Hearing, e-commerce platform we always think of Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc. However, many of the other industries are also using e-commerce platforms to generate more revenue, and B2B companies are not excluded from this phenomenon. Many researchers have positively reported on B2B sales through e-commerce platforms, and in the United States, it is approx $1 trillion. Well, this figure is quite strange!
Why has B2B e-commerce become so important today?
B2B e-commerce has been in the market for over 20 years; however, it was not capable enough to beat the standard of B2C e-commerce platform. And with this, even B2B leader are realizing the potential opportunities in B2B E-Commerce. Well, it is right said, “It is never too late to start.”
According to the Accenture report, around 55% of B2B leaders responded to consider customer experience their priority as it is critically important for sales, which B2C leaders have done so far. Just like the B2C sector even B2B leaders have to be available where their buyers are located.
For coming with B2B e-commerce strategy, leaders should be keen to choose the viable B2B e-commerce platform for their firm as it will reflect what you are actually going to deliver to your audience.
So below I’ve outlined a few tips that may help you to choose the right B2B e-commerce platform for your business:
1. Check the functionality-
Always keep in mind that B2B selling is different from B2C. B2B has its own set of challenges and requirements when approaching other businesses. So it is vital to consider the following aspects while choosing B2B e-commerce platform:
• Highly-responsive and cloud-based-
A consumer is and has always been unpredictable they might check your website on phone or tablet and end up purchasing the desktop. You should ensure that your site is highly-responsive in every aspect and your web-content is appropriately visible in any device to give seamless user experience. It is essential to choose a cloud-based platform to keep your website data and customer information secure in this cybercrime environment.
• Mobile friendly-
Around 42% of researchers prefer mobile devices for purchasing B2B services, and this percentage is rapidly growing day-by-day. Hence, make your website mobile responsive that fits the big screen and small screen as well without any hassle. Try to include things like click to call, auto-fill using location service, etc.
• Provide scalability and self-service-
A growing has to stay consistent with their customers, and increased traffic towards your website may slow download time. Therefore, it is essential to make your website scalable and efficient. Self-service is what every consumer want while browsing over the site pages. They want to find specific information and if they any face any problem; they want to solve it themselves. And your website experience should be able to do that.
• Payment selection-
B2B leaders know that their customers often purchase in bulk, it’s not like B2C. Moreover, your customers may want to set up a persistent order that bills automatically once their stock gets finished. This way they can replenish their order again without any hassle. And always try to give your customers a wide range of payment options that are quite flexible. Apart from credit cards, your e-commerce platform should also offer check payments, ACH, wire transfer, virtual card, and extended credit.
• Capable of providing personalized services-
Your website should be quite versatile and offer personalized services to customers. How is this possible? Design your site in a way that it reviews the previous history of every customer and offer various discounts to them. This will help you retain and provide better customer experience.
2. Choose the right platform type
When it comes to choosing the right platform you are going to come across different e-commerce platform- each one has its unique nature. And for sure you will hear these two terms frequently that is hosted, and cloud-based as these are critical for choosing the platform. So below are glimpses of these platforms and their impact on different factors:
• Hosted/On-premise v/s Cloud-based
A hosted or on-premise platform generally means that software will be installed and you have the authority to find and maintain the servers on which the software will run.
However, a fully hosted a cloud-based e-commerce website will be run and maintained by service providers. It will give you access to browse your site from any web store until you have an internet connection.
• Open Source
With open source, you can transform your B2B website’s code. You get complete freedom over designing and upgrading your website according to changing trends. It will be great if you have an in-house team of developers to streamline the process.
Whereas, some sites are out-of-the-box, which means you’ll have template options to build your website from. It is an excellent choice if you are a beginner, or want to start your website soon or you don’t have an in-house IT team. If you opt for out of the box, you don’t have to start your website from scratch.
Let’s take a look at the various factors that get affected by your platform choice:
If you prefer a hosted/on-premise platform, you are authorized to maintain your website that includes paying your servers, dealing with broken software code, and fixing various issues when your site crashes. This much you have to invest when you maintain your website on your own. However, in the cloud-based platform, the scenario is completely different. Here are a third-party team available for you 24/7. They will keep your site updated with any new trend; fix all the issues during site crashes and a lot more.
• PCI Security-
PCI security is a must for every business that has an e-commerce website as it ensures that your customer’s card information is safeguarded whenever they make a purchase. Depending upon your platform choice it will decide whether it is your responsibility or third-party team. Some cloud-based squad provides this service as they have all the data on their servers so they can efficiently manage.
And in the case of the hosted platform, B2B owner is responsible for ensuring that they met all the PCI compliance. You have to ensure that you reach your payment gateway industry standards efficiently.
• Cost incurred-
In the end, different platforms significantly affect your expenses and how they will add up. Well, if we analyze, a hosted platform will obviously cost you more as you have to pay for the licensed software, maintenance of server hosting, developers’ costs, and your in-house IT team.
While cloud-based SaaS and PaaS platforms you just have to pay a monthly fee for hosting, maintaining, security, and support. This will reduce your overall operating costs to a certain extent.
3. Stay awake about purchase-related requirement:
When choosing B2B ecommerce website, it is vital to explicitly term your purchase-related requirement with other aspects as well. You know very well that a B2B buyer order in volume and to make the payment process efficient is highly critical to build healthy relationship with your clients.
Consider the following purchase-related division parameters:
Ask the provider whether they will provide following aspects:
- Creating a primary account with multiple small accounts and further the small accounts should be facilitated with permissions, workflows, etc.
- Capability of creating customer group to offer pricing quantity to a specific group
- Option of advanced search functionality is available to make sure that the search trip of your customer is hampered with large with number of SKUs, product attributes, etc.
- The provider should make sure it has an option of different price levels on the basis of customer groups, order quantity, order payment, etc.
- There should be a choice to set at customer group and consent during order placement the minimum quantity of order.
- A configuration tool should be provided to customers to customize their products accordingly and even the pricing of the products based on that configuration
- In the quotation process, don’t forget to consider an option for creating, altering and approving quotes online
- The approval of orders should come from primary account and the order should be initiated from the multiple small accounts
- Look for an option to settle pending invoices through a single payment or multiple payments
- Make sure that your ecommerce website smartly integrates with ERP systems to make the order fulfillment process seamless and improve customer experience
- There should be a sales portal wherein your sales executive can easily login and update information related to order addressing, customer queries, checking order status, etc.
- Always try to simplify the order placement by allowing customers to save their choice in cart
- Choose an extensive platform that allows you to fulfill order from various warehouses seamlessly.
4. Prominent features of B2B ecommerce platforms-
B2B ecommerce has its own set of challenges unlike B2C. There is a key difference between purchase patterns, order volumes, and processes of B2B. Therefore, it requires a unique way to overcome all these challenges and meet the needs of B2B customers. And for the seamlessly customer experience your B2B platform should include the following features:
- While evaluating B2B ecommerce website ensure that it has user-friendly interface
- The platform should be able to deliver customized services according to their needs
- Always prefer a platform that provides integration with mobile application so that customers can easily order through their mobile phones as well
- Ask your provider to provide integration with your ERP system as well so that whenever you are out of inventory it don’t simply alert about in or out of stock, but it should to offer your customers a more effective way to order goods.
- B2B order involves a long discussion with customers before purchase so make sure that your customer should be enabled to make notes of questions
- The design of B2B ecommerce platform should be highly responsive to render your web content properly across channels
- The platform should be able to offer customers better pricing according to their purchase history.
5. Integration- A critical step:
Beside from functionality features and platform types your e-commerce website should be smart enough to integrate with other systems as well. This makes sure that your online and offline networks are working tunefully. Integration makes you more efficient multi-channel seller and provides a better user experience.
When choosing the e-commerce platform, first check how it will work with your ERP or POS systems. Will it be able to handle all the information that comes through suppliers easily?
Some platforms are easy to integrate, and if you want to know specifically, then a cloud-based solution with a robust API is much better than an old or self-hosted platform.
Some of the top B2B e-commerce platforms are:
- Shopify Plus
In a nutshell, everything depends upon your business requirement. However, choosing the right B2B platform will take some time and research, so don’t rush up and make a viable decision.