Of course, the first thing you’ll evaluate when looking at eCommerce platforms are the features and technical capabilities on offer. If you're running an ERP such as Microsoft Dynamics, Netsuite, Pronto, Epicor, SAP or similar, you’ll want something that integrates seamlessly to your existing inventory and order management system. But more than just integration, you should ensure the platform can understand and support your organisation’s unique (and nearly always complex) business rules and processes.
For B2B in particular, there are some key functions that should be considered mandatory for any eCommerce platform to offer:
Complex pricing rules
True ERP integration should ensure that all contract pricing, discount rules, and unit of measure cost structures are reflected accurately on the website, guaranteeing your customers the correct product price at all times.
Product range masking
If your business deals with very large customers, chances are they will require you to limit some of your range to their buyers only, due to contractual arrangements. Ensure your B2B eCommerce platform supports hiding products from view for all but a subset of users – either via Custom Catalogues or other business logic.
PunchOut capability is a key differentiator for many suppliers - especially those dealing with large enterprises such as mining, industrial, government and education. PunchOut will allow your customers on ERPs such as Oracle, SAP or similar, to punch out to your eCommerce platform and build a cart, then return seamlessly to their own purchasing system to complete the order process.
Order & invoice approvals
Common in B2B eCommerce, approval hierarchies can dictate who’s permitted to order and how much they can spend. To support complex procurement structures, a B2B eCommerce platform needs the ability to restrict ordering permissions where required, and grant designated users approval authority. The same should be available for invoicing at the other end of the order-to-cash cycle.
Self-service tracking & payment
B2B users expect the same level of self-service functionality they’re used to when wearing their B2C hats. Checking on order status and tracking delivery with the freight carrier should be a 24/7 option for all customers. But over and above that, B2B also needs the ability to receipt order lines, check outstanding balances, pay (or partially pay) invoices, initiate returns, and take up credit notes – all within your platform.
Easy User management
A sophisticated eCommerce platform will allow you to configure your website users according to your business needs. Whether that means linking users to multiple accounts, assigning them multiple roles, multiple catalogues, or approval limits, your users should enjoy a customised experience from the moment they login. And the platform’s CMS should make this user management quick and easy for your customer service teams.
Complex freight requirements
Whilst you’d expect an eCommerce platform to support common fulfilment options such as store pickup / click & collect, you may require functionality such as bulky item freight, tailgate service, or cubic meterage charges. Depending on the nature of your stock and the location of your customers, you may wish to restrict delivery to certain postcodes or limit some locations to particular carriers. Your platform should provide customers an accurate freight quote at the point of checkout, and support complex freight rules and calculations.
Relevance-based search ensures that your customers can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily on your website. But more than just a simple product lookup function, a B2B eCommerce platform’s search capability must also understand and support the complex business requirements outlined above.