In addition the E-Service solution has been released as a separate deployment.
So with 4.0 the three pillars E-Commerce, E-Marketing and E-Service had been available, but have been independent ever since from each other. Therefore they have to be deployed and managed separately. An interaction between these pillars or reuse of components in a mixed scenario had to be implemented on project basis. A true disadvantage, especially in today's Multi Channel interaction times.
Name changes of Internet Sales solutions
Around CRM 5.0 Internet Sales has been renamed into "SAP CRM Web Channel" or simply "Web Channel". However, the term "Internet Sales" or just "ISA" is still used in many publications and SAP notes. The term "Web Channel Enablement Management" is also used sometimes. All these expressions a SAP CRM backend.
The Internet Sales solution that uses SAP ERP as backend has been renamed into "SAP E-Commerce" or simply "E-Commerce".
SAP Internet Sales 5.0
SAP CRM Web Channel 5.0 brought a major extension in the E-Service scenario, complex complaints and spare parts business for parts dealers and carriers. Also campaign integration and newsletter subscription were introduced.
SAP CRM Web Channel 6.0/7.0
The release 6.0 focused mainly on the specific scenario for the Telecommunication industry. With this functionality selling of packed, complex products has been enabled in the solution.
SAP Internet Sales 7.0 brought Loyalty Management. Thus the catalog and order processes were extended for support of earning and redeeming “points” as typical form of customer retention.
Internet Sales Summary
SAP's Internet Sales solution in all it's names and scenarios is no doubt a very successful solution that is used by many hundreds, maybe even more than a thousand of companies, many in the B2B space. It provides realtime customer specific prices and stock availability information, a conditio sine qua non in B2B businesses. All the data shown in the webshop comes from a "single source of truth" for the entire enterprise system - no redundancies.
Internet Sales is reliable, mature, is used by companies of all sizes throughout the world and supports all possible languages. It can be used with a CRM and an ERP backend. A true SAP quality product, which latest release 7.0x is supported by 2020 by standard maintenance. However, no further release of Internet Sales will be released because of the successor solution (see below).
The B2B scenarios in Internet Sales are well perfected and provide advanced features for companies of all sizes. One example is the delegate admin, a superuser role for large enterprises, who is able to create webshop users on behalf of the webshop company for his colleagues. Contracts, configuration, complex complaints, customer specific prices - you name it: Internet Sales is optimized for B2B. The B2B scenario is still frame based, not nice, but acceptable.
The B2C side however was never a killer app. Retailers grumbled about the missing Generic Article (which was never an issue from a technical perspective...), but I believe the most important reasons were
- The basic CRM Product Catalog functionality with its static folder structure
- Lack of a great search engine with facetted display of results showing the results structured by attribute like price $1-9, $10-29, $30-49, color a,b,c... in the left hand navigation bar, as we know it from amazon, eBay, yahoo, ...
- The inflexible technology base causing high efforts to mix components of different scenarios in a true multi channel scenario, e.g. a webshop with E-Marketing features plus E-Service for FAQ, complaints, service tickets and returns management.
After almost a decade it was time for a new Web Channel solution with up-to-date technology and features.
SAP Web Channel Experience Management (WCEM)
Whatever was complained in the Internet Sales solutions by B2C companies: the SAP Web Channel Experience Management has it:
- A great user experience with a pixel perfect UI, with a UI technology based on the latest web standards like Web 2.0, AJAX, Java Server Faces etc. which allows non-SAP experienced web designers to pull out all the stops for a great customer styled web presentation. Of course no frames.
- Scenarios are now simply configured by non-IT staff (e.g. Marketing department) with many many options with a web tool "Web Channel Builder". All available modules from E-Sales, E-Marketing and E-Service can be used in a scenario without disruption. And you can have as many scenarios as you want to. Test new scenarios and UI variants upfront on your local PC, and schedule the release time of new scenarios.
- A great search and navigation experience (when using the Multi Channel Catalog based on SAP MDM)
- State-of-the-Art E-Commerce and E-Marketing features like advanced realtime product recommendations based on BI data, gift cards and wish lists, loyalty management (collect and redeem bonus points), ...
- Integrated E-Service features like a “My Support” Home Page, ticket based service management, installed base management, contract determination, contact users, Guided Flows, Community Management, Knowledge Management (with eGain)
- Multi channel features like physical store integration with a graphical map-based Store Locator, In-Store Availability, In-Store Pickup and (new with release 3.0) In-Store Delivery for online orders.
- Generic Article support for SAP Retail customers, structured article, sets, lots, etc.
- Enhanced Payment Methods (e.g. PayPal), Quick Check Out (with WCEM 2.0) and others which can be easily implemented via the Payment module.
- A powerful, well described and easy applicable extension concept (see WCEM WIKI section "Development and Extensions") to build partner and/or customer extensions based on standard shop modules or to create your own modules. The modularization concept is designed to use ALL modules and their extensions in any scenario without additional project effort, just by configuration in a new web tool called "Web Channel Builder".
- Simple integration of 3rd party solutions like a Content Management system, knowledge management, web analytics, image server, PIM, Social Media platforms, ... by leveraging the new extension concept.
- The full set of features and a lot more can be found in the WCEM WIKI.
You can find more information about SAP Web Channel Experience Management in the (public!) WCEM WIKI and the Expert Blog Index. The evaluation and consulting study by De Villiers Walton, which gives a good comparision of WCEM with Internet Sales and ICSS, is also well recommended.
The modules inside are separate entities decoupled from other modules, and can be extended on top of SAP standard. The good thing is: the extensions are modification free and survive the update of the particular module.
Within an individual module the UI part, business logic and backend implementation are separated from each other:
These parts can be changed and extended in different namespaces, which allows and update of the individual namespaces separately from each other. So whenever a WCEM patch overwrites a module it only overwrites the namespace part of SAP, and not the others. Your extensions and changes are safe. This allows partners and customers to develop their own module extensions and even own modules without changing the SAP standard. And all this of course without modifications.
WCEM Release 1.0
While the predecessor solution Internet Sales was focussed on B2B, the first release of SAP Web CHannel Experience Management was focussed on consumer businesses (B2C). Therefore a complete new framework was required.
The UI of WCEM 1.0 is based on Java Server Faces 1.2 and allows a pixel perfect UI, that can be created by non-SAP skilled web designers to pull out all the stops for a great customer styled web presentation.
The Web Channel UI is rendered on server side in order to allow search engines like Google, Bing etc. to index the webshop pages. For important demos we applied the look&feel of corporate UI's or major customers, some in graphical simplicity, some vibrant. While this was done with limited effort, the result looked AWSOME, like real.
In the new releases great enhancements - bothfunction wise and technology wise - have been made. This blog describes how to upgrade from WCEM 1.0 to 2.0/3.0.
WCEM Release 2.0 (globally available)
WCEM 2.0 was clearly the to-go release over 1.0, no matter what. There are so many killer features in 2.0 that using the 1.0 version would only make sense for B2C customers have a running 1.0 solution and are happy with it. This is also the result of the evaluation and consulting study by De Villiers Walton.
Watch the WCEM webinar recordings.
And a very nice UI example for Sapphire realized in just 4 days (thanks to using web themes for the whole shop, not just the entry page here):
Important features have been added to 2.0, to enhance both the user experience and the functional scope of the solution. See the WCEM 2.0 feature list for details.
In addition to the features a Rapid Deployment Solution is available for WCEM 2.0 to speed up implementation of a B2B scenario in an ERP/TREX environment significantly at a fixed price.
WCEM 2.0 leverages the advanced features of Java Server Faces 2.1 plus template extensions, see the corresponding blog.
You can find out details about what's new in WCEM 2.0 in the special chapter of the application help.
WCEM Release 3.0 (globally available from May 29, 2013)
Now, the new Release 3.0 offers advanced B2B and B2C features like
- Product comparison
- Customer specific product views / catalog views
- Enhanced sorting and filtering
- Shopping templates
- Order download and item upload
- Product configuration
- In-store delivery
- User Management
- Self-registration in the contact scenario
- Delegated administrator
- Enhanced authorization concept
- WCEM 3.0 Feature List
- WCEM 3.0 Customer Presentation
- WCEM 3.0 Expert Blogs
- WCEM 3.0 Application Help > see chapter "What's new in Release 3.0"
- WCEM 3.0 Release Information Note 1734331 for system requirements
- NEW WCEM 3.0 Live Expert Sessions in April 2013 - Mark your calendar
- NEW - Read "A short walk from WCEM 1.0 to 3.0" from the SAP partner DeVilliers Walton.
Many topics of interest are also explained in detail in WCEM expert blogs - see the WCEM blog INDEX for an overview.
Please also visit our WCEM WIKI - THE key info source for WCEM.
In case of questions the FAQ blog might already provide an answer.
Dr. Ingo Woesner
SAP Web Channel Experience Management - Rollout
Suite Development Application Innovation