Once you’ve weighed the benefits of a B2B e-commerce platform and decided to jump on the e-commerce bandwagon, you’ll have some shopping around to do, as not all e-commerce platforms for B2B businesses were created equal; you have to find the platform that best suits your business and attends to your customers’ needs - if you get that right, you’ll be able to attract more customers to increase sales.
Look for these capabilities when selecting the right B2B e-commerce software for your company and customers:
This is pretty obvious--if you want to attract new customers and retain them, the software you offer them should feel intuitive, much like B2C platforms that display product specs, use shopping carts, secure payments and more.
For B2B customers, simplicity is especially important due to the nature of their orders (often-complex and large) and the frequency in which they place these orders. Customers don’t have time to waste sifting through thousands of products, so the e-commerce software you choose to use must support quick searches, filter options by price range, product type, material and more.
Expand your reach to prospective B2B customers by allowing them to freely view your product catalog. Embed your catalog inside your website, and leverage it as a valuable marketing tool to promote your products to prospects, even internationally. Give your prospects the ability to sign up to your online store (lead generation!) so you can quickly qualify them into or out of your online business.
Your customers are using their smartphones to do business more than ever so you have to offer them a solution that supports their habits and is easily accessible. For the best user experience, look for a B2B e-commerce solution that runs as a native mobile app on all mobile devices (iOS, Android, and even Windows) -- you don’t know what device they will use! Ideally, you can brand the app with your own name, logo, and description on the different app stores; putting your brand on the app stores, is strategically important marketing-wise..
It’s important to be able to tailor your e-commerce platform to your customers’ needs. Look for one that allows you to create customer-specific catalogs with customized product pricing per customer or customer type, the right currency, be able to set specific payment terms, minimum order quantities, and other business terms..
Order history, and order from history
Access to sales order history is an excellent tool for your customers to quickly assess their monthly spend with you, as well as track top-selling items. Your B2B e-commerce software should allow them to easily duplicate a past order and place the same order with some modifications.
Real time inventory
Access to your products’ inventory levels allows your B2B customers to place their orders based on available stock; they can better anticipate shipment and prevent backorders.
Any software should keep business privacy and information safe and secure by requesting login credentials to browse the site, catalog, and checkout. Users should feel at ease when executing large B2B purchases that can have a huge effect on their business finances. Ensure that your B2B e-commerce software provider has all the certifications in place to transact your data in the cloud.
Back-end ERP integration
When an order is placed, it is critical that you apply all the necessary data validations on the order to allow you to process and fulfil it in a timely fashion. This requires you to integrate the B2B e-commerce online ordering with your back-end ERP for real-time data validation. ERP integration is also required to provide accurate inventory level and pricing information to your clients from within your online storefront. Check that your B2B e-commerce provider has experience in integrating with your ERP or accounting system, and that they don’t require you to buy 3rd party software or hire expensive development resources to achieve this.
Going online with a B2B e-commerce software opens your business to new and exciting sales opportunities, but brings with it customer expectations for an exceptional B2C-like user experience; and while there are many B2B e-commerce solutions out there, a company must perform careful diligence in selecting the right platform that can meet its needs today, and be flexible enough to meet your needs in the future.
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