B2B e-commerce is steadily being adopted and gaining prominence in the world of B2B commerce. This development is further accelerated by rising popularity of B2C e-commerce and e-commerce giants like eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba. Consider this,
“Global e-commerce marketplace Alibaba.com handles billions of dollars a year in transactions, increasingly acting as a bridge between mainland China, North America, Europe, and the rest of the world.”
The result, driven by expectations set by B2C e-commerce platforms, expectations from B2B e-commerce stores has gone up a few notches. B2B companies also can provide its audience a scalable, convenient, feature-rich, and self-service e-commerce platform that can help them reduce costs, increase sales, and improve customer experience.
However, a lot of that rides on the choice of the B2B e-commerce platform – the e-commerce platform must meet the needs of the brand including CMS, security, and more while evolving and growing with the changing needs of the business. In the blog below, we will discuss parameters that you must consider before selecting your e-commerce platform.
1) Get your Business Perspective Right
It all starts with understanding your business better. Prepare a business case – assess your revenue model, identify your conversion rate, average order value, and customer lifetime value and work out the ROI expectations. The exercise will help you clearly articulate your expectations from the e-commerce store, prioritize them, and identify how soon you can recover your investment (if it is even worth the effort).
2) Identify your B2C and B2B E-commerce Requirements
With the business understanding it place, the next most important step is to identify your requirements. Pay attention to the customer experience you want to provide, product merchandising (product images, descriptions, etc.), custom pricing, marketing & promotions, loyalty, and others.
Also Read – Differences between B2B and B2C eCommerce
But, remember you are not just looking for an online shopping cart but an e-commerce store which will accommodate your B2B requirements. Analyze your current sales process and identify the critical elements in the workflow (do you require approvals from someone to confirm orders, how are sales representatives associated with the order, what are your payment terms, how do you accept payments, and more).
Bottom line, prepare a list features you desire and bucket them under must have features, should have features, could have features and won’t have features. This is a very important step as this will help you in identifying the right e-commerce platform that best meets your requirement.
Also Read – Features Unique to the World of B2B eCommerce
3) Pay Attention to your Unique Requirements
Most e-commerce platforms have a standard set of features and they might not be an exact fit for your requirements. Identify the requirements unique to your business and organization; do not limit yourself just to the features but extend your analysis to identify your workflows and processes.
Identifying your unique requirements will help you then work with your vendor to customize the e-commerce platform to accommodate them. At i95Dev, we mandate our clients to go through a discovery phase to identify and unearth these unique requirements. Which, if not identified, can seriously limit the adoption and benefits of the e-commerce store.
4) Build Expectations
Identify the important stakeholders who will get impacted because of this, involve them in all the phases of your project, and get their buy-in; this is very important if you want to minimize resistance and to realize the ROI you set out to achieve. We have discussed this at length in another blog, Adoption Challenges with B2B E-commerce, and steps to mitigate this in, Tips for Successful B2B E-commerce Adoption.
5) Think beyond Ecommerce – Consider the End-to-End Process
Your e-commerce does not work in isolation; e-commerce is only one part of the story. After you take orders on your e-commerce store
- You have to fulfill those orders and based on your setup this will act as an input to your ERP system, order management system, your warehouse management system, inventory management system, your purchase department, your manufacturing team, and others.
- You have to ensure that your accounting system/ department is informed about the payment terms and sales commissions then accounts have to be reconciled.
- Keep customer and sales representatives informed about the order fulfillment status, shipment status (shipping tracking number), etc.
- If you maintain a CRM you have to also ensure that all the required data is then entered into your CRM to keep your customer representatives informed and drive effective marketing campaigns.
Usually, businesses have systems and processes already in place to take care of this. With e-commerce adding to the complexity, you should consider integrating e-commerce with the systems involved to automate these communications eliminating the costly and error-prone manual process.
6) Do your Due Diligence while selecting a Partner and Give Implementation its Due Attention
With the rising popularity and adoption of B2B e-commerce, the number of partners offering B2B commerce services has also gone up. This makes life both easy and difficult for you because you now have more choice. While each partner enlists a unique list of capabilities, the catch lies in choosing the right vendor who can meet your requirements in your budget. Revisit your requirements with the partner and try to assess their approach, expertise and experience.
Often, at this stage, businesses will find themselves maintaining the balance between their requirements and budget. Remember, this is a long-term investment for your businesses and your ROI calculations (step 1) will play an important role in helping you maintain that balance.
Also Read – 10 Mistakes to Avoid in B2B Ecommerce
Selecting a B2B e-commerce platform can be a challenge (a time-consuming process) but an exercise worth the effort. Moreover, the complexity associated with the process can be eased by following a systematic approach, right attitude of the stakeholders involved, and a good partner.
At i95Dev, we understand this very well and have successfully worked with clients across industries. We work on Magento, the leading e-commerce platform, and have developed a number of advanced B2B modules to further enhance the platform. We are also the leaders in e-commerce, ERP, POS, CRM, and online marketplaces integration.
If you any B2B needs, the i95Dev experts will be happy to help. You can contact us here.