ROI of a B2B e-commerce platform may be very high. However, if you make a mistake in choosing the system you may lose the invested money and risk of not getting the competitive advantage. Choosing a B2B e-commerce platform can be hard task. While it may seem that all e-commerce systems have similar features it is very important to assess benefits of each platform before choosing one. You have to consider all the features that your organization can benefit from now and will benefit years later.
If you have just a few products in your price list this is not an issue, but you definitely should check this feature if you are offering a wide range of products.
The system must be able to import the products from your ERP or from a csv file. Otherwise, you can create each product manually. Check if bulk functions are available. This will greatly improve the usability and speed of making changes in the catalogues.
Pay attention to the reporting system of your B2B e-commerce platform.
You will need to analyze all order related operations and see performance by product, client, group of clients, area, etc. Check if the system exports the data in all necessary formats.
To be proactive you should strive for this important feature. The e-commerce platform collects all the information everyday and this information may be analyzed and a forecast may be generated.
Based on this forecast you can predict the level of demand for a period of time and be ready to align all other operations.
We all got used to search boxes, so why your system should not have one?
Make sure that search is available especially if you have hundreds of products in your price lists.
If you have a big company serving clients from several locations this feature will be very useful for you.
You will not need to have two separate system for each warehouse that will require some tricky synchronization. All the information including inventory will be available in one place.
Depending on the agreement with your clients you will need to handle more or less returns and your platform should have a feature to manage this process.
If the process is well organized and clients can easily inform you about the returns using the online platform, then it is very likely that they will be satisfied and will order from your company again.
After an order is submitted you need to review the order and either suggest changes or approve it. It will be good if you can handle these order management operations using the chosen platform.
When the order is approved your clients must be notified about it automatically and you may proceed with the order fulfilment.
Sometimes it is not viable to process orders that are too small. Your platform must allow you to set a threshold for an order to be considered.
Obviously, your clients must be acknowledged about this requirement when they make orders.
The first thing you will face after you decide to use a B2B e-commerce platform will be installation and integration. Many companies failed to understand how important these first steps are and jeopardized the whole initiative. You can choose using a system that needs to be installed locally on premise or a SaaS system that is based on the cloud technology.
SaaS is a better option for this case because it reduces time to benefit, lowers costs, easier to use and less risky. Integration with your existing software and systems depends on the availability and power of integration tools. Each system should have such tools and you should consult with your IT department about which tool is better in your case.
If you choose to use a B2B e-commerce platform installed on premise you will need to train your IT team to do a proper maintenance to ensure that the system will operate properly.
With a SaaS solution you don’t have to think about it because you will be using only the service and you will not need to think about the maintenance at all.
SaaS system updates automatically after a comprehensive testing. You will not notice any issues with the service when the system is updated. On premise platform in most cases needs to be updated manually requiring more efforts from the IT team and if a tiny mistake is made the system may fail to work.
Overall, for SaaS system is a better choice if you consider a B2B e-commerce platform.
It seems like usage of mobile devices in B2B has overpassed usage of desktops. This trend will keep going and you need to choose a system that will be easy to use on all devices.
The best option will be using a mobile application because it will simplify login and will remember all settings.
Even if at this moment you are the only person that is going to be using a B2B e-commerce platform in your organization it is better to have an option of adding more users later.
Moreover, each user may have different rights that can be managed by an administrator. For example, a user may be given the right to add clients, change price lists, add orders, approve orders, browse reports, etc.
Companies get different amount of orders taken by its sales representatives, but it is always good to have a tool that can be used to take an order. During the very first meeting with a client an order may be made.
In this case the sales reps should use an B2B e-commerce mobile application that allows adding a new client and taking an order.
While the internet connection is getting better and better you should not feel 100% safe if your platform can work only online. Especially this is true for the mobile apps.
Your system should allow working offline and auto synchronize when it is connected again.
Companies knowing your products range and willing to make an order should be given an option of a quick order. Using this tool such clients will not need to scroll through your extensive catalogue.
They can just type in SKU numbers or other ID of the products they need and submit an order. This option is great for bulk orders and it greatly increases the customer satisfaction.
All users of the B2B e-commerce platform should see the stock level available at the current moment.
If some positions are out of stock you should be able to indicate the date when they will be available again.
B2B is not that straightforward as B2C and you should take this into account when you select a B2B e-commerce platform. It is essential that the platform allows you to create price lists for different groups of clients or geographic areas.
This may include different products, prices, price of delivery, etc.
Understand the pricing model and how much your company will be paying for using the system. Try to analyze how the pricing will change if you use the system more intensively.
Pricing of most of the systems is based on the one or more factors such as number of users, number of order, number of integrations, monthly fee, etc.
Some of your clients would like to continue using the traditional channel for submitting their orders. However, more and more companies will wish to adopt new B2B e-commerce platform that is much more convenient than ordering via phone or email.
Your system must be ready to create a new account for such clients. The process of signing in must be extremely easy and straightforward so that all clients can start enjoying the new system.
If you have special offers for your clients make sure they will work properly in your new B2B e-commerce platform. On the one hand it must be easy to adjust such promotions and discounts that may be applied to specific clients groups or geographic areas.
On the other hand notification system must be built in the platform so that your clients can notice the promotions at the right moment.
Tax calculations should be included automatically.
Check if the considered platform offers enough tools to adjust tax calculations applicable for your industry and products.
The B2B e-commerce platform is very handy for making orders online. It saves a lot of time for all stakeholders, but don’t leave your clients alone. The best option will be to give your clients the possibility to schedule a meeting with a sales representative.
The sales rep will see the request and confirm the meeting or suggest another date.
If your clients need to make changes in their orders this should be done in their account. There is no need to make calls for these simple actions.
However, this feature must be available only for the orders that have not been processed yet.
If your company aim is to delight your clients then make sure your B2B e-commerce platform allows your clients to add their preferable time and date of the delivery.
Also, you must be able to change or approve the suggested time and date.
To improve your brand awareness you should customize the look and feel of your online B2B shop.
Off course it is not possible to have unlimited possibilities to change the user interface, but it should be possible to change the colors and add your brand logo.
Cross-selling and substitute products may increase your revenue significantly.
This is a must have feature of any B2B e-commerce platform. It should allow you to link your products in such a way so that clients can buy substitute products with similar characteristics if some products are not available at this moment.
When the order is submitted and approved your platform should be able to generate an electronic invoice.
Make sure that the system can send the invoices to the clients accounts. If you avoid printing and sending invoices you will increase the ROI of the B2B e-commerce platform.
Business clients often have more than one employee handling purchasing and procurement. If they all use a single account for accessing your B2B platform, they will be disappointed, because all their order history and settings will be messed up. On the hand, if they all have completely separate accounts they will be upset, because they will not be able to share one payment and billing set up and to combine reports.
Decent B2B e-commerce platforms should have a flexible solution for this issue and allow customers having one shared business account with multiple user accounts.
If you choose a good B2B e-commerce platform you will get a lot of valuable information about you clients and their buying behavior. Don’t let this information to be stored without any use. Connect email service providers to your system and organize an email marketing campaign. Use powerful cross-selling and upselling techniques to get even more benefits.
In the B2B environment often companies deal with very complex products and creating an ultimate price list for all offered products is not possible. In this case your ecommerce platform should allow your clients to ask a quote for the chosen list of products and services. You will be able to calculate the price and answer to the request with confidence.
Andrii is passionate about business and startup intelligence. As most of the startuppers he has got experience in almost all business areas.Andrii has MA in Marketing from the University of Queensland.
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