According to Forrester Research, 57% of B2B executives said that their top planned technology investment was for an e-commerce platform; however, deciding which solution to invest in can be overwhelming. Simplify this process for your business by looking for these must-have B2B e-commerce features that will be vital to digital commerce success.
Tailored for B2B E-Commerce
To begin, first assess if the solution is designed for B2B from the start. This is critical, as it’s simply not enough to repurpose a B2C platform to perform complex B2B needs.
A B2C platform will lack vital B2B capabilities. To supplement, companies will build out those features with custom code and have to maintain that code for years. So while it’s possible to use a B2C platform for B2B needs, you will end up paying for it in the long-run with higher development costs and longer time to market.
Must-Have B2B E-Commerce Features
Ensure your company’s B2B e-commerce success by leveraging a platform that was designed for B2B. While these solutions will vary in their capabilities, here are a few of the most essential features to look for:
Catalog Configurations: Paper catalogs are costly to produce and send out and PDFs are rigid and hard to search through. A true B2B solution allows you instead to create an interactive digital catalog with permissions applied so that when a customer logs in, they only see what they’re allowed to see. You should be able to control which products different buyers can see and purchase with account-specific catalog views, streamlining the purchasing process.
Additionally, B2B solutions should be able to provide flexible multi-site and multi-catalog support for even the most complex commerce models. If you have multiple sites, one master catalog across all of them can help with brand management, as you’d be able to manage everything in one spot instead of having to duplicate it across all sites.
- Self-Service Features: Your customers want to be able to order at any time and not be tied to when a sales rep can answer their call. Empower buyers to purchase and manage their own accounts with self-service functionalities such as account and order management, shipment tracking and reordering. Robust B2B solutions will also allow for one-click reordering, based on order history.
- Buying Workflows: Complicated organizational hierarchies affect how your customers purchase. Tailor workflows to match your customers’ organizational structure and purchasing journey. These processes can also be automated, further streamlining the time needed to finalize an order.
Pricing and Discounts: B2B pricing is complicated; pricing may differ based on country, region or account type. Additionally, you may have subscription-based products or physical goods (or even both) that will be priced differently. To handle these different configurations, you’ll need a modern B2B e-commerce platform that gives you the flexibility to control pricing rules to reflect pricing structures based on segments, tiers of customers or subscriptions.
Furthermore, this platform should also be capable of applying discounts. A good B2B platform will let you reflect common promotion strategies based on bulk purchases, grouped products or cart validation rules.
- Integrations: You probably already have a CRM, ERP, marketing automation, shipping, payment and invoice software and other software in place to help run your business. Find a solution that is able to integrate and connect these systems seamlessly to not only streamline your business operations but also to allow all of these different functionalities to be performed on one platform easily, all resulting in an enhanced experience for your customers. You can also ask vendors for customer references with integrations you are looking for to assess how experienced the vendor is at implementing these integrations.
Sales Rep Enablement: Sales teams may be reluctant to use a technology that may replace their job function; however, an e-commerce platform designed for B2B teams can empower them to save time and take more strategic actions instead of helping customers place orders. What a B2C solution cannot bring is this ability to strengthen the sales reps by enabling direct communication through the purchasing platform.
Reps should be able to see exactly what each customer sees when they log into the platform and take action on behalf of these accounts if necessary, such as to create and edit orders. A truly powerful solution should be able to provide sales team with intelligence such as alerting when purchasing is trending down on an account. Account-specific dashboards should be equipped to track KPIs, order forecasting and other insights, empowering reps with the needed information to know when to act to help win back accounts that might want to buy from competitors.
A Digital Experience That Customers Want to Use
Focusing on streamlining transaction, checkout and pricing is no longer enough to modernize experiences; you need to think more broadly to encompass the full customer experience. On its own, an e-commerce solution usually isn’t built to deliver those engaging experiences that span the entire customer journey. Instead, many companies are turning to integrated solutions that combine powerful digital experience functionalities with commerce in order to successfully deliver modern B2B e-commerce experiences.
Elevate the whole B2B customer journey by looking for a platform that includes these three capabilities:
Executing Personalization: According to a study by Accenture, 73% of B2B buyers say that they want a personalized, B2C-like customer experience. Yet many companies are failing to deliver the personalized experiences their customers crave because their existing platforms lack the digital experience functionalities needed to satisfy the modern B2B customer. Personalization can bring great business benefits as it can be used to:
- Increase sales through product recommendations.
- Show relevant content based on customer interest and previous behavior.
- Display search results according to customers’ previous search history.
- Tracking Data to Transform Into Insights: In order to execute personalization strategies effectively, you’ll need to be equipped to track and collect data to turn into insights that can be leveraged to drive these strategies. Digital platforms can track and leverage a wealth of data otherwise not possible through traditional commerce. A powerful digital solution is able to offer data reporting tools that not only track performance metrics but also provide real-time analysis of traffic patterns, customer insights and page performance to reveal what the customers are doing and what is effective on your site. When data is united in one location, those insights can be used to power personalization efforts, discover new business opportunities and identify bottlenecks.
Uniting Content With Commerce: One of the most-cited pain points in commerce is trying to reuse content you’ve created in a content management system (CMS) within your commerce platform. In order to deliver consistent commerce experiences across any touchpoint, companies are turning to platforms that can bring content and commerce systems together.
With a solution that is able to bring all content across an organization into one platform, companies can leverage a unified solution that can create a single comprehensive experience that is easier to manage and ultimately delivers more value to the customer. You’re able to create marketing landing pages, integrated knowledge bases and enriched product pages with videos and guides without having to integrate disparate systems together.
Putting It Together
B2B customers are expecting modern, online commerce experiences that are on par with their B2C interactions. Evaluate your own platform to see if you are prepared to deliver accordingly. Is it sufficient to handle modern customers’ expectations or is it time to look for a solution that is equipped to handle both the complexities of B2B purchasing and keep customers from purchasing from others that are easier to do business with?