In 2021, the writing is on the wall for B2B enterprises – survival during a global pandemic requires a digital presence. Business as usual, involving sales reps and face-to-face consultations, will no longer cut it in the era of quarantines and lockdowns. Before COVID-19, 55% of firms relied on traditional selling. Now, that figure has plummeted to 21%.
A McKinsey survey of B2B leaders also indicates that trend is here for the long haul – 80% of respondents intended to retain their e-commerce models in a post-COVID market. In addition, the buyers also prefer online experiences, with at least 47% showing an inclination towards self-service models.
For firms that don't already have an online marketing and sales presence, investing in a B2B e-commerce platform is the need of the hour. But like any other major decision in business, this too requires careful consideration of factors including performance, cost, and above all, ROI.
Important Factors to Consider During a B2B E-Commerce Platform Purchase Decision
Digital transformation is the process of integrating information technology into all aspects of a business organisation. It will have a profound impact on the entire business, in myriad ways, both quantifiable and intangible.
A B2B manufacturer or supplier contemplating its first investment in e-commerce is on the cusp of something similar. A modern B2B e-commerce platform will have a massive impact on its operations, which can make it harder for businesses to accurately calculate the ROI of the investment.
Looking at potential changes in revenue streams will only deliver a vague assessment. To get the full picture, a more refined approach is required, taking into account several other factors that will be significantly impacted by the adoption of a new B2B e-commerce platform. Let’s explore these factors in greater detail.
1. Overall Efficiency
An e-commerce platform uses cutting-edge technologies like AI and machine learning to deliver high levels of automation to its clients. Many recurring tasks can be automated, such as customer service using chatbots, and inventory management and order processing using sophisticated software.
Apart from the advantages of cost savings, automation also frees up your manpower to be reallocated to other critical tasks. The result is a subtle multiplier effect on your sales and revenues that often goes undetected on basic revenue-focused ROI calculations.
To get a clear picture, an efficiency assessment of your existing business processes should be undertaken. This will provide the basis for calculating cost and revenue efficiencies that would be generated by the new B2B e-commerce platform.
2. Current Market Share
B2B e-commerce platforms make your firm smarter, faster, and more efficient at marketing and lead generation. All of this will contribute to a demonstrable increase in revenues, especially if you are in a highly competitive market.
While the ROI may not be readily apparent based on revenue alone for businesses who already occupy a dominant position in the market, this doesn’t mean the investment in B2B e-commerce platforms is not worthwhile. As previously mentioned, there are numerous factors of the business that are affected as part of this process, contributing to improvements in overall performance.
3. Customer Satisfaction
Modern B2B clients are starting to expect more from businesses in terms of speed, convenience, and overall digital experience. If your site fails to deliver along these lines, they could very well take their business to the competition.
Having a B2B e-commerce platform removes a lot of pain points from the online buying experience. Client satisfaction rates can improve significantly, leading to higher customer retention rates. This in turn will have massive implications on your ROI, based on higher customer lifetime value – the total amount of money a customer can be expected to spend on your products/services in a lifetime.
4. Improved Site Performance
A poorly designed website that hasn’t been optimised is a liability that has many negative consequences, ranging from increased inefficiency, delayed sales, and plummeting customer satisfaction. It is often easy to recognise if your business’ site is underperforming – classic symptoms include high bounce rates, slow load times, higher onsite searches, and low traffic.
If such issues exist on your current site, investing in an e-commerce platform should provide tangible benefits. Look for platforms that have features that address the major issues your customers face online. This will have a massive impact on your long-term ROI from a new platform.
5. Risk Mitigation
Operational errors can be particularly troublesome and frequent in certain areas including inventory and supply chain management, tax compliance, and invoice management. When left unaddressed, these systemic issues can lead to huge losses to your business in the long run.
Through smart automation and improved visibility of your internal processes and data, B2B e-commerce platforms can help reduce operational errors in business. If your existing processes are error-prone, this factor should receive added weightage when calculating the ROI from upgrading to a better digital platform.
Building a B2B-Specific ROI Model for E-Commerce Platforms
Most businesses use a standard template when building a case for a new investment or purchase decision. First, they analyse existing deficiencies in the organisation and try to build a consensus among stakeholders on the strategic issues that need to be addressed.
Then, they identify appropriate solutions in the marketplace that align with the established strategic objectives. This is followed by the creation of an ROI model that analyses the current revenue forecasts and expected benefits from the new system through higher revenues and cost savings.
But there are several reasons to opt for a customised ROI model when considering an investment in a B2B e-commerce platform. Some of these have already been discussed in the previous section. Further, the model should also take into account the current stage of your organisation’s digital evolution.
The cost of acquisition and ownership can vary drastically based on the latter factor. If the organisation uses outdated legacy architectures, the cost of implementation and upgrades will be much higher. The one-time price of acquisition will be determined by the range of features required.
Potential Cost Savings
B2B firms can achieve significant cost savings by migrating to a best-in-class digital platform. These are a few areas where businesses can experience cost and time savings:
- Order management and lead times - reduce manual data entry (and processing errors), automate processes, provide self-service options
- Product catalogues - reduce reliance on printing and mailing catalogues to customers
- Legacy systems - sunset legacy systems to avoid high maintenance costs
Potential Revenue Gains
Given the increased demand for online services at present, the addition of an e-commerce platform can bring in a significant boost to revenue, from new customers and improved servicing of existing ones. These are a few of the contributing factors:
- Customer satisfaction - easier and more convenient shopping experience, higher average purchase amounts through e-commerce
- Fewer lost sales - suggest alternate products when others are out of stock
- Targeted sales - personalise experiences based on customer preferences and behaviour
- Empowered sales teams - free up their time, insights from data to help close deals more effectively, focus on value-adding activities such as cross-selling
Meet Modern Requirements with B2B E-Commerce
Investing in a B2B e-commerce platform is no longer just a choice or luxury for businesses – it is a necessity. There is no doubt that a modern digital platform will bring a plethora of advantages to a business but because its impact is so transformative, accurately assessing the potential ROI becomes a challenge. A more holistic approach that looks at factors beyond revenue improvements will help make a compelling case for a B2B e-commerce platform investment.
Find out more about these 4 must-have e-commerce capabilities for modern B2B selling to ensure your business is increasing its bottom line and meeting customer expectations.