“All of our B2C customers want this.” So said Birgit Starmanns of SAP Labs, referring to the new, frameless Web page design in version 5.0 of mySAP CRM. Its release is set for the second quarter of this year. The new design makes Web pages easy to bookmark, navigate and search. Other enhancements to SAP E-Commerce include better marketing campaign tools, Web auction capabilities, complaints and returns functionality and customer behavior analysis tools. All features that help companies do a better job of online commerce.
Built with a combination of Java for the look and fee – the de facto Internet standard – and ABAP for the business logic – SAP’s own technology – SAP E-Commerce for mySAP CRM offers the best of the Web along with the integration and analytic powers of SAP. Starmanns says both B2C and B2B users stand to benefit from the many new features. She summarized crucial new capabilities and the technology changes behind them.
Frameless design for better browsing
Starmanns cites five key benefits of the new frameless design. First, it offers easier branding with less technical challenge for the customer. Previously, frames were used to separate different segments of the Web page, which allowed only portions of the page to be refreshed. However, it made branding more difficult, since many customers wanted, for example, one graphic to span across multiple frames. With frameless design, brand images can be consistent throughout a company’s site or within sections.
In addition, Starmanns said because the application uses Java versus SAP’s proprietary technology, SAP Internet Transaction Server (SAP ITS) (a change made in release 3.0 of mySAP CRM), site updates are easy to do. Companies’ staffs don’t need to learn ABAP to update their sites.
Third, the new design also features more accurate bookmarking. In a framed design, a user can bookmark only the site’s index page and not its individual product pages. Most online shoppers, on the other hand, want to save the exact Web pages on which they find their desired products. They don’t want to have to go back to the home page and start their search all over again and in version 5.0 they don’t have to.
The ability to find specific products via an online search is another new feature. SAP E-Commerce for mySAP CRM accesses constantly changing product information from a database using SAP’s Text Retrieval and Extraction (TREX) search tool. But online search engines require static Web pages. The new version tackles this problem by generating static pages, for example, “productA.html” or “productB.html.” The application generates the static pages and makes them accessible for external web crawlers and search engines.
Last but not least, the new design has better support for breadcrumbs, or embedded links within a Web page. For instance, a shopper can click on breadcrumbs to jump around from page to page. In the past they were limited to sequential movement, forward or back. Starmanns says SAP uses the Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE) development tool, standard within SAP NetWeaver, to create that feature.
But SAP NetWeaver offers more than J2EE. For example, it enables better code transport, something that ABAP does well, but Java lacks. In other words, when a change is made to code in an ABAP-based application, the code moves automatically from development to test and production. It doesn’t need to be recoded, just done once to be able to work in all SAP environments.
The SAP NetWeaver Development Infrastructure (NWDI), she says, allows code transport capabilities, more like ABAP. “It’s an advantage for our customers. The J2EE development environment is part of SAP NetWeaver. It’s integrated and provides version control and transportability,” Starmanns said.
E-marketing and e-selling
Beyond the new frameless design, Starmanns notes that SAP E-Commerce for mySAP CRM offers new e-marketing and e-selling capabilities as well. For example, companies can let customers enter marketing campaign codes online, whether the codes came from e-mails, mailers or magazine coupons. The application recalculates the price automatically when the shopper enters the code.
Again, Java coding enables this feature and creates a link to data from mySAP CRM. That link between the Web and mySAP CRM is critical because the application holds master data related to marketing, including customer names, campaign types and product prices. “For e-commerce, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel when we go to the Web,” Starmanns said. “SAP E-Commerce leverages what we have in CRM and extends it to the Web.”
The new version also features a store locator function, with which a shopper can find a physical location, such as a store, warehouse or service location. In past versions, that was only possible through an SAP Enterprise Portal. “That’s getting excellent response,” Starmanns said.
Searching abilities are better too. In SAP E-Commerce for mySAP CRM, TREX’s existing capabilities are put within the company Web site. It’s easy, for example, to search to see if items are in stock and to find purchase order templates. In the past many SAP customers were B2B companies with professional buyers who used order templates and repeatedly purchased items. B2B companies didn’t always need online search as sophisticated as the search capabilities that B2C companies need.
“Since TREX is the search engine across all SAP applications, including SAP NetWeaver Portal, SAP leverages it everywhere,” Starmanns said. Enhancements include error-tolerant search in which TREX returns a response asking something such as, “Did you mean umbrella and not embrella?” That gives the user a chance to correct a typo and find the item.
There are also administered links, which are something like an online search engine’s “sponsored links.” Administered links let company executives determine which products show up first when a shopper enters certain keywords.
Auctions and customer behavior analysis
SAP E-Commerce for mySAP CRM offers several different ways for companies to hold online auctions. They can host their own auctions or hold them via eBay. The eBay functionality existed in previous versions, but in version 5.0 it has the ability to create a company-run auction cockpit.
eBay auctions are enhanced too, so companies have the option to let winners check out either via eBay or via the company B2C Web site. The idea is that if a winner goes to the company site, he may purchase more items. As well, on the company site, the SAP system can leverage existing tax and freight calculations, which are more complex and consider different tax jurisdictions, versus the single values allowed on eBay.
A new link to mySAP CRM provides better complaints and returns processing within E-Service applications. When a customer complains, for instance, the customer can choose a reference to the related sales order, delivery or invoice document. In the past, there was no reference link so each complaint had to be manually matched to the related document.
Starmanns also cites a key change in the way mySAP CRM handles customer behavior analytics. In the past, companies had to use a product from SAP spinoff TeaLeaf Technology to capture customer behavior data online. Now, they can capture and move that data into SAP Business Information Warehouse without TeaLeaf.
“We’ve embedded click tracking into SAP E-Commerce, based on customer actions, or clicks, on the site,” Starmanns said. A company can still use TeaLeaf and should do so if it is interested in capturing information beyond the events that are included in the SAP application. TeaLea captures the entire HTML request-response stream, beyond just the event attributes.
Among the many enhancements of SAP E-Commerce for mySAP CRM, Starmanns lists the ability to increase revenue and market reach and the ability to better promote the corporate brand. She also notes that companies can achieve a lower total cost of technology ownership as a result of leveraging existing SAP solutions. Together, Java and SAP create more than just a technology advantage. They offer bottom-line business benefits.