The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for B2B eCommerce like never before. Lockdowns, social distancing rules and staff having to self-isolate has meant that where once online ordering was a nice-to-have, it has now become a must-have.
But for businesses that are already struggling to cope with the demands of a pandemic, how do you adapt quickly, without adding more risk to your business? With so many options out there it can be hard to navigate so we’ve pooled our knowledge and pulled together our top tips on how to choose a B2B eCommerce platform.
Review your digital strategy in line with your customers’ needs
How do your customers want to order from you? Are they office based and using a computer, in a shop or on site, walking around with their mobile phone. Or maybe they like to start an order on a mobile phone but then want to be able to finish it on their computer. Make sure your strategy for your B2B eCommerce platform meets their needs. Some platforms are developed for computers and the mobile offering is often an afterthought. b2b.store has been developed to work equally well on both a computer and mobile and offers the best possible customer experience on both.
Don’t sacrifice customer experience
Over 75% of B2B buyers are now digital natives (those who have lived their whole lives with the Internet, computers and mobile devices). These digital natives see no delineation between their consumer habits and their expectations for the B2B world. They are all impacted by what is described as the “Amazon Effect” – the very best online purchasing customer experience – and now expect this in the B2B world. So you need to be offering them an Amazon-esque experience. They want seamless integration between ordering on their computer and their mobile devices. They expect an app icon on their phone, rather than needing to navigate to your website for every order. They expect a B2B eCommerce platform to be fast, slick and responsive. They don’t have the patience to be waiting for pages to load or for the interface to be clumsy. b2b.store is designed with all this in mind. It’s fast and responsive and delivers a seamless customer experience across all devices and platforms.
Consider a white-label offer
A bespoke B2B eCommerce platform can be tailored to your exact requirements but it can also be extremely costly and take a long time to implement. Off the shelf white-label eCommerce platforms offer a much more cost-effective solution and are now much more flexible than in years gone by. There are a variety of different options, from back end systems that still need some development to self-serve off-the-shelf creations that are ready to go. Either way it’s good to choose one that specialises in B2B as opposed to B2C, in order to meet the needs of your customers and your specific business. And make sure you choose one that allows you to add your branding. After all: you maintain the relationship with your customers and not a third party.
Think about what functionality your customers will need
Different B2B eCommerce software solutions offer vastly different functionality. You need to consider the needs of your customers and ensure your solution meets those. For example, do your customers like to use a barcode scanner to add products to their digital basket? Do they need enhanced product information? What about individual pricing for individual customers? In B2B there are a number of requirements that are critical in ensuring that you get the most out of your eCommerce. B2b.store has a wide range of features to meet the different needs of the end users. These are ‘pick and mix’ so you can tailor the B2B eCommerce platform to your specific needs.
Consider the commercial risk
Investing in eCommerce can be a big step for many businesses. Historically it has been expensive and time consuming and so many smaller businesses have simply not had the funds to get set up. With eCommerce becoming more and more critical to business survival few businesses can afford not to take the leap. Opting for a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution can help to minimise the commercial risks. Your eCommerce solution can be paid for on a monthly basis and can scale up as your online offer grows. b2b.store has zero set up costs so you can get online without any commercial risk. There are premium features which can be subscribed to on a monthly basis, which you can turn on or off depending on your individual needs. The risk of investing in something up front that doesn’t work is removed and so there really is nothing stopping any business no matter what the size getting online.
Don’t sacrifice customer marketing opportunities
The marketing opportunities in physical depots and stores are tried and tested in driving up sales and securing additional revenue from suppliers. Don’t assume that once your customers move online these opportunities disappear. The best B2B eCommerce platforms out there have taken this into consideration. Make sure you look for an offer that allows you to place advertising within the platform in the form of interstitial ads and banners. These can be used for your own marketing campaigns or sold to suppliers. Also look out for platforms that enable you to send messages and rich push notifications. These messages ensure you can engage with your customers in the digital space just as you would in person in the physical world. b2b.store has powerful digital marketing capabilities that have been proven to drive up sales and customer loyalty.
Think about export opportunities
Does your business export to other markets? If so, then you need to choose a platform that can support you in those markets. Amazon has set the standard when it comes to setting up in new markets with their in-language, in-country offer, something that has been proven to drive up sales and loyalty. b2b.store can quickly get you set up with an in-country, in-language version of your store with no set up costs.
Plan ahead and ensure back-end system compatibility
For a B2B eCommerce software solution to work it needs to talk to your back-end system which manages your product inventory. There are different ways that different platforms approach this and there will nearly always be a strategy that will enable the two systems to work together. Some eCommerce platforms provide a self-service capability allowing you to upload the required product or users files, but larger businesses will often require the data transfer to be automated which in turn creates a far more efficient system. It is increasingly rare for back end systems to lock down their environments and force their users to use their in house eCommerce, but it is a question you should be asking yourself if your supplier doesn’t allow you to export the data required to power eCommerce to an external eCommerce provider.