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.
Business buyer behaviour is changing, influenced by online experiences as consumers and the rapid increase of millennials in positions to make or influence purchasing decision.
When planning for or improving a B2B eCommerce presence, there are numerous factors to consider and tools needed to position your business for Success.
Many of the 65k+ Australian businesses, particularly small businesses, are now placing orders via websites and many are eschewing 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 digital wallets being used by B2B buyers, as businesses accumulate value 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 65% of Australian shoppers will use or even have a preference for purchasing online. These modern buyers will take those experiences to all aspects of their life, including the workplace. In fact, as early as 2015 Google found that almost half of B2B buyers in the US were millennials who looked to purchase online before considering any other option.
As such, B2B companies need to provide a user experience for their customers that is consistent with those shoppers’ expectations, including providing features they have come to expect 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.
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 pre-set rules to provide error-free pricing that takes into account variables such as quantities, product margins, discounts, customisation, and optional features.
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. Research by Google says more than 80% of buyers use their smartphone at work and that in excess 42% and growing of online purchasing research is now done using mobile devices, so it’s essential for B2B ecommerce sites to be responsive for smart phones and tablets.
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.
We have become familiar with around the clock customer support delivered by automated chatbots. In many cases they can help buyers find what they want without the need for a telephone call. They can even help with re-orders when the buyer visits again and can up-sell and cross-sell products. While the take up in the B2B space has been slower than in B2C, it won’t be long before these sorts of user experience become more common place.
Similarly, advanced user tools like Augmented reality (AR) can now show what products will look like in the real world and can show users how to configure or repair them. Virtual reality (VR) can provide immersive demonstrations of how to configure, use or troubleshoot your products, even if they haven’t been delivered.
What features does eCorner provide to facilitate your new B2B eCommerce store or website? The following are just some of the great features available in eCorner stores and eCorner VARshops using Resellerate.
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.
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 don't 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to ability to restrict access to content by Customer or Customer Group.
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.
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 fulfil those requirements.
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 seemless and effective as possible.