Understanding the B2B eCommerce Marketplace: Features and Integrations
The B2B eCommerce market is growing by leaps and bounds. The soaring revenues in the B2B segment of the global eCommerce industry encourage businesses to invest more in the B2B marketplaces.
According to Frost & Sullivan's report, B2B ecommerce is expected to hit $6.6 trillion by 2020.
For eCommerce businesses, it’s a clear case of serving B2B customers to the best of their ability and gives them every possible functionality and personalization option not available to their B2C counterparts. It can be achieved by building custom portals for every B2B customer.
Does that sound like a tedious and time-consuming affair? Well, it sure is.
E-commerce development companies that built custom portals for their B2B customers reported that it took them somewhere between 6 months to 2 years to create a single portal.
It has nothing to do with any technicalities of the solution or the lack of resources. It merely comes down to customization.
Ascertaining the right set of features and processes is the key before you get down to business. But that’s easier said than done. B2B marketers often overestimate the value of many features, which prove to be less effective in the long run.
Ideally, you should consider as many use-case scenarios as possible to find the ideal way of conducting business online.
Consider the following features for your B2B e-commerce portal.
1. UI/UX Personalization
Personalization can mean many things in different contexts, but in the B2B eCommerce, it mainly relates to the design — both UI (User Interface Design) & UX (User Experience Design).
As far as the UI is concerned, the website should have much in common with what’s deemed as standard in the niche. So, the use of recognizable icons, colors, symbols will not only make for highly intuitive user experience but also improve customer engagement.
As for the UX, it’s slightly more complicated due to the varying nature of operations and practices from one business to another. So, it’s worth noting the designated people responsible for different operations.
For example, by knowing who places the orders, who’s responsible for paying the invoice and who determines the exact date and time of the delivery, etc. a system can be created that aptly reacts to actions of all these users.
2. Multiple Users & Roles
Since different users perform different roles, they need to be assigned specific permissions, as well. For example, a logistics manager who determines the date and delivery of an order can’t have the authority to place an order. Nor can s/he view the number of orders placed or invoices still unpaid.
This way, employees can focus solely on their areas of expertise and not get bogged down in unnecessary information.
3. Repeat & Schedule Ordering
Customers with monthly/weekly recurring requirements should have the option to repeat their orders. It saves a lot of time on both your and the customer’s end, which otherwise goes wasted in clarifying the order details.
Automation is another effective way to manage such scenarios. All you need to do is agree upon a recurring requirement with your customer, and the system takes care of the rest.
4. Self Service
Business processes are prone to changes. Roles can be shuffled, or a new employee may join in, and this calls for change or addition in permissions. These situations are part and parcel of business life.
Your partner would appreciate it if your system is equipped to manage such contingencies. They should be able to perform manual updates on their own. Furthermore, a self-service page needs to be in place to provide an easy walk-through about completing various operations.
5. Targeted Offers & Promotions
We cannot talk about eCommerce without mentioning offers and promotions. In B2B, ecommerce spams and unplanned ads can do more damage than good. To get the best value from your advertisements, you’ll need to be very specific with what you send out to each customer.
6. Analytics to Improve B2B eCommerce
While analytics may not sound like a must-have feature, it certainly adds value in the long run. When businesses want to garner more data about their customers’ behavior, analytics also helps in identifying deficiencies in the existing system.
All this information can play a vital role in helping you improve customer interactions and foster the growth of each other’s businesses.
Depending on the requirements and the benefits they bring to your partner, you can offer a variety of integrations such as split-testing, feedback forms, heat maps, questionnaires, etc.
To offer a refined and seamless user experience to your partners, you’ll need to integrate your portal with their existing software and apps. Following is a list of the most sought-after integrations for B2B business owners.
1. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) & Back Office Systems
Back office systems are the backbone of any B2B ecommerce business. Countless operations, like order fulfillment, invoicing, and accounting, need to be automated and streamlined. That’s where Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) comes in. By integrating your ecommerce platform with various other channels like online, phone, EDI, infield, at trade shows. It allows you to complete your sales transactions most efficiently.
2. Point of Sale (POS) Software
Although B2B eCommerce has gone mainstream, there’s no denying the fact that your sales staff still finds itself on the road meeting clients and creating orders in-person. That is unless you have a Point of Sale (POS) software. Given you opt for a system that supports offline mode and mobile capabilities, your staff can look up products, create orders, and even generate an invoice for requests from one place.
Still, the best bit about a POS system is that it can be integrated either directly or through an ERP system. It ensures your inventory levels stay updated across all channels.
A B2B sales process is rife with complexities, and that’s where CPQ (Configure, Price & Quote) makes things easier. It automates the configuration, pricing, and quoting of complex products, services, and bundles to streamline the selling process.
Such pricing optimization software facilitates eCommerce customers, sales teams, support staff, and partners in selecting and validating the right products and services. A streamlined B2B sales process is also conducive to greater efficiency, revenue, and elevated customer experience.
4. Payment Solutions
Implementing multiple payment solutions is considered a good practice across the B2B industry. Many businesses have different policies about invoicing and payments. By adhering to these policies, you immediately shortlist yourself as a better business partner
Moreover, fewer constraints in payment ensure you’re paid faster, which eventually contributes to a healthy cash-flow. In B2B ecommerce, despite the onslaught of e-banking, preferable payment methods are Cheques, ACH (Automated Clearing House), Debit cards, & credit cards.
It’s safe to say that a business model that allows you to be in touch with your customers provides flexibility throughout the buying process and offers a higher level of service that is the key to success in B2B.