It’s impossible to imagine not being able to order online. From clothes to food to office supplies, we’re all completely accustomed to buying online. But it’s not just in the B2C world. B2B buyers are consumers too, so when they cross over to buying for their business, they expect the same seamless B2B online sales experience.
Forrester predicts that B2B ecommerce will reach $1.2 trillion of US sales by the end of 2021. So it looks like B2B online sales will be around for a long time to come, which means B2B eCommerce solution needs to be able to stand the test of time. Here are four ways to future-proof your e-commerce platform.
1. Make sure your platform is flexible and can grow with your changing needs
There are two main options when you decide to add a B2B eCommerce platform to your sales channels. The first is to develop it in-house which is costly and time-consuming and as far as future-proofing goes, not a great option, as you will need to maintain a team to constantly update, test and fix the software. This is only within the capacity of the largest companies and even for them the second option can be better.
Option two is to buy a platform from a software company that specializes in B2B eCommerce software. Off the shelf options are highly sophisticated these days and you will benefit from the constant improvements as new versions are released. These platforms are designed to be flexible and fit different size companies with different business models. The benefits are many, from quicker time to market to error-free functioning as the platforms are already tried and tested. They are also cheaper as you don’t have to employ a team and the quicker time to market means less upfront investment before you start seeing an ROI. You might feel you are giving up some control, but the flexibility of being able to make changes via user-friendly interfaces can mean more control in your own hands and less reliance on programmers.
2. Your webstore must cater to mobile users
With the mobile share of e-Commerce transactions worldwide, it’s important that you provide a good user experience for mobile users especially mobile and tablets matching the experience they have on a PC. Your platform must have the option of responsive design to ensure screens are easy to view and navigate on the smaller format screens. Adding this functionality later will be difficult if not impossible. Tablet and mobile usage is already huge and is likely to continue growing in the future.
3. Don’t forget pricing the B2B way
Make sure your platform can accommodate the complex pricing structures that are required in the B2B world. You need to be able to provide your customers with the same discounts they have been used to offline. Your platform must support all the B2B options including credit lines and pay on invoice, as well as simply accepting credit card payments. Your B2B online sales won’t even be able to get off the ground if you can’t provide this. Adding it later could prove difficult as it requires complex programming and integration.
An e-catalog software to allow you to customize your e-catalogs by customer, assigning different ones to different customers according to their specific needs.
4. Provide an outstanding order experience
When it comes to a great online experience, shoppers primarily have two things in mind: speed - and ease. From the start the platform you choose must be as simple and efficient as possible with easy navigation, payment and check out. As your business grows you will most likely have many more items to include and organize as well as a growing customer base. An e-catalog specifically designed to both organize your items and one that gives you the ability to customize by customer, can help you transition as your business grows.
Automation is key to keeping all your balls in the air, so integrating with your ERP / accounting system means you can automatically provide up-to-date tracking and payment statuses. If your store doesn’t have this then B2B buyers won’t use it, instead reverting to ordering through your sales reps or worse, buying from your competitors.
Last but not least, don’t forget the human element. Although your main concern is choosing a B2B eCommerce platform that can serve your business now and long in to the future, it will still need to be backed up with an excellent customer service that can help your B2B buyers when necessary and provide the personal touch.
Make sure the B2B sales platform you choose is future-proofed!