B2B eCommerce is one of the most rapidly expanding sectors of the online market, with an increasing acceptance and expectation that business procurement can be facilitated seamlessly online. In 2020 we saw a dramatic rise in businesses selling online to consumers as many people went online to get contactless solutions. The same occurred with B2B, many organisations moved to work-from-home strategies and that meant face-to-face sales stopped. Even as we start to move to a more normal business environment the change in strategy is not going away. We also saw some companies moving to a "Direct to Consumer" or D2C model as their traditional channels and resellers limited operations.
Business buyer behaviour has changed, influenced by online experiences as consumers, and the rapid increase of millennials in positions to make or influence purchasing decision. We have seen a more "Mobile First" approach by buyers and consumers alike.
When planning for or improving a B2B eCommerce presence, there are numerous factors to consider and tools needed to position your business for Success.
Understanding and Implementing B2B eCommerce
Many Australian businesses, particularly small businesses, are now placing orders via websites and many are moving away from tradition B2B payment options (such as invoicing and credit terms) for the favourite B2C payment method - the credit card. We are also increasingly seeing the use of alternative payment methods such as buy now pay later being used by B2B buyers allowing short term business financing, as businesses gain experience in these options and they become more comfortable transacting with them. Businesses that aren’t ready to accept online payments will lose market share to competitors offering simpler, easier payment processes.
More than 70% of Australian shoppers will use or even have a preference for purchasing online. These online buyers will take those experiences to all aspects of their life, including the workplace.
Companies selling B2B are being forced to move to a contactless process and need to provide a user experience for business customers that is consistent with expectations, including providing features they have come to expected from their retail experiences like a range of payment and shipping methods, account personalisation and simplified purchasing processes.
Buyers are looking for fast and secure online ordering and payment solutions that can be tailored to their buying process. Providing tools to allow B2B purchasers to manage their orders, shopping lists, and/or quotes puts them in control of their procurement processes allowing for easier approvals and regular and simplified reordering.
Automating account pricing and quotes
Leading from the above is the need to be able to tailor the purchasing process for your B2B accounts, including tailoring pricing and discounts for their specific purchasing needs. Technology to allow the merchant to configure accounts specific pricing lists and provide tailored quotes, often integrated with back office systems, can be the solution. Quotes can be tailored according to set rules to provide error-free pricing that takes into account variables such as quantities, product margins, discounts, customisation, and optional features.
Mobile first strategy
The vast majority of shoppers will immediately turn to Google to search before any other source for product research. Most buyers will now conduct online research before making their purchasing decision. Over 80% of buyers use their smartphone at work and in excess 60% of online purchasing research is now done using mobile devices, so it is essential for B2B eCommerce sites to be responsive for smart phones and tablets.
Enabling B2B marketplaces
While the US and others are already accustomed to the likes of Amazon Business and eBay offering specific B2B marketplaces, this trend is just beginning to grow in Australia. More and more B2B businesses are seeking a way to get their products in front of potential purchasers, and the marketing power and search engine dominance of these major marketplaces makes them the perfect tool to develop a presence for your products.
A carefully considered strategy around product placement and availability across platforms like Google Shopping, Amazon and eBay can often be more effective than an equivalent effort on PPC (pay-per-click) advertising like Google Adwords for B2B vendors.
Custom Business Portals
Personalisation has been common in B2C for some time. Companies are now looking to find that same personalisation from their suppliers. Customer accessible secure portals that allows for fast purchases from a pre-defined catalogue are a competitive advantage. These allow management of the business negotiation and buying process by controlling products purchased and also adding in workflow with purchase authorisation.
Sales Representative and Operator Portals
Like Custom Portals for clients internal sales staff want the benefit that going online can bring. Sales staff, help desk and in-house sales can be completed online in a more streamline process using Operator Forms. By providing a secure access to an online portal orders can be created and managed along with client order history and management levels of authority.
Direct to Consumer (D2C)
D2C has been a market pivot for many traditional suppliers and distributors. It has enabled traditional B2B only companies to expand their market base by using existing supply chains and logistics. D2C has been seen as a lifesaver for many agri-businesses and primary producers that have been restricted during the COVID crisis. But like other innovations we don't see this changing moving forward.
User Account Capability
Businesses need generally to pay based on invoice (although as noted above, the use of credit cards and electronic payments is rising). The user accessing the B2B site to place an order needs to have their credentials verified via a user name and password. This will allow changes in the user experience and information available to access, including tailor pricing and/or catalogues specifically for the registered user.
Every user that has access to the B2B website needs to be assigned certain capabilities like allowed payment methods or special pricing. Customer Groups allow the site owner to manage this tailored experience for each user that can control their actions in the website. Customer Groups are also used for marketing and promotional purposes. A Customer Group might be one company (and its employees) or a group of companies.
In some cases, the business will want the site closed, or pricing hidden, to anyone who does not have credentials to log in to the website. In this case only limited content such as a home page marketing message or simplified product catalogue is seen by the general visitor who might try to access the site.
Special Pricing or Price Lists
B2B customers rarely use the recommended retail price (RRP), and may be discouraged from your site if they are shown full retail pricing.
Most B2B systems will have multiple prices for each product with a specific price, discount or markup assigned to a specific customer group. While most people understand the concept of RRP and discounts, it is becoming increasingly common that B2B sites do not deal with RRP at all. The base price is instead set by the manufacturers wholesale price and the price to each customer is based on a "mark-up" or a percentage increase to the base price. B2B systems have to be flexible to handle many different pricing scenarios with both bulk or value-based discounting at a product level.
Multiple Currencies, Countries and Languages
Many businesses sell internationally and need to be able to present their products in different currencies and languages. Internationally eCommerce is booming with huge growth markets like China and the south east Asian nations looking to Australia for quality products. Allowing your site to be quickly and easily switched between multiple currencies and languages improves the user experience for international buyers, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion.
Get a Quote rather than Buy a product
Due to internal procurement processes, most businesses need to get quotes and issue Purchase Orders (POs) before buying a product.
A B2B solution needs to reflect the business processes that most companies use. Once the correct product (or products) have been selected the customer should be able to request a quote online and if acceptable return with a PO and complete the checkout process.
To be effective and seemless, a B2B eCommerce solution has to be able to handle the negotiation electronically and the merchant needs to be able to update and reissue a quote in real time.
The B2B eCommerce solution should also provide all the information necessary for you to properly determine reasonable pricing for your quotes including relevant purchase costs, availability of stock and/or the cost of shipping.
Supplier Inventory Data Feeds
Many businesses and distributors have the products that they sell shipped directly from the manufacturer or distributor warehouse (this has become commonly known as ‘drop shipping’).
The available stock and price might change daily and there may be many different warehouse locations across multiple suppliers. Accuracy in price and availability is essential as often margins can be slim. Updates from data feeds provided by your suppliers need to be automated to update when changes occur to avoid sales which are below cost or unable to be fulfilled.
Just as critical to the success of many B2B systems as the ability to automatically accept data feeds is the ability to create similar data feed files from your B2B system that are sent to the businesses that might resell your products.
Restrict Content by Customer Groups
There may be some content on the online store that is not open to just anyone accessing the site. This might be access to specific product information or assets or it could be marketing information that is confidential to business partners. B2B sites need the ability to restrict access to content by Customer or Customer Group.
Supplier Purchase Orders
Businesses sell products that might come from many different suppliers but when a company is ordering those online from a B2B website they expect the total order to be fulfilled. In the B2B environment, the system needs to differentiate products from different suppliers that are in the same order. When the order is created the system then creates multiple sub-orders and purchase orders to go to each supplier or warehouse.
Integration and Customisation Essential
If the business running the B2B website is substantial and handling 1000's of orders and maybe 100,000's of products then integration to back office and third party systems is a key factor of success.
Most larger businesses will rely on back office systems like ERP, CRM or accounting systems to manage the business overall, and will have a range of 3rd party suppliers managing everything from logistics to payment automation. The ability for the B2B website to integrate seamlessly is essential to ensure efficient operations.
This also extends to the user experience of your B2B buyers, the ability to build custom functionality and to modify the existing functionality and user experience is essential to engage and convert potential shoppers in much the same way as retail B2C stores. You may also need to manage payments, logistics or commissions on behalf of your resellers and need to tailor the order process and reporting to capture and fulfill those requirements.
B2B websites still need a great user experience and a mobile friendly and responsive design. Business buyers expect the same quality of experinece online as any consume might expect. So when building your B2B website make sure that you get the user expectation and user experience correct. You can find out more about website design at our recent blog.
eCorner can tailor any of our Enterprise packages specifically to your business needs to ensure both your shoppers’ experiences and your back office processes are as seamless and effective as possible.
Of you would like further information please contact eCorner.
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