Sales between businesses in the United States are very close to reaching a trillion dollars. This is a lot bigger than the business-to-consumer eCommerce market. B2B eCommerce is still in its early stages because most companies are still figuring out the basics of strategy and development. But one thing is becoming very clear: sales activities need a platform to help manage and grow them.
Why Your B2B eCommerce Platform Is So Vital
Customers are changing the way they do research, interact with your business, and buy things. Making reservations ahead of time for big purchases is almost extinct. Is your company ready for the growing trend of showrooming and the change in buying habits of your best customers, who now buy more often but spend less overall?
If you want to be successful in the digital space, you have to focus your efforts on the user experience. Gartner’s research shows that 89% of companies now think that the customer experience will soon be the most important way that businesses compete with each other. The B2B eCommerce platform you choose will affect your ability to give both your customer and the end consumer a certain kind of experience. Because of this, choosing the best B2B platform is an important part of how a company makes decisions.
How to Choose the Right B2B eCommerce Platform for You Functions
Selling to other businesses isn’t the same as selling to individual consumers. Businesses that sell to other businesses face certain challenges and restrictions when doing so. Your system will have to be able to handle these specific needs. Check out the many platforms that can provide functionality like:
Customers use many different devices to buy things online. They might start the buying process on a phone or tablet, but they’ll probably finish it on a desktop computer. This is a very typical type of customer, and your platform needs to be able to serve them. Because people are usually busy running their businesses during the day, the content of your website should look good on all devices.
If you let your best customers place orders on the go after business hours from any device, it will be much easier for your customers to look through your inventory and make purchases. This will let your buyers focus on why they started their own businesses in the first place.
On the floor, both buyers and sales employees want to be able to search for information and find their own solutions to problems. The experience they have with your eCommerce platform should let them do that, too.
Customers should be able to log in to their accounts whenever they want to find out about shipping, track orders, approve estimates, see what’s in stock in real time, and manage their accounts. Again, the self-service option outside of your working hours, which may be very different from your retail hours, is important to gain the trust of your accounts and make it easier for customers to buy from you. Retail hours can be very different.
If a retail salesperson can’t see what items are for sale, they may be hesitant to show them off and sell them. This is done so that a customer who is ready to buy won’t be disappointed, which could mean losing a commission.
Prices that are made to fit each customer
One unique requirement of B2B eCommerce is the ability to offer prices and products that are tailored to each customer. Unlike business-to-consumer transactions, pricing might change depending on the type of customer. Your platform should give you the freedom to set different prices for each client and make some things available only to certain accounts.
Customers buy things from businesses in a different way than consumers do. Most of the time, businesses will buy more. There’s also a chance that the orders will be made regularly or when the stock is gone. More and more people are paying with credit cards, and the option to give longer payment terms is also becoming more important. In short, you need flexible payment options that help your customers achieve their professional goals.
Make it possible for your clients to pay a single bill, a number of bills, or even just a portion of what they owe.
Sales Representatives’ Integration
Sales representatives are very important to many different types of sales companies. If you have sales representatives, it’s important to give them the ability to see and manage orders, to place orders on behalf of their clients, and to get information that will help them make more convincing in-person sales pitches. By integrating sales reps, your team will have access to data in real time and be able to pay more attention to their clients’ needs, which will speed up the process of getting new customers.
Other Things to Think About
If you use your online store for business-to-business transactions, it could affect both channels. Buyers, for example, don’t want to see too many direct-to-consumer strategies on your website, since this could make them not want to do business with you. Also, promotions aimed at consumers, messages aimed at consumers, and even some of the products themselves might not connect with your B2B buyers.
The following are some other things to think about:
- Shipping rates that are specific to the wholesale market to offer price discounts or minimum purchase amounts
- Ability to look at wholesale purchases before customers place their orders to upsell
- Accurate display of inventory from several warehouses, allowing for faster and more effective shipping to meet strict client deadlines and be more responsive.
- Detailed reports that show an up-to-date and accurate picture of the health and vitality of your business
- High-volume merchants can use either the list view or the image view ordering system to place orders on their own terms.
- Adding retail salespeople who can check inventory and add items to B2B orders placed by buyers
The Type of Platform
When looking for a business-to-business (B2B) online shop, you are likely to find a number of different platforms. There’s a chance you’ll hear the terms “hosted” and “cloud-based” websites. Here are some important things to think about when picking a platform.
There are differences between hosted, premise, and cloud-based models.
When using a platform that is hosted on the premises, the software will have to be installed locally. You are in charge of finding and taking care of the servers where the program will be installed. To do this, you will probably need to use technical resources inside the company.
The service providers are in charge of hosting a completely hosted cloud-based commerce platform. Anyone with an internet connection and a web browser can go to your online shop. The differences between these kinds of platforms affect a lot of other things, like cost, customization, maintenance, PCI compliance, and security.
What Makes Open Source Different from Out-of-the-Box
If you choose an open-source eCommerce platform, you will be able to make changes to the code. This gives you complete freedom of expression when it comes to designing and setting up your B2B website. It’s important to know that open-source systems often have code conflicts, which can cause them to crash more often and require more maintenance. When you use open source platforms, you will need an internal IT team to keep solutions running and make improvements to them.
This will require a bigger initial investment and ongoing costs to keep people working. If you are just starting out, a ready-made solution will help you get up and running quickly. Build vs. buy is a hard choice to make because the costs of Out-of-the-Box solutions for B2B Commerce software, which are becoming more popular, are split among a large number of customers.
If you choose an eCommerce platform that you host on your own property, you will be in charge of maintaining your website. Your responsibilities include taking care of and paying for your servers, fixing software code that doesn’t work, and fixing any problems that come up when your website stops working. If you’re in charge of your own eCommerce platform, you’ll have to pay this fee.
Most of the time, cloud-based solutions will set up and host both your eCommerce website and your online store. Most people choose enterprise WordPress hosting because of this. If a new version of the program comes out, they will automatically install it. They keep an eye on the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and if any problems come up, they have to fix them.
It all depends on how much control you want compared to the extra responsibilities that come with each kind.
Protection for PCI
All online stores are required to follow PCI standards. When a customer buys something from your store, this shows that their credit card information is safe with your business. This could be one of your responsibilities, and if it is, it could leave your company open to security breaches. This depends on the platform you’re using.
Several cloud-based services take care of this for you because your data is stored on their servers. As the organization, it is up to them to run it. When it comes to other hosted solutions, it is up to the B2B provider to make sure that all of the PCI compliance standards are met. You will be in charge of making sure that your payment gateways meet the standards of the industry.
Make sure to ask the eCommerce provider about the PCI compliance process.
Last but not least, the different types of platforms have a big effect on how much it costs and how quickly it adds up. Most of the time, a hosted solution will be more expensive. You will have to pay for the costs of licensing the software, hosting and maintaining the server, paying the developers, and paying your own IT staff.
Fully hosted cloud-based SaaS or PaaS systems usually have a monthly fee for hosting, maintenance, and support. All of these things are covered by this price. All of them will be put into one package, which will lower the overall monthly cost.
Find out exactly what services you are paying for and decide if the money is worth it. If a solution can meet 90% of your goals, it is often better to work within the limits of a vendor than to deal with problems. This is especially true if the vendor is willing to make up the last 10% of the difference for your company. Think about whether it’s worth your time and money to invest in a solution that will give your company the lowest total cost of ownership.
Your eCommerce platform needs to work well with the other systems you use and be able to do what you need it to do. This makes sure that your online and offline channels can work together in a coordinated way. Integration lets you be a better multichannel retailer and give your customers a better shopping experience as a result.
When looking for a new platform, you should think about how it will interact with the ERP system you already use. Can it easily handle the information your vendors send to you? Will it sync up your offline and online inventories as well as your accounting systems so you can scale up your sales operations?
Steps to Take Next
To choose the best B2B Commerce platform for your business, you need to spend time and energy doing research. It’s a bet on the future of your business. Your platform should be able to help you carry out your plan in both the short and long term.
As with B2C Commerce, just because you build it doesn’t mean that customers will sign up and make purchases. Think about how you can make your B2B site more appealing to buyers so that they visit it more often as part of their work, and think about putting those ideas into action.