B2B eCommerce has changed for good, and the expectations buyers have of your online platform are now higher than ever. This is due in part to COVID,...
Must-Have Features When Choosing a B2B eCommerce Platform - Part 1
B2B eCommerce has changed for good, and the expectations buyers have of your online platform are now higher than ever. This is due in part to COVID, which has permanently transformed the purchasing habits of buyers from all walks of life. Indeed, in the battle of traditional vs online purchasing channels, 2020 was a watershed moment - for both the B2C and B2B markets.
Online sales growth statistics for B2C are everywhere and, in many cases, the numbers are staggering. B2B paints a very similar picture. According to data from Digital Commerce 360’s "2021 B2B Ecommerce Market Report", B2B electronic sales – including both B2B eCommerce and EDI – grew by nearly 10% last year. All told, B2B eCommerce sites are now estimated to generate nearly $1.4 trillion worth of sales around the world, annually. Again, the numbers are staggering!
With B2B eCommerce growing exponentially, B2B organisations are either adopting eCommerce, or significantly upgrading their existing capabilities, with unprecedented speed.
Whilst the goal of gaining your fair share in a rapidly expanding market may be simple, the decision on which platform to choose – be it a new build or an upgrade - is anything but. To help you on your way in selecting an effective and successful B2B eCommerce platform, this two-part guide summarises the essential features any decision-maker should be considering for their next eCommerce platform.
Easy to Integrate
A B2B eCommerce platform sits at the heart of a business. So, even if you don’t need it all on day one, choosing a solution that integrates easily into systems such as your ERP, CRM and Marketing Automation tools of choice should always be a ‘must-have’ on your list.
For example, how do you automatically get customer-specific pricing and stock availability from your ERP in front of a would-be buyer, then instantly update that information in back-of-house systems as buyers purchase the stock you have on hand? How do you easily take information relating to what a customer has just purchased through your online channels, and transition it to a marketing automation platform that enables effective up- and cross-sell strategies?
Being able to transfer data seamlessly between your B2B eCommerce platform and other core systems will drive a superior customer experience (CX), which inevitably leads to sales. Letting technology do the majority of the heavy lifting will save you time, reduce the need for manual handling of data, improve data integrity and greatly reduce the risk of human error.
Easy to Administer
We tend to place so much focus on the customer experience that it can sometimes be easy to overlook the importance of your team’s experience. In building out a successful B2B eCommerce channel, the quality of your platform’s content management system (CMS) is paramount. The platform you choose should help your team deliver the exceptional CX your customers deserve - not fight against you every step of the way. Look for a platform that offers an intuitive, user-friendly back end that your team can navigate with ease.
Some key capabilities to consider for the administration and management of your B2B eCommerce platform include:
- Drag-and-drop CMS - Enable your team to quickly and easily create new landing pages by dragging and dropping pre-made elements, customising them as necessary. Content updates should be incredibly fast to test, change and optimise, with no need for a degree in IT
- Themes – A great eCommerce platform will offer different themes which can be applied to drive the overall appearance and layout of your site, rapidly, while still being flexible enough to customise to your needs and audience
- Templates – As essential as Themes, Templates enable you to break down elements of your site into distinct page types that can easily be edited, adapted, and replicated according to your needs, and the needs of your growing customer base
- Widget compatibility – A platform which enables you to efficiently add new features and functions to your site via widgets limits the need for complex programming and can save you significant amounts of time when looking to add capabilities such as blogs, product carousels and other popular web shop features
It’s not optimal to have your team handle everything themselves when processing customer orders and other workflows. In fact, it’s often a better customer experience, saving both you and your customers time, if clients can simply serve themselves via your B2B eCommerce platform. In addition to being a time-saver, allowing your customers to self-serve via your online portal can also help alleviate their stress. For people struggling to fit everything in during business hours, self-service capability gives your customers the option to perform admin tasks when it suits them.
While self-service is just as important for B2C as it is for B2B, for those selling in a Business to Business environment there are particular scenarios which your platform should always be capable of handling. These include:
- The ability for clients to pay accounts and invoices online, without needing your team’s input
- Enabling customers to flag invoices for dispute if they need something amended, meaning your team can quickly identify and deal with any issues
- Order history and tracking allows customers to track all their purchases in one place, including the ability for contract administrators to review the order history of multiple users across their organisation
- Integrations with third-party carrier track-and-trace services, which can drastically reduce inbound call and email service volumes
- The option to view and re-print invoices and order details, helping customers keep track of their purchases and payments more easily
- A returns management system with automated, personalised returns process and communications
An easy to manage, deeply integrated B2B eCommerce platform with self-service capability will make doing business easier and more efficient - for both you and your customers. And it follows that the easier it is to do business with you, the more business your customers will want to do!
In Part 2 of our guide to choosing a B2B eCommerce platform, we’ll discuss personalisation and other must-haves you should include on your checklist.
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how the Commerce Vision platform ticks all the boxes, SPEAK WITH AN EXPERT.