B2B eCommerce is going to change the way people do business. It is certainly going to help reduce the cycle time from quote-to-cash and allow sales people to focus on strategic deals. It will also allow your channel partners to place orders and lookup the history 24/7, make businesses more profitable and enhance customer loyalty.
If you are trying to champion a B2B eCommerce implementation or just about setting up a B2B eCommerce strategy, the below key points will help you understand the paths you will have to choose and possible challenges you will have to overcome.
- Set clear objectives for taking your business online. Address all questions and concerns your internal stakeholders may have. This initiative is going to have an impact across all your departments, hence involvement of your top management / board is a must.
- Usually when you start a B2B eCommerce initiative, there would be resistance from internal sales team. This resistance is natural considering that customers would have direct access to product information and can do basic transactions themselves. But a B2B eCommerce solution would give the sales team room to focus on more complex and strategic selling.
- Channel conflict is another area you will have to manage. If you are a manufacturer your distributors/wholesalers may not like you putting out product information online or trying to sell directly to end customers. While B2B eCommerce solutions are going to bring some level of disruption into the system, it can be largely used for operational efficiency while retaining channel eco-system.
- Choose an eCommerce platform that has B2B specific features built in, for example: bulk order, credit limit, contract/account management, approval workflows, complex pricing, OMS etc.
- Choose an eCommerce agency that has good credentials on consumer class user experience, complex product content management, and expertise in B2B eCommerce solutions.
- Most B2B businesses have separate systems for Price, Quote, Inventory, Warehouse, Logistics, etc. So be aware that taking your business online would mean that all these systems will need to interact seamlessly. Choose an eCommerce platform which accommodates integration with third party applications and has the required flexibility for customization.
- Don’t start your initiative trying to move all products online. Take a particular category or a set of simple products which doesn’t have complex pricing structure for your phase one launch. And keep it real simple.
- Keep your sales team tagged into the process and align them with their customers online. When a sale happens online, notify them so that they are aware of their customers’ activities and can manage their accounts in a more informed manner.
- Make sure your warehouse department, fulfilment centres, customer service team, Shipping/Logistic division and marketing team is aligned to this new initiative.
- Whether B2B or B2C, building your brand, engaging your customers and forming communities to learn about your customers and their feedback about you is crucial. Leverage social media for enhancing your brand equity and to know your customers better.
- B2B eCommerce portals has always been miles behind when it comes to online customer experience. It is time to get inspiration from B2C websites that is constantly pushing the envelope on customer experience.