Archive for the ‘configurator’ Category

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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.

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Back to basics – getting product descriptions right

January 31, 2019

In trying to fix the complicated problems, it’s sometimes easy to forget to fix the simpler ones. In 1934, Percy Shaw patented the reflective road stud, more commonly known as the ‘cat’s eye’, and made a small fortune by (allegedly) earning a royalty each time one was sold. Simple technology, but hugely effective in keeping the driver ‘on track’ in the dark, and still used today.

Is there anything simpler than the description that is applied to a product?
Simple, but accurate and informative product descriptions result in fewer returns and better customer satisfaction.

If you are called Radical Cycles and you release a model called the Gravel Buster, a man’s Trail bike, available in Black or Blue in various frame sizes – don’t you just concatenate the data?

Radical Gravel Buster (55cm) Blue Men’s Trail Bike

Why might this be difficult for eCommerce or CPQ applications?
Accepting that not all products and their descriptions are this simple, particularly in the IT sector, there are other challenges:

  • Legacy IT is not your friend. When storing long strings was problematic, Product Managers used to have to work within 16 character, or similar, limits. This often resulted in holding multiple descriptions often creating more issues than it solved.
  • When faced with a very low character limit, the use of acronyms, which are understood by Product Managers, but sadly not by anyone else.

Poor descriptions creating havoc
This is a product description from one of the World’s largest Software Vendors, dated January 2019: CCSN,ALL,MLP,ERR01,EUW,001,N/A,1 YR ESD

It’s hard to know where to start, but not having the Vendor’s name is a problem. Nor the product name. Another issue is that a comma is often used as a delimiter (separator) in databases, so even just importing this is an issue.

Eliminate guesswork
If you are operating a Web Store, just getting good, consistent descriptions is a problem. channelcentral recently helped a Retailer locate a better, free data source, than the one they were paying for. The issue was that with poor product descriptions, customers had started to guess the appropriate service for a product, resulting in costly returns. The availability of improved product descriptions has removed the need for guesswork.

Always focussed on turning complexity into simplicity in the IT Channel through its CPQ applications and data services, channelcentral continually innovates to improve the customer experience, keeping the user ‘on track’.

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The (changing) CPQ Landscape

October 30, 2018

Theoretically every company that offers CPQ Applications is in competition with each-other right? Well not necessarily. It’s an emerging market and as such there are lots of niche players: channelcentral is one of them. Our niche is around being expert in Technology products, offering a fully managed service (including portfolio maintenance) and presenting our CPQ Applications and Data in eCommerce environments (less so ERP or CRM platforms) as multi-tenant (for Channel of Franchise deployments). Sales pitch over!

Other niche players may be doing specific vertical markets or graphical configuration experiences or be aligned to specific platforms. Some may be doing commission or reward schemes which have sufficient levels of complexity to warrant a CPQ experience. Still CPQ but very distant from what we currently do.

CPQ has been getting a lot of coverage recently with Forrester and Gartner particularly active. Another reason for the coverage has been the number of large (massive) dollar acquisitions. The larger players have either been acquired by, or have aligned with, large ERP/CRM companies:

  • Steelbrick, now part of Salesforce.
  • Callidus Cloud, now part of SAP.
  • Big Machines, now part of Oracle.
  • Chameleon, part of Pros but aligned with Microsoft (see note below).

Pros CPQ showcased in Microsoft Dynamics Vertical Market Website:
https://enterprise.microsoft.com/en-us/solution/industries/discrete-manufacturing/pros-smart-cpq-solution/

Each of those huge software organizations is striving to improve it’s CPQ capability to compete with the others and differentiate their own products/services. There was plenty of speculation with Apttus and Microsoft but that deal did not come to fruition. Adobe has just acquired Magento that doesn’t own a CPQ vendor, but instead relies on 3rd party extensions (as Salesforce (sort of) used to).

That’s not to say that if you are looking for a solution for, say, Salesforce, you’d only look at Steelbrick but I’m sure over time these applications will become increasingly embedded. Equally some of the CPQ Vendors who are part of large software ERP/CRM vendors may want to retain their platform independence.

Expect more change in this exciting space.

 

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CPQ: exploded

October 23, 2018

channelcentral offers CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) solutions, most of which integrate into eCommerce Sites (Web Stores). CPQ software can be viewed as a tool to Configure, Price and Quote complex products, helping companies rapidly and cheaply produce accurate quotes on configurable products and services. There are many definitions online of what CPQ means, here’s one:

http://salesconfiguration.org/key-functionality/what-is-cpq/

When CPQ is deployed into eCommerce environments it allows additional functionality and that extends the ‘acronym’. When engaging with people who are not familiar with CPQ they often query the acronym. We’ve had customers say: “your solution has Buy Now, why does the acronym stop short of that?”. It’s a good point as most CPQ systems assist search by filtering portfolios, shape demand, incentivize users, link to CRM systems, show stock and Buy Now (Add to Host Cart).

Our version of CPQ…

  • Single Sign On
  • Product Location
  • BOM Import/Paste
  • Demand Shaping
  • Configuration
  • Solution Journeys
  • Competitive (selling against)
  • Pricing
  • Bundles
  • Incentive (rewards)
  • Quotation
  • Send to CRM
  • Buy Now

Not exactly snappy but don’t discount CPQ because you think it’s just slots, bays and quotes.

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HP Market Pro goes Worldwide

July 2, 2018

channelcentral.net is pleased to introduce HP Market Pro! HP Market Pro is the new Channel quotation tool for HP. Worldwide Distributors and Resellers of HP products are able to benefit from using HP Market Pro to create quotes and in turn work more efficiently, quote more accurately, increase deal sizes and operate a Device as a Service (DaaS) business model.

HP Market Pro has been developed from the ground-up to be closely aligned with the HP product set and give Channel users the ultimate opportunity to grow their HP business with ease.

Some of the key benefits are:

  • Intuitive, simple user interface for Channel Partners and End Users
  • Multi-Language user interface
  • Reduce quote turnaround time – get quotes instantly
  • View recent quote activity with price change alerts on the homepage
  • Automatic validation checks to ensure quote accuracy
  • Step-by-step guided user journey maximizes ease of use
  • Real-time price availability
  • Built for use with DaaS to assist with buying and selling technology.

This fantastic new tool has replaced the iQuote Configure, Price, Quote service for HP Inc. users. Current users of the iQuote tool moved over to HP Market Pro throughout June and feedback so far is really positive. Users are able to use the tool without any prior training and start maximizing their HP business opportunities.

HP Market Pro is available to all authorised resellers of HP products. If you want to benefit from this fantastic new tool, then contact channelcentral.net and we’ll talk you through the requirements and get you set-up and growing your HP Business in no time.

Watch the product video to see HP Market Pro in action and for more information visit www.channelcentral.net/hpmarketpro

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HPE Delegates given a boost in Vegas!

June 26, 2018

Representatives from the Global IT Channel gathered in Las Vegas last week for the HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit events. As always it was an incredibly busy week as the industry’s elite networked and strategized!

channelcentral, a regular sponsor of the event and developers of the iQuote Configure, Price, Quote Software used by Distribution Worldwide, had something new to show this year. As delegates made their way through the transformation zone they were presented with an absolute game-changing service for their industry. The service is called boost! and attendees of this year’s event were fortunate to be amongst the very first to have a preview.

boost! is a Data Service that drives attach sales and shapes customer demand to improve your customers’ eCommerce experience. Imagine a typical webstore where you’re offered an additional product that has nothing to do with what you’re ordering, or even if it does, how do you know it is compatible? Then imagine a webstore with boost! offered as a Web Service and a pre-selected set of compatible options that are known to work together with the pre-installed features of the base product, across multiple categories. Enabling faster, high-confidence decision-making for technical products.

It’s more exciting than it perhaps sounds. boost! is fixing a known weakness in eCommerce that organizations have been unable to resolve. Using artificial intelligence, boost! will transform the way your customers’ can buy technical products from you, freeing up your pre-sales team to hunt down those big deals!

The feedback from delegates at HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit was unbelievable. Every delegate that was fortunate enough to have a demonstration wanted it in their webstore. Rack Simply, are a Partner based in the US, and are the first in the World to have boost! live in their webstore. Here’s what they had to say:

“boost! drastically improved the customer experience for Rack Simply. Before boost!, users were lost in endless accessory options that converted poorly. boost! and the team at channelcentral only recommend the most popular and likely attach options that transitioned Rack Simply from a website, to a seamless configure-price-quote experience.” Dan Mitchell, President, Rack Simply

channelcentral has spotted a gap in the online buying process of technical products: “It is essential that online stores do everything possible to keep customers captive on their own site during the complete buying process. Sites that use boost! can eliminate a common problem associated with selling more complex IT products; the temptation to click away to check compatibility and capacity. Instead, customers can select from options with confidence and visualize slot and bay usage.”
Greg Starks, CSO, channelcentral.net

After feedback at the events last week, channelcentral is excited to get to work on transforming the eCommerce sites of everyone it spoke to. For those that missed out and are wanting to learn more about what boost! can do for your eCommerce sales, please get in touch.