Archive for the ‘configurator’ Category

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Optimizing CPQ Applications

September 9, 2019

User experience covers a variety of topics. A poorly designed user flow or a badly designed screen layout is irritating, but nothing gets users more frustrated than application latency. On initial launch, a CPQ application can have really good performance, but over time it degrades: application optimization is not a single task, it’s more like a maintenance contract! CPQ applications spawn data, valuable data and simply archiving that overhead is not ideal.

At channelcentral we used to speak about a four second rule. It’s an arbitrary number, but we believed that if a user didn’t see a result on click within four seconds they’d click again as the assumption is they didn’t click correctly OR the application needs a reminder. Today: four seconds needs to be nearer one second – user expectations are higher due in part to the Smartphone experience.

channelcentral recently undertook an architectural review of the applications that run in its “CMS” framework. One finding was that a lot of latency was caused by “Web Services” where applications pull in data to enrich the content with time sensitive data (notably price and inventory). Users were experiencing wait times of between four and 10 seconds and that was clearly unacceptable.

The Development Team looked at Microservices (MSA: Micro Service Architecture) as a potential solution to latency caused by data requests. Once deployed, application performance improved by up to 10X.

Moving from monolithic to modular has other benefits in terms of deployment, fault detection and code maintenance. There are some ‘cons’ with Microservices, but improving performance to that extent makes it an architecture we’re investing in.

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CPQ Application B2B Banner Advertising – The Right Tool For The Right Job

August 16, 2019

The key to successful marketing is targeting the most relevant target audience in the right place at the right time with the right message.  Sales conversion, from awareness to purchase, is having the right communication and requiring minimal effort from the buyer.  Configure Price Quote (CPQ) application banner advertising can make a significant contribution to a holistic campaign or tactical promotion.

Marketing mix

Once marketing planners have devised their strategy and plan, existing and potential customers are segmented into groups, generally characterised by their needs.  Targeting the chosen group or audience with a communications message is usually achieved by a ‘marketing mix’; a carefully planned mixture of media, such as advertising, public relations, digital marketing and exhibitions.

Decision making process

A mixture of marketing communications media is typically used supporting a buyer through the buying decision making process, commonly known as AIDA, (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action).

Using social media will raise awareness of a product or brand, as will display advertising.  Newsletters, paid searches and search engine optimization (SEO) will support interest and desire in a product or services.  Email marketing has been used heavily over the last decade to drive decisions, often combined with promotions.

Promote action where action is required

A banner ad in a CPQ application is in a totally focussed environment:  a user or viewer of the banner ad already has awareness, interest and desire for such products.  A CPQ application tool which integrate to an ecommerce platform is the perfect medium to convert desire to action, allowing a user to seamlessly update their shopping cart with a pre-configured discount bundle by simply clicking on a banner ad.

If the banner ad in the application is part of a larger integrated marketing campaign with the same consistent branding, there will be a higher level of recognition and trust for the target audience.  Furthermore, a focused campaign is likely to bring down cost and increase revenue for the advertiser.

To find out more about CPQ application banner advertising email marketing@channelcentral.net

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IT Auditing…for Targeted Marketing

May 23, 2019

Has this call or email conversation happened to you?

IT Partner: “Would you be interested in this amazing new product?”

Customer: “Sure, what is it?”

IT Partner: “Gimmix X120. It’s the best.”

Customer: “Yes, I know they’re fantastic; we’ve got five in the office already. It’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s just that we have no need for any more right now, I thought you’d know that.”

It’s common. Shotgun blast marketing from a CRM tool that has almost the right amount of information to be effective. Presenting solutions to a customer works better if you know what they already have, so what might be relevant to them. You can either identify the opportunity or look at technology that’s in situ to see if there’s something complementary or revolutionary to move a customer’s IT forwards.  Promoting an Add-on for Office 365? Then target customers WITH or migrating TO Office 365.

If you’re an IT Vendor that sells through the Channel, wouldn’t you have more confidence if the IT Partner said: “We have 300 customers, and we have identified 50 of them as best to target for this campaign.” Sending marketing communications to an irrelevant target audience is not recommended.  An additional 250 pointless or even frustrating marketing messages isn’t in anyone’s interest.

The rub is: CRM tools aren’t built as audit tools. That’s why one IT Partner engaged with us to build one, optimized for IT, to plug-in to their CRM tool:

https://channelcentral.net/pdfs/Highlander%20Case%20Study%20links%20reduced%20file.pdf

Another benefit of using a CRM plug-in – if your organization knows what IT is deployed in a customer, when your sales person sails off into the sunset, your pipeline doesn’t sail off too.

If the potential of an IT Audit plug-in is of interest, and you would like to find out more, please email: marketing@channelcentral.net 

 

 

 

 

 

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BI Reports: Delivering Value to Businesses

May 13, 2019

BI Reporting to Measure and Manage your Business
channelcentral launched monthly BI Reporting earlier this year for all its CPQ customers. The reports are in graphical and text format, focussing on key metrics of customer utilization of our CPQ applications. Feedback from customers has been very positive.

The key benefits include:

  • Providing evidence of the Return on Investment (ROI) from the CPQ application;
  • Sharing insights;
  • Enabling customers to make informed decisions quickly.

What’s new?
channelcentral has provided reporting to customers since launching in 2007, however this has now transformed from ‘data’ to ‘information’.  Three key aspects of reporting have changed with the introduction of BI reporting:

  • The addition of graphical presentation.
  • Time – instead of single-month data tables, it’s now shown in a chart covering six rolling months.
  • Geographical groupings – so companies who operate across borders can see consolidated reports. Although this can be done with data reports, it’s more difficult to interpret.

Using value to make decisions
The real value of this reporting, along with any data that feeds into a company’s management information system is:

  • Timeliness – timing is critical if intervention is required, to resolve an issue or to improve engagement.
  • Presentation – information that is simple, easy to digest and enables decisions to be made quickly is truly valuable to a business.
  • Accuracy – the data presented is an accurate reflection of usage and values, so the customer can either see the value the application is adding, or if intervention is required to drive up utilization, regardless of whether the user is a staff member or a customer.

The story behind the data and its potential
Although the reporting is presented concisely, customers can be provided with the data feeding the BI Dashboard, to look into and understand ‘why the numbers are what they are’.  Furthermore, other than pitch rate, there is further potential use of the product data.  Our BI reporting metrics could include most popular systems or breakdown of user functions (sales/technical) if required.

Be aware of missing BI metrics
BI Reporting should be comprehensive.  Reporting should include actual figures for the numbers of quotes and value of quoting, in addition to percentages. Beware of missing metrics or very round number growth – this could be a sign of a low utilization ‘cover up’.  Any low utilization should be highlighted to a customer; to use the data to drive Sales (to use and promote) and Marketing (to drive customer breadth). channelcentral does not add ‘spin’ to customer BI reporting.  With added commentary we consider that marketing. Without commentary we consider it reporting.

The growth of BI Reporting
According to forecasts by analyst Markets and Markets, the global Business Intelligence (BI) market is estimated to grow from USD 17.09 Billion in 2016 to USD 26.88 Billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.5%. The short-to-medium term for BI reporting certainly looks bright, and channelcentral certainly intends for its customers to benefit from the growth.

Everyone’s a winner
Sharing useful business information can lead to higher customer loyalty, more profit and ultimately strengthen a company’s competitive advantage.

Want to find out more about channelcentral’s BI Reporting?  https://www.channelcentral.net/bi-reporting.asp

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Whose Quote is it anyway? A New Evolution in CPQ Collaboration.

May 8, 2019

If you are doing a quote for a customer, is it your quote to them, or their quote from you? Actually it’s both, but traditional workflows don’t manage this well.

Many communication tools (Slack, Teams, Basecamp) are designed around collaboration. CPQ solutions generally aren’t: Sales send a quote to a customer via email, customer reviews the quote offline, requests changes via email, re-quotes, moves to final version and then purchases. It’s email. It’s disjointed. It’s the sort of experience that some of the communications tools listed try to displace.

channelcentral is interested in the concept of quote sharing. It’s not just about the application and the infrastructure; a key enablement ingredient is how the tool is integrated into a customer’s eCommerce environment.
CPQ CollaborationWe’re part way there:

  1. Our applications support quote versioning.
  2. We’ve added workflows to allow quote recipients to launch quotes from emails, even if that quote didn’t originate from your supplier.
  3. Hosts can quote in the context of their customers already.
  4. We have web services available to query our “quote store” and open quotes.

So it’s within touching distance to send a quote to a prospect as a link, mutually comment and edit the quote spawning new versions (within the same CPQ application), and then select a final quote to proceed to the procurement workflow. It subtly changes the dynamic between Sales and Customer: you’re a team working to achieve the best outcome. Subtly? Substantially in fact.

If this evolution of CPQ is of interest to you, please contact us: marketing@channelcentral.net

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Different Strokes – selecting CPQ solutions to work for your audiences

March 21, 2019

It’s obvious, but when creating any product or service, the target market or audience is a fundamental consideration in the design process. Designing software is no different, and for Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Software there’s an additional complication: there are at least two audiences.

Let’s consider how to develop CPQ applications to satisfy two users. It is different for each user and here’s why (by example):

If your organization has selected, designed and implemented a CPQ Platform, it’s likely to have been a huge investment, touching all parts of your IT. However, if you are relying on a 3rd party application per Manufacturer, the investment is much lower. A third party application usually requires the user experience to be simplified, maybe sacrificing some functionality or number of configurations/workflows supported.

Knowing this is critical when selecting a CPQ Vendor.

Thanks to Frank Sohn of Novus CPQ Consulting, an independent CPQ Consultant, who had shared this observation on the Novus CPQ Circle Community;

http://novuscpq.com/cpq-circle-community/

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Application Punchout: Five Best Practices

February 28, 2019

In a recent Blog channelcentral discussed how using CPQ Data could drive a seamless user experience when configuring products within a Web Store. For those companies that don’t have the IT Development bandwidth to execute front end CPQ application, but still want to offer product configuration within their Web Store a “Punchout” is still the best solution. Punchouts are also referred to as Plug-Ins – for these purposes they are the same thing.

Here are five best practices based on channelcentral’s experience of working with Channel organizations:

Branding
If it’s possible: replicate your branding on the application you punchout to. If it’s not possible, use the branding from the provider or supplier with co-branding. Don’t do something in the middle it never works well and as Companies change brand as frequently as every 7 years, it’s likely you’ll get caught in a re-brand every 3.5 years (one for you, one for them).

Dynamic Data
Try to get dynamic data such as price and inventory in synch with your punchout application. Use Web Services to feed data in real-time. Otherwise the user can’t see valuable decision criteria in the punchout application, or worse, sees different data. There’s a reason you show stock and price in your Web Store, so there’s a reason you should show it in satellite applications.

Single Sign On (SSO)
“I need another login” said NO-ONE ever. If you are going to send a user from your Web Store to a punchout, let them know (include the legal stuff e.g. GDPR) and provide them with seamless access. No login screen.

No Hiding
If you’ve made the decision to add an application to your Web Store it’s because you believe it will help users and drive results. So when you place the link to it deep inside a complex, cascading menu system it’s going to rely on a fairly determined user to find it. Here are some other ideas:

  • Use banner adverts or site sidebars (if your site supports them).
  • Promote the tool in Blogs, Emails, Newsletters, Email Signatures etc.
  • Where relevant use “deep linking” so if the user is browsing a product in your Web Store and your punchout application adds value to that product, link from your catalogue.

Checkout
Once the user has used the punchout application, drive them back to your Web Store. Add to Cart, continue shopping, checkout. Go beyond just export or share.

With the right APIs all of the above can be achieved using relatively simple, yet secure industry standard techniques. All of channelcentral’s applications are designed to be hosted by a Web Store.