Kastas Sealing Technologies has built its reputation on making seals for controlling the flow of fluids or compressed air that drive power tools.
But until recently it had trouble providing a good online “customer experience” because it couldn’t control the flow of data between its back-end business operations software and its customer-facing B2B online portal, seal-Link.com.
Kastas launched the portal more than two years ago to provide a new online channel for selling its products in 80 countries to original equipment manufacturers, distributors and dealers of hydraulic equipment powered by fluids and pneumatic tools powered by compressed air. It had expected its new e-commerce site to provide the robust, user-friendly e-commerce experience B2B buyers expect, and free its sales representatives to give more personalized attention to buyers. Instead, the website only brought Kastas and its customers part of the way to that goal.
Connecting ERP software and ecommerce
The problem was in how information from the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, its back-end business software for managing information on inventory and other operations, flowed to and from its ecommerce portal.
Saddled with an antiquated ERP system, Kastas realized it was unable to deliver a rich B2B user experience, which includes real-time inventory, pricing and shipping data, because its ERP system did not mesh well with Salesforce Community Cloud, the platform on which Kastas operates its website. As result, the website provided static content that couldn’t be dynamically updated to show its latest sealing products and custom sealing technologies, and it had poor compatibility with mobile devices, Kastas says.
To achieve its ecommerce goals, Kastas realized it not only needed to revamp its ecommerce site, but install a more compatible ERP system. “Our initial version was a basic sales portal that seemed to fit our needs, but we later realized that in order to create the strong ecommerce infrastructure we envisioned, especially for our biggest customers, we needed to build out the site’s features and functionality” through better connectivity to the ERP system, says Bircan Atilgan, vice president and executive board member for Kastas.
One area Kastas knew it needed to shore up quickly was mobile device compatibility. Although the majority of its customers place orders using desktop computers, a growing number of them are accessing its site with mobile devices to search for products and other content. That trend means it is only a matter of time before a large portion of those customers will be looking to place orders through a mobile device, Atilgan says. Failing to meet that need could harm sales, he adds.
Dynamic data on mobile and desktop
To provide a rich ecommerce experience, Kastas worked with commerce consulting and technology integration firm OSF Commerce to replace its ERP system and also upgrade its ecommerce site, seal-Link.com. They opted to scrap the old ERP system in favor of SAP SE’s ERP platform. That enabled Kastas to provide users of its ecommerce site with real-time information on products, pricing and customer accounts via mobile devices as well as laptop and desktop computers.
“With SAP, all product information, pricing and inventory counts are automatically updated. Plus, buyers can see their order status and history regardless of the device they use. All of that is critical in our business,” says Atilgan. “Our prior ERP system ran static data, which required manual updates and data entry, was not responsive to mobile devices, and prevented us from delivering the kind of comprehensive ecommerce experience we sought.”
The integration not only went off without a hitch, Atilgan says, it also made it possible for Kastas, based in Izmir, Turkey, to link inventory from its network of seven warehouses in Turkey and Germany to its website. Buyers can now access real-time inventory in the warehouses in both countries to meet their ordering needs. For example, a buyer with a standing monthly order filled from a warehouse in Turkey, but that needs within days an item not in stock in that warehouse, can check available inventory in a warehouse in Germany.
The revamped website also allows buyers to see detailed order status, such as which portion of an order has been filled and which is pending, along with the expected date of fulfillment for the entire order. Buyers can then opt to have the filled portion shipped immediately or wait to have the order shipped in its entirety. “This has greatly improved the customer experience,” Atilgan says.
Freeing up sales reps
One of the biggest improvements from the upgrade, however, is that Kastas has freed its sales representatives from the many nuts-and-bolts tasks associated with B2B ordering. The reps can focus on providing more personalized customer service. “Our sales representatives have more time to talk to clients about new projects versus order confirmations,” Atilgan says. “Buyers can have practically all their ordering and tracking needs met through the website, which enables our sales representatives to provide a more personalized touch.”
With its e-commerce site delivering the user experience it always sought, Kastas says it is confident the site will be a catalyst for increasing sales and customer loyalty.
“Kastas has a visionary upper management when it comes to ecommerce,” says Gurkan Ustunkar, country manager for Turkey at OSF Commerce. “Integration to their ERP system gives Kastas the kind of ecommerce site that leverages the full capabilities of its Salesforce platform to improve the customer experience.”
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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