Welcome to our new “Scaling B2B eCommerce” series published with our partners at Digi Commerce. We will be covering how B2B businesses of all sizes can plan, launch and manage eCommerce storefronts and infrastructure that will support their businesses today, but also in the future.
Scaling Your Sales Channels
The key to success for any eCommerce platform implementation as part of a digital commerce initiative rests on the support that the platform can adapt and scale into the rest of the business.
These challenges of scale begin to appear slowly over time as the business changes to meet new business realities. We’ve quickly moved from a single digital channel into multiple online, in-person and hybrid options.
Nowhere are the challenges felt more, especially recently, to the business than in the development and support of new sales channels. Before describing solutions and reviewing options to ensure that a digital platform can support sales channel scale – let’s define what we mean by a sales channel.
Our definition – is a “storefront” where a customer can purchase your company’s products online or in-person whether you are charging the customer for that product or not. Traditionally sales channel types would include websites, retail stores but also tradeshows, apps and now marketplaces.
Supporting New Sales Channels
“Can we even open another sales channel?” Starting at Step 1, is your existing provider even able to support another sales channel? Secondly, can all systems allow or support a new sales channel within a new platform or existing infrastructure? Many SaaS commerce providers and legacy plugin-based commerce systems require another “account” to support scaling to new sales channels.
- Costs to support new channels
With several integration options for sales and investment, what does the monthly SaaS / service bill look like when adding another site or sales channel to an existing platform. If considering a move to a new provider, we recommend considering getting two different pricing structures – (1) showing your current environment and (2) details on an estimate sales channel environment – 2 B2B storefronts / websites, marketplace, for example.
- The Workaround Trap
Urgent deadlines and the rush to get a new digital sales channel live can seem impossible without a workaround or hacked solution. “Let’s just sign up and get something live quickly” can sound like a rapid fix, however, as time goes by, the cost to replatform that “quick win” grows significantly. Be careful of any quick launch digital storefronts that inhibit flexibility in the future.
One Platform To Rule Them All
“I know it wasn’t the right way, but we had to get it done” – Moving the business into new markets too quickly without planning leads to integration challenges but also opens up the risk of data duplication across systems where there is a separate database with account information, order history and product information for each storefront. How can you move quickly, but maintain connections to a single system of record?
- Who Owns What
Account, product and order data are likely to change on a daily basis and as a result, your team is going to want to designate a single system to “own” that data. There may be several different sales channels requesting product pricing or account information, where *should* those storefronts be asking for data from?
- Integration Warning
Be worried if your team isn’t spending time doing integration planning and development. Oftentimes, building the integrations will take as much time as building a storefront.
- Sync Data When You Have To
Ideally, you can keep things simple and leave ownership in as few systems and platforms as possible. When you’re unable to operate multiple sales channels through a single platform, you run the risk of having overlapping, duplicate or out-of-date data in multiple systems. For example, will all sales channels pull the same product price, item descriptions and images from the same system? It sounds simple, but as channels scale, the gaps or delays caused by failing syncs begin to cost the business more.
Scaling Channel Order Management
Scaling your business with new storefronts, marketplaces and other sales channels is an opportunity to grow, but may also cause major order management challenges. Delivery, fulfillment, and inventory weaknesses are given more exposure whenever you have multiple storefronts connecting to those systems.
With orders and new customers coming into your platform, are you able to differentiate between sources? The ability to tag orders based on origination or source is critical.
Analysis and data for the order management whether delivered to the backoffice and built within the platform requires more out of the box capability. Run through scenarios.
- Resources & Time
New sales channel launched? Congratulations… you’ve just become a more complex business. New brand? Are all email communications (like order emails sent with the new branding? No matter how many similarities or shared effort there is, launching a new sales channel requires more management, maintenance and configuration. Teams are best served if there are fewer workarounds in eCommerce operations to manage the storefronts on a daily basis.
Scaling Sales Geography
Expansion… literally! Growing beyond the markets where your business has been selling and finding new geographies (states, territories, international). Managing the order fulfillment, delivery and payment back-office processes for storefronts in new locations requires considerable configuration and customization.
- Multi Language
How much support is built into your online selling channel to allow for translation or multiple versions of product copy? Can the team extend the product database to maintain a single product management database? One of the biggest reasons why businesses end up running separate commerce platforms comes from the lack of extensibility around product data and pricing when expanding into other markets.
- Inventory Locations
Selling from a new location? Can you ship what you’ve just sold? Sure, shipping from a single location can work, but the costs can be crushing. Connecting a sales channel to a preferred local inventory location can reduce costs and improve timeline with the right support from the commerce engine and order management systems.
Growing Outside of B2B
It’s a universal truth that we want what we can’t have and the same can be said for B2B companies who look at the opportunity for additional sales, revenue and margin with the expansion into the DTC market.
Setting aside the challenges of marketing and sales, opportunities to move beyond traditional B2B sales channels and apply new creative thinking and tactics to expand the business should be possible with a modern B2B eCommerce platform that enables scaling:
- Microsites & Brands
Generating new ideas and approaches to selling and targeting specific customer groups allows your team to spin up new storefronts. Think of the opportunity to take a slice of your product catalog and build a new storefront around it, enhanced with updated product descriptions or media to help sell.
- Proof of Concepts
How much investment is required to prove an idea? An agile and scalable commerce platform enables your team to test selling that doesn’t compromise operations. For example, reviewing the level of effort of connecting to a new marketplace with a new product feed based on existing data.
The potential for B2B businesses to experiment has never been greater. Creating microsites, building new brands, or connecting to marketplaces are transformative with the opportunity to create new customers and increase revenue. Businesses searching for their next B2B eCommerce platform provider, are best served by services that offer the flexibility and agility in configuration to support multiple sales channels out of the box for minimal setup and investment.
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