Customer Case Van Marcke
Van Marcke boosts B2B e-commerce with a new platform
Van Marcke launched its first B2B e-commerce platform twenty years ago. In order to strengthen its position as the market leader in the digital channel, the family business is now switching to SAP Commerce Cloud, with Elision as its implementation partner.
Van Marcke is a wholesaler having specialized in everything for bathrooms, heating installations, sanitary and installation materials, as well as sustainable solutions for water and heat. Van Marcke has about 1.600 employees. The company manages 23 showrooms in Belgium, Luxembourg and France, and has 132 shops for professional customers worldwide. In the past few years, Van Marcke invested 75 million euros in a new distribution center of 90.000 m2, in its headquarters in Kortrijk, Belgium.
Above all, Van Marcke is a frontrunner. This company is the market leader in its sector in Belgium and Luxembourg. The innovative approach of this family business is one of the reasons for this. “Twenty years ago, we already launched a B2B web shop”, says IT director Stijn Hoegaerts. At the time, Van Marcke had developed its entire IT environment on the IBM AS/400 platform. In order to develop its web shop, the company therefore also used a PIM (Product Information Management) system and an IBM e-commerce platform.
“Elision has developed an efficient, feasible and affordable implementation process for SAP Commerce Cloud.”
When Van Marcke launched an ambitious digital transformation plan a few years ago, the company made the strategic choice for SAP HANA. “It also made us think about our e-commerce platform”, says Stijn Hoegaerts. “The existing solution had reached its limits. Obviously, the time was ripe for something new.” Throughout the years, the Van Marcke range had kept growing, with not only 30.000 SKUs, but also 2 million references. Based on this finding, Van Marcke decided not only to look for a new e-commerce platform, but also to immediately replace the PIM system.
A market audit led the company towards SAP Commerce Cloud (formerly known as SAP Hybris Commerce), which solved both issues at once. Since Van Marcke opts for the cloud as much as possible today – and since the need for a new solution was considerable -, the company decided to implement SAP Commerce Cloud Version 1, with Elision as partner. The implementation quickly turned out to be successful. In 2018, Van Marcke even won a SAP award with it.
“We opted for an approach that would disturb the business as little as possible”, says Stijn Hoegaerts. “For example, we first placed the old and the new PIM systems next to each other. Subsequently, the implementation of the e-commerce platform would follow.” But the business is changing fast. “One year after the implementation, we wanted to make some adjustments. However, the desired functionality turned out not to be in SAP Commerce Cloud Version 1, the version for the private cloud, but in Version 2, the version running in the public cloud at Microsoft Azure.”
Project in expansion
It confronted Van Marcke with a new issue. “Setting up a PIM system is a relatively standardized process”, Stijn Hoegaerts continues. “However, an e-commerce platform must be implemented according to the business needs.” Van Marcke didn’t want to fully implement Version 1 first, knowing that the company would switch to Version 2 relatively soon, anyway. “That would have made the process unnecessarily difficult and expensive.” Consequently, Van Marcke decided to migrate to Version 2 with the PIM system before implementing the e-commerce platform.
“At this level, Elision’s assistance made the difference”, says Stijn Hoegaerts. “Thanks to Elision, we managed to stick to the budget, even if the lead time was slightly longer than originally planned.” This was partly due to the fact that the old e-commerce platform could not simply be replaced one-on-one by the new one. “Just like with the PIM system, we decided to first use both platforms side by side. The online channel accounts for 11% of our turnover. By no means, the implementation of the new platform should affect the business continuity of the online channel.”
However, this choice was not obvious since the existing platform also served as a customer portal, where Van Marcke’s customers were able to consult offers and invoices, among other things. “We also had to include the portal. We built a new portal on SAP Cloud Platform*, which connects to SAP Commerce Cloud. So yes, the project has been expanded once more.” For Van Marcke, it was important not to postpone the process. The company decided to run the implementation of the e-commerce platform in parallel with the major migration from IBM to SAP.
The old platform required lots of technical knowledge. Without the intervention of the IT department, it turned out to be impossible for the sales and marketing employees to simply set up something on the platform. “SAP Commerce Cloud is much more intuitive and user-friendly”, says Stijn Hoegaerts. “This gives the business more freedom to work in the platform. If the marketing colleagues want to change something on the platform, they can simply do it themselves.” At functional level, the integration of online payment transactions is one of the major advantages. Regular customers pay on invoice, but the integration also allows customers to order and pay immediately if they want to.
Besides, customers don’t exclusively place their orders by means of a PC anymore. The new platform is responsive. It allows professionals to easily order the materials required – often while they are on the construction site – by means of their smartphone or tablet. “SAP Commerce Cloud is a very open platform”, Stijn Hoegaerts concludes. “This allows us to easily add extra features via APIs and web services.” Van Marcke has opted for a go-live with a minimum viable product, a basic version of the platform. The customer feedback on that first part will also determine the further rollout of SAP Commerce Cloud.