Welcome to our new “Scaling B2B eCommerce” series published with our partners at DigiCommerce. We’re 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 & B2B eCommerce
B2B eCommerce has always presented unique challenges that have held back early adoption. Since its inception, customers have had to contend with large catalogs with complicated product configurations, complex customer pricing and quoting systems, and product tracking and delivery.
With the impact of COVID-19 on most businesses, B2B enterprises started transacting business digitally, making significant investments in eCommerce to make transactions faster, easier, and more secure, and to retain customers and find new ones.
In part 1 of our series, we discussed how to leverage additional sales channels with eCommerce to reach new customers or expand existing opportunities while connected and integrated into a single commerce platform.
In this article, we delve into delivering at scale and growing your business properly through eCommerce. By selecting an agile eCommerce platform, which allows for more custom configuration, your digital commerce business will grow and mature over time, gaining many advantages in the long term.
Pricing & Delivering Value
Traditional B2B means getting to know customers before they buy—Is a “new” online customer eligible for the best price? In any business setting, establishing a relationship with customers before they make a purchase is considered an important, if not crucial, aspect of the sales process. It allows for a better understanding of the customer’s needs, preferences, and expectations. Understanding these three factors contributes to offering more personalized solutions and services, with the ultimate aim of gaining repeat business by giving the new customer the “best price”.
Building relationships one customer at a time – Building relationships in eCommerce involves a combination of personalized interactions, excellent customer service, and a strategic approach to meeting your customer’s unique needs.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in eCommerce is building relationships with customers without ever speaking to them. There are several strategies you can use to foster and nurture connections with your new customers.
- Loyalty programs and automatically adjusted pricing rewards programs for the best customers. Offering promotions or exclusive discounts incentivizes repeat business and makes your customers feel valued.
- Tiered pricing structures or quantity-based pricing—Prices of products or services can be adjusted based on order volume or purchasing history. This allows customers to see potential benefits like discounts up front, which motivates them to complete the transaction.
- Interactive website features that are data driven —Your website can be enhanced with interactive features like chat and automated recommendations. With an eCommerce API and integrations, are you able to successfully connect apps, services and other integrated technologies to the platform to get the data they need?
Customers can be assured of a seamless experience through self-service account creation on your platform, instant account activation, transparent pricing and terms, mobile optimization, and automated order processing.
For as long as technology is evolving and new systems required, integration will always be needed for any B2B enterprise. Keeping the eCommerce platform connected with the business need not be an obstacle.
Integrating your commerce platform with other business systems ensures a seamless flow of information across online and offline channels. This consistency is crucial for providing a unified experience, where data is synchronized and accessible from various touchpoints.
- All information is consistent across platforms from offline to online—sales reps can leverage and access the data that they need with a single view into the customer’s order history.
- Meeting customer expectations—B2B customers increasingly expect the convenience of online transactions. Integrating your commerce platform with payment gateways and financial systems allows customers to pay bills online and manage credit balances effortlessly.
- Using preferred payment methods across channels—The ability to accommodate diverse payment preferences enhances the customer experience, reduces friction in the buying process, and contributes to higher satisfaction levels. The preferred payment methods include credit cards, digital wallets, ACH transfers, or any other payment options that your customers commonly use.
- Access to order history and quotes requires integrations between systems—This allows for a holistic view of customer interactions, from initial quotes to completed orders.
Changing Business Objectives
Business objectives constantly change, often needing a huge shift in strategy. A modular commerce service with a robust API and connection layer takes the stress off, giving you the capability to integrate and connect more optimally and efficiently.
While any change requires some adjustment and investment to accommodate, all these can be resolved properly with the correct integration.
- New services and partners — There will always be new partners and new challenges to solve. Agile integration will overcome this particular obstacle.
- New Strategies — swing to a B2B model? Launching new brands? Adding sales channels? Most new business strategies aren’t as dramatic as those, however, more subtle shifts in marketing, sales or operational plans may cause just as much chaos to any B2B eCommerce platform. How extensible is the platform? Does creating integrations require external services or additional development resources? A flexible platform solution will allow for several unique integration and connection solutions including automation, API, and external services.
Platform Configuration & Management
Over time, your platform will need to be adjusted to accommodate other needs that will materialize. It will have to become a different tool for your organization if it is to continue to be a critical piece of your technology stack.
Your enterprise’s tech stack is the most important factor in this equation. Many aspects will have to come into consideration before a new configuration can be implemented.
Is the platform extensible or configurable with other services? For example, if a new service comes on the market and is clearly a better service option than an integrated or built-in module, could you migrate to the better option? Furthermore, how many of those services are built into the new option? An in-depth evaluation should be made before choosing one over the other.
Through demos and existing customer interviews, are you able to gain an understanding that a platform has a “configure-first” approach or a “customize” approach? “Configure-first” approach assumes that most adaptations can be made within the platform administration as opposed to a “customize” approach which assumes that numerous new services or plugins will be required. Again, diving deep into both platforms should be made to determine the best possible course to take.
Adapting New Technologies
New technologies and services are always on the horizon and may offer value to any number of departments in an organization.
The advantages and disadvantages of connecting new services should always be considered. For example, if you have two options to facilitate a connection between services, one directly API-based and the other, through an integrator service, which would you choose?
While there may be some advantages to the third-party service, disadvantages like additional third-party payments, vendor-customer relationship conflicts, and system downtime will certainly occur.
On the other hand, configuring an API may cost your company more time, though it can be cheaper in the long run.
B2B companies need to consider scaling from two perspectives when planning eCommerce investments and platform decisions. Firstly, how will their business change in the short and long term in terms of sales channels, business goals, order volume, and more? How does that change in scale relate to the goals of the transformation or migration investment?
Secondly, is scaling technology services and solutions to meet future needs with the goal being to avoid any requirement to upgrade or migrate possible or not?
Companies who make the wisest decisions create solutions that more than meet their needs in the short term, but have the flexibility to extend well into the future and can leverage service agencies and technology teams to build meaningful integrations to create new platform values.
Want to read more? Our first post in the B2B scaling series covers growing and managing B2B eCommerce sales channels.
A new blog series about the critical eCommerce capabilities missing in most eCommerce platforms for B2B companies. #1: Quoting & Sales Support
A closer look from the Ultra perspective on what we really mean when we talk about headless commerce and why it may not be right for every company.