B2B e-commerce is one of the fastest growing markets today, increasing at a CAGR of 15% from 2015 to 2020. Any B2B company that wishes to stay relevant in the modern market needs to have a well-designed and practical website.
The technological revolution has given birth to several avenues through which a site can be hosted, but it’s a rookie mistake to think of B2B e-commerce as just another sales channel. There are innumerable factors that an executive needs to consider before adopting a technology suite.
Let’s take a look at some of these factors that are key to the development of your online presence.
Hosting the Platform
While in-house platforms offer you more control over your data and its backup, they are considerably more expensive than adopting cloud-based software. This is because they require an investment in hardware as well as a continuous cost of maintaining the servers. Cloud-based platforms such as Salesforce provide readymade solutions at a lower overall cost. Further, they offer more features with easier adoption and implementation. It is no surprise that cloud-based platforms are being preferred overwhelmingly in the market.
The aim of B2B e-commerce is to create an experience similar to B2C, but there are many differences between the two. A B2B platform needs several features that aren’t necessary for a B2C organization. These include complex promotions, dynamic product catalogs, customer-specific pricing, and delivery management. It’s necessary that you understand the complex nature of your organization, but it’s also important that the features offered by your suite match it.
Integration with various applications that serve different purposes is what makes B2B e-commerce a huge success. Customer Relation Management (CRM), order management, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), product information management, and pricing engines can all be simplified and adopted through integration with your cloud-based platform.
Some platforms offer built-in features for several of these activities like the Salesforce CRM system which has transformed customer relations. Before selecting a technology platform, you need to assess the integrations you need and how you will go about implementing them. Along with this, the central system through which you will access and manage these operations should also be considered.
Selecting a cheap platform that fulfills your basic requirements might seem enticing, but if your organization is looking to expand, then a makeshift solution isn’t sustainable. As your network grows, server requirements will increase because of the higher traffic load. Self-hosted servers and low-level platforms will buckle under pressure in these situations. The servers will slow down, leading to poorer customer experience and lower satisfaction.
A critical aspect of B2B e-commerce is a unique experience for each customer. Long-lasting relations have been the foundation of success for any B2B business, and online platforms seek to improve these relations in order to make customer management easier.
Tools like Configure Price Quote (CPQ) and customer specific catalogs go a long way in attracting new customers and keeping old ones. You need to decide the level of personalization your organization wants to offer and verify whether your technology suite has the capability of delivering it.
Developing a model for your business will help you decide which platform to use. This model should include hard data with respect to site traffic, order value, order conversion rate, and soft data which involves subjective assumptions about your business. This step is critical in ensuring that you consider the goals of your organization and avoid going down the beaten path, one that isn’t necessarily suitable for you. Developing a number of these models will assist you in understanding the comprehensive needs of your organization and what you should demand from your B2B e-commerce platform.
Implementing an e-commerce platform is a big step forward and it is important to make the right decisions for your unique business. These are just a few of the things that you need to consider before deciding which way to go when it comes to a technology suite. According to Forrester research, the e-commerce market for B2B organizations will cross the USD 1 trillion mark by 2020. What will you contribute?