CPQ + E-Commerce = Digital Commerce

In recent years, not least, the corona pandemic has triggered far-reaching developments in the direction of digitization. In this context, the buzzword “digital commerce” is making the rounds not only in B2C but also in B2B. To remain competitive in the long term and meet changing customer requirements, industrial companies, in particular, must jump on the bandwagon. What do they need to keep in mind? Here you will get an overview.


Digitalization boost in B2B sales

Although the topic of digitization has been part of society for several years, for many B2B companies, it has only come to the foreground in the context of the corona pandemic and the associated new challenges: In a joint study by IntelliShop AG and ECC Cologne, around three-quarters of the respondents stated that the crisis had strongly driven all digitization plans.

AIn light of the Corona pandemic, the vast majority of companies surveyed attach increased relevance to digital transformation (Source: Intellishop AG & ECC Köln, 2020).

Digital sales – buzzword bingo or must-have in B2B?

In addition to the digitization of internal processes, the adaptation of the sales strategy is high on the agenda for many companies. While Covid-19 is becoming the catalyst for the expansion of e-commerce in most cases, the modernization of B2B sales has been a trend for some time. Until a few years ago, a large number of B2B suppliers barely, if at all, enabled their customers to buy their products online. But: even before the crisis, according to a study by ibi research in 2019 at the University of Regensburg, 89% of companies expected more than half of all B2B purchases to be conducted online by 2025. These assumptions will only have intensified amid the digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic. Hence: Digital sales have long since ceased to be a buzzword in B2B business and are now one of the pillars of an innovative, competitive digitization strategy.

Minimize complexity, and optimize sales thanks to configure-price quote (CPQ)

However, before implementing an e-commerce solution, companies must first master the complexity of their products. Particularly in industry, product portfolios with a wide range of variants complicate fast and holistic sales processes. The high demand for individualization calls for efficient solutions that both reduce the burden on sales and deliver a fast result to the end customer. Given this high product complexity, a centrally maintained system is necessary to avoid manual errors as far as possible.


"In mechanical and plant engineering, we deal with millions, even billions of variants and hundreds of product features. The fact that the configured machine elements are installed in systems that specify restrictions increases the degree of complexity."

Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solutions enable the sales department to create customer-specific configurations. What used to take several days and weeks due to long processing and review times is now completed by software in just a few minutes.

However, orders can only be placed and processed smoothly if the CPQ solution is seamlessly linked to the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Without integration into the IT system landscape, neither individual price calculation nor the associated quotation generation is possible.

Interaction between e-commerce and CPQ – The new status quo?

A clear trend is emerging in digitalization: the boundaries between private and business are becoming increasingly blurred, and B2B users are demanding software that is as easy to use as in the B2C sector. There, configuring furniture or a dream car is part of daily business. The fact that this development has also arrived in the industry and in the topic of CPQ is shown by the emergence of so-called “self-service portals”.


"A CPQ solution where the user experience is designed around the needs of the user adds value to the industry and redirects workflows from sales towards the customer."

Integration between e-commerce and CPQ makes sense because both systems are based on the same technical databases, and build on topics such as search functions, price calculation, and document generation. Suppose industrial companies use this common basis to develop an integrated solution. In that case the customer can configure and order their product in the online store themselves or pass the order on to the sales department. If the customer lacks the necessary expertise, a questionnaire filled with various criteria (“guided selling”) helps them choose the right product, at least in the best-case scenario. This approach not only reduces the number of aborted purchases but also positively affects customer satisfaction. In addition, the interaction between CPQ and e-commerce also brings internal benefits: Sales can process inquiries more efficiently, and manual processes are minimized in the long term.

Despite the clear trend toward integration, many companies are still in the early stages of development in this area. CPQ and e-commerce are often still regarded separately and connected to different departments. This is where the software provider comes into play. Their task is to advise the customer on the digital transformation and show them the possibilities for interaction within the entire corporate structure.


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ibi research an der Universität Regensburg GmbH (2019): B2B-E-Commerce 2020 – Status quo, Erfahrungen und Ausblicke.

Intellishop AG/ECC Köln (2020): Veränderungen der E-Commerce-Strategie im B2B-Bereich durch die Corona-Krise (https://www.intellishop-software.com/veraenderung-im-e-commerce-durch-coronakrise/).

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