Selecting the Perfect B2B eCommerce Platform: Expert Guide & Practical Tips for Informed Decisions in 2023
When the business looks for a B2B ecommerce platform, vendors often promise that their solution will fit them in all aspects. In reality, all B2B solutions are different, and the right choice is deeply related to business needs, the need for innovation, and the financial capabilities of ecommerce.
So how to choose a b2b ecommerce platform? To ensure your business will be ready for any market changes, your first task is to realize what B2B ecommerce is and what kind of a B2B ecommerce platform your business needs and then find a solution that would scale its ecommerce capabilities without being expensive and adapt it to all market needs while making it possible to get all vendor updates.
This article will cover more than just the theory of looking for a perfect platform. We provide some practical guides from our experts to help you realize what you need and make your final decision informed.
We will also briefly compare the popular platforms in this article. To learn more about it, see another Virto's complete guide on the best B2B ecommerce platforms.
- FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A B2B ECOMMERCE PLATFORM
- STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE: HOW TO CHOOSE THE PERFECT B2B ECOMMERCE PLATFORM
- STEP 1. REALIZING YOUR NEEDS
- STEP 2. UNDERSTANDING YOUR RISKS OF DISRUPTION
- STEP 3. CONSIDER YOUR BUDGET READINESS
- STEP 4. COMPARING ECOMMERCE PLATFORMS: HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST FIT
- STEP 5. UNDERSTANDING THE B2B COMMERCE PLATFORM IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS
- WHY VIRTO
Factors to Consider When Choosing a B2B eCommerce Platform
Many ecommerce experts believe architectural properties and functional features are the most important things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform. Businesses often purchase B2B ecommerce platforms relating to their brands: people prefer buying something well-known and popular. However, brand, architecture, and feature set are not the main things to look at when you are choosing the platform, hoping the company will use it for years.
In Virto, we are sure that the choice should not only be defined by a platform as business readiness and market state affect the final choice. There are three much more important factors to consider, and I think most of the business owners would agree with it:
- For the market part, it is the risk of disruption — understanding if you need innovation to win over your competitors and how far you need to go with it.
- As for the company, investment readiness is important. This means the budget you are ready to spend for implementation and innovation.
- And from the solution itself, we mean platform capabilities — not the particular features, but general technical maturity and readiness to take you to another level.
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Choose the Perfect B2B eCommerce Platform
Every right choice is based on the plan. Here, we offer a detailed guide on how to find the solution that 100% fits your business.
- Realize what your business needs and what you want.
- Analyze if you are at risk of disruption.
- Think about budgeting and investments.
- Select B2B platforms and evaluate them, leaving the ones that don’t fit behind.
- Communicate to selected vendors and try demos.
- Go through solution implementation.
Let’s discover each step separately.
Step 1. Realizing Your Needs
First of all, you need to define your expectations from the new platform. Before diving into any ecommerce enterprise solution, pinpoint your company's objectives and requirements. While most organizations target higher profits and minimized expenses, consider these queries:
- Why do I need a b2b ecommerce solution?
- Which business models are you going to implement?
- How many stores and portals would you need?
- In which regions are you going to work?
- What is your selling scale? Consider the order volume, catalog, etc.
- Which functionalities are essential?
- Is mobile compatibility for your ecommerce site a must?
- What's your timeline for scaling up?
- Which software are you going to integrate?
- Can you cover B2B ecommerce platform needs?
Your answers will clarify your anticipations of the new ecommerce system, enabling you to furnish vendors with a comprehensive rundown of your requirements.
To help find the needs faster, identify shortcomings in your current system. Recognizing the current limitations helps pinpoint your future solution's necessities. Document issues like sluggish speeds, the system buckling under high traffic, limited integration avenues, or security concerns.
Step 2. Understanding Your Risks Of Disruption
The most crucial reason for B2B ecommerce replatforming in 2023 is the growing risk of disruption. The new challenge is more than just selling a lot. Businesses are fighting over market share and customer loyalty. While 90% of businesses realize digitalization is the key, only 16% are ready for bold innovation. The reality is that only those adopting an innovation journey now will skyrocket their business in the future. Here, we provide a short guide on quickly realizing your disruption risk.
Am I going to be disrupted?
While it seems that the disruption risk always lies in your competitors only, your own business analysis can showcase how to avoid such a disruption. Try asking yourself the following questions or engage some technical experts who can analyze the current state of your business. The alarming signs you need to innovate ASAP are these:
- Your digital revenue is less than 10%.
- Your digital revenue didn’t grow over the last three years.
- During the last 12 months, you haven’t added anything new to your ecommerce solution that would impress your customers and get good reviews.
- Your team lacks knowledge about your clientele and is not sure how your ecommerce platform is used.
- Your employees prefer not to mention the company's ecommerce solution when selling to the clients.
If you reply to these questions honestly, you’ll see how much is your ecommerce worth right now. If it's not enough — it’s time to innovate. But before we start choosing the solution that fits you, let’s confirm our assumptions with some competitor analysis. Even if you got one point in the previous quiz only, the following things surely mean you will be disrupted during a couple of years:
- You guess that your biggest competitors are planning to use some new and efficient digital commerce software.
- Your most significant competitor's narrative includes more and more digital services.
- Your competitors constantly enhance separate B2B ecommerce features of their platform.
Got one of them? Prepare for innovation. Need a better confirmation? Here we go to see what your customers are doing:
- They speak a lot about new digital startups they work with or probably consider.
- They use some new digital-born services along with your products.
- They turn to buying from marketplaces more and more often. It’s important to understand that if your customers prefer marketplaces in most cases, it means the disruption has already happened.
- The clients share their positive experiences with some third-party ecommerce solutions.
Important! If you made this small analysis and realized that there are no risks for you right now, you are probably that one lucky guy! In some industries, the digital disruption process is prolonged. However, as McKinsey claims, the fact that digital disruption is happening at different speeds for different industries shouldn’t lead those industries where it’s happening slower to assume it’s not happening. This means you probably do not need to replatform right now, but keep your eyes open and look through these simple signs every quarter to make an informed decision timely.
Continuous digital innovation is the only way to avoid disruption by competitors and probably take a good share of the market yourself. If your niche is highly competitive, innovation is what you need.
Step 3. Consider Your Budget Readiness
Any ecommerce requires some investments, and the major measure is the total cost of ownership (TCO). It includes everything you pay for:
- The cost of acquisition solutions
- License fees
- Cost of operations like maintenance, resources, and more
- Cost of continuous innovations
The most important part is estimating the TCO in the beginning. To find out how much you are going to pay over the price mentioned by the vendor, engage with some technical experts who will tell you the real cost of the solution.
Why is it so important? The TCO can differ significantly. For example, SAP developers and experts are much more expensive than WooCommerce ones, and businesses using SAP have to hire more employees. Some solutions need more resources, while others can deliver excellent results with less. This is why planning your budget only after the TCO is crucial.
Predicting the cost of innovation
The important factor is that any innovation must be affordable because you will spend more after the implementation, as innovation requires constant effort.
Nevertheless, the cost of innovation usually takes the biggest part of the solution. Here, we mean further scaling, additional features, capabilities, and resources spent to achieve what you need.
It is a tricky element that really needs your attention as it might be 10x or 100x bigger than you think, reaching millions of dollars in total. And the truth is that all these investments will depend on the initial decision of what platform to choose.
So, how to select a B2B ecommerce platform with an affordable cost of innovation? Check the points below to determine if your future innovation will be affordable:
- The standard implementation and maintenance team size is small, making it easy to find new employees.
- Quick onboarding: newcomers are integrated into the development within 2 weeks.
- Frequent releases: a team quickly releases new features once or twice a month.
- Different teams can independently release various features.
- Adding features after one, three, or five years is equally easy.
- Launching each new region costs no more than 40%-50% of the launch cost of the initial solution.
- Features implemented in one region can be transferred to another, with the migration cost being no more than 10% of the feature's price.
- Handling increased load is easy by adding resources, and the operational cost increases linearly.
Use this checklist to realize if the platform you are about to buy provides a really affordable cost of innovation.
Most of the vendors are not ready to answer these questions honestly. This means the only way to learn what's behind their commercial offer is to engage with some third-party technical expert ready to review the platform for you and tell you the truth.
Step 4. Comparing eCommerce Platforms: How to Choose the Best Fit
As we discussed the need for disruption and budgeting, here we offer a convenient diagram on how to realize which kind of solution you most probably need.
Here is a little explanation: the bigger your risk of disruption is, the more innovation you are going to need. It would be perfect if everyone used their own well-designed ecommerce platform. However, small innovative ecommerce solutions cannot cover the needs of bigger businesses and it will take really significant time to get your investments returned. This is why choosing something more comprehensive like Virto Commerce B2B ecommerce platform is the best idea when your budget allows it. It usually makes sense: the more you earn (and the bigger your budget is) means more volumes and greater technological needs.
On the other hand, if you realize that you do not need innovation at all, but need a certain set of features and stability, you are probably going to need some huge well-known solutions that are bad at innovations but provide many needed features out of the box.
How to choose ecommerce platform based on your disruption risk
Some technical capabilities of a perfect ecommerce platform for innovators
When you realize that innovation is a must, it’s time to dive deeper into platform capabilities and features. Let’s look at some of the most important factors to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform.
The system should be able to grow resources and capabilities seamlessly and affordably. This capability is important as any business inevitably scales and should be ready for any case of sudden growth.
This is the ability to directly add new entities, functions, and algorithms to the product. For example, in Virto, business logic is separated into separate modules in the platform and is not a part of the storefront.
3. Open code
Open source allows for the simple creation of new features, less dependency on the vendor, and greater flexibility. Developers can transparently see the code and work with it at their facilities.
This means separate frontends and the backend. The headless architecture is perfect for multiple websites creation and easy maintenance.
5. API integration capabilities
Any function and data should be quickly and affordably integrated with external systems. In a perfect system, any functionality can be replaced by external systems like catalogs, prices, and more. You can easily attach new channels to the platform, like third-party platforms and different stores.
6. Adaptability and updatability
The adaptability of a platform is determined by its readiness to adapt to any situation and integrations flexibly. With a flexible architecture like Virto Atomic Architecture™, solutions are all ready for any change.
Updatability means that valuable updates from the vendor come often and can be installed seamlessly. While some solutions only offer the change of the whole module, modern solutions like Virto can upgrade key features without affecting other processes.
7. Simple and transparent customization
It's essential to cater to an intuitive user interface, personalized content and efficient business workflows are paramount. At the developers' level, it's important to provide a convenient workflow. To make all these processes faster, business needs more customization. If the solutions are poorly organized, new developers have to go through the old inefficient code and learn a lot. The cost of any change grows. As for the customers, they might prefer more convenient systems.
A modular system supporting customization by design, at its core, is the key. Such systems are inherently more adaptable, allowing businesses to pick, choose, and adapt features that align perfectly with their specific needs. Seamless integration with existing enterprise systems becomes easier, and scaling the platform as the business grows is more straightforward.
In essence, for businesses seeking agility and precision in their B2B operations, choosing a well-designed ecommerce platform or B2B wholesale ecommerce platform isn't just beneficial; it's essential. The flexibility it offers ensures that companies can remain adaptable, efficient, and customer-centric in the dynamic B2B landscape.
Future-proofing your ecommerce platform choice
When choosing the solution, you most probably need it to work and deliver for years. How to ensure your solution is future-proof and in ten years will be the same efficient as today? Here are some tips to consider:
- Engage technical experts to check out the platform and ensure it is ready to scale with your business.
- Talk to your vendor directly: ask them several questions about platform architecture, readiness to support in case of force-majeur, and the methods they use to keep the platform relevant.
- Estimate the TCO including cost of innovation and plan your investments for it.
If you do all that, you will be sure that this platform is the one!
Popular B2B ecommerce platform choice
Choosing the right platform requires an understanding of all the things we listed. Before deciding on what solution fits you best, start with a platform comparison. Here, we provide an example, taking the most popular platforms on the market.
Sana Commerce is the simplest basic ecommerce platform created to be built on top of ERPs. It offers almost no flexibility and CX customization. The solution is really affordable, but it doesn’t allow for innovation. This means, it only fits businesses without the risk of digital disruption with small investment capabilities, needing simple operations. For example, it can be a good beginner distributor B2B ecommerce platform and businesses with zero ecommerce experience.
SAP Commerce Cloud (previously known as Hybris) is designed to streamline large businesses. SAP’s strength is a vast range of features, but the poor side is almost no innovation capabilities. While already pricey with a vast feature set, procuring extra capabilities can be exceptionally costly. Any innovation requires many expensive developers and prolonged time. In reality, SAP only fits large businesses not afraid of disruption at all but needing many OOTB features.
Magento is known for its open-source code, which provides creation of different functional plugins. Such a solution provides certain innovation capabilities in the beginning of a journey, but they become more and more complicated while growing price continuously. Magento is not too affordable, so it mostly fits companies who are not about to be disrupted yet but aim to be prepared during the upcoming years.
Virto Commerce is a technologically advanced deeply innovated .NET-based B2B ecommerce platform known for its unique Virto Atomic Architecture™. This approach allows for long-run innovation that lasts for years without increasing the cost of it.
The platform is initially tailored to deliver value for enterprises; and it aims to protect businesses from disruption in multiple ways.
Step 5. Understanding the B2B Commerce Platform Implementation Process
Upon ecommerce platform implementation, it's crucial to recognize that B2B processes can be more intricate than B2C, given the complexities in pricing, bulk orders, payment terms, and customer relationships. Here are the steps to guide you through this process:
- MVP scope definition. Find out the minimum features your ecommerce needs and start with designing it.
- Requirement analysis. Identify what you are going to need, user roles and permissions, and capabilities you lack right now.
- Platform development and testing. Select a team that will create your ecommerce in detail. Check all the backend and frontend capabilities of your ecommerce app.
- User acceptance testing. Try the ecommerce features together with your real users to understand if the full UX cycle works correctly.
- Data migration. Transmit the existing data from other systems you used. Here, you might need APIs.
- Go-live. Simply launch your ecommerce solution and track how it works.
- Training and launch. Offer training sessions to your team to ensure they know what they do.
- Ongoing support and continuous innovations. Regularly update the platform in accordance with your customer needs.
Virto Commerce is an affordable solution designed for innovations and creating a winning customer experience. While being ready to integrate with any third-party solution, Virto works as an open-source solution which underlines Virto's culture, with code transparency evident on GitHub.
The following features and capabilities make Virto unique and perfect software for B2B:
- Open-source approach: Virto's code is transparent and openly available on GitHub.
- Modular Atomic Architecture: Enables faster innovation, feature creation, and development.
- API-first approach: A headless platform where all functionalities are accessible via API layers, including xAPI (GraphQL) and Rest API (OpenAPI).
Moreover, the broad experience with different enterprise customers brought Virto expert team to unique personalized approach. As we realized that the success of our customers in a long run plays a significant role, Virto is more than just a vendor implementing the system. The team is a dedicated partner ready to offer supporting services at each step of the choice, implementation, and use, and analyze the current state of your business to ensure what you really need.
If you have learned to prioritize customer value, make decisions quickly, and choose the right ecommerce platform, you can confidently defend your market share from the attacks of digital disruptors. Companies that have addressed this issue earlier than others have every chance to integrate digital channels into their strategy in such a way as to stop being a victim and participate in market redistribution at the expense of more sluggish competitors.
So, this is the best road to go when you want to keep your place in the market or even grow:
- Realize if you are at risk of disruption, as we described in an article.
- Choose the kind of B2B ecommerce platform you need.
- Consider digital platforms available per the list of key features we provided.
Whether you are not the one lucky business that is not afraid of disruption, learn more about modern well-architectured solutions: start with the Virto Commerce demo, request a meeting to get some advice on where to start with your new platform choice or read our B2B ecommerce blog to learn more.