Which capabilities should a modern B2B ecommerce platform include in order to be effective?

Many companies are switching to digital, switching to ecommerce, including the B2B sector. However, we still regularly come across B2B companies asking the question ''Why should we opt for ecommerce?'' Today, not one B2B company wants to grow commercially, strengthen customer loyalty or facilitate self-service without its own ecommerce platform. As a B2B organization, the focus is continuously on optimizing business processes. By integrating ecommerce within the company, many things can be automated: sales, purchasing, warehousing, administration, staff management etc. Few companies think about this or they believe ecommerce is not possible within their sector or that nobody knows their customers as well as they do. Nothing could be further from the truth. eCommerce is possible in any sector, depending how it is presented to the customers, especially in B2B.

Some of the ecommerce capabilities discussed in this article are crucial since most B2B customers expect the supplier's website to be user-friendly, just like a regular B2C webshop. Besides, the user’s journey depends on the online platform’s functionality, which requires extra careful consideration when choosing an ecommerce solution for the business.

To choose the right platform, you need to be informed about the most up-to-date and effective B2B platform capabilities. So, what exactly do you need to consider?

1) Omnichannel

From your clients’ point of view, this means they can start shopping in one of the sales channels, and if necessary, finish in another. For example, this can be relevant when a client adds construction material to his basket but then wants to correct his order and places it through a mobile application.

Omnichannel sales helps to simplify the purchase of goods for B2B clients. No matter which channel the customer uses – website, social networks or messenger – the purchase experience must be fast and consistent.

As a result, it is not enough for B2B companies to launch as many sales channels as possible, but it is essential to integrate them with each other. This helps increase sales and avoids customer dissatisfaction. You want to avoid asking the buyer's data over the phone if he already entered them on the website or if his shopping cart seems empty when he continues his order from a mobile app.

2) Content & catalog management

You should be able to quickly and easily upload, edit and delete content from your catalog. Imagine you need to add 50 new products to your webshop and there are no capabilities to manage this content. It will take you too long, and wasting time is not what we strive for. In ecommerce being fast and efficient is vital to keep your catalog and inventory up to date and stay competitive on market.

3) Ability to integrate

API integration allows your ecommerce platform to communicate with other platforms and software to expand the functionality. As your webshop evolves, you will understand which integrations you need.

There are undoubtedly many valuable integrations for ecommerce, but these 4 must definitely be at the top of your priorities:

  • Integration with ERP and CRM. It would not make sense if online sales or ecommerce are not connected to the company's back-office software. This allows us to treat each customer (or group of customers) differently in terms of prices, promotions...as we indicated before, in addition to updating the stock in our store, among other things.
  • Analytics. The ability to generate reports that measure traffic and identify sources, analyze how visitors interact with your website – will allow you to understand and optimize the customer journey and communication channels. Besides, having tools to understand sales volume, average purchase value, and other retail KPIs will help you to identify opportunities to increase revenue and prioritize your customers.
  • Feedback manager. We all know how important reviews are. Most of the users go straight to the reviews and decide whether to buy the item or not. That said, having a good feedback management integration is one of the most powerful tools in an online shop. This tool should be verified as a Google Partner to make sure that it meets all requirements and helps to better position your shop in search engines.
  • Marketing. Email marketing, SMM, content marketing, personalization, automation. In a decent B2B ecommerce platform, you get a ton of valuable insight into your customers and their buying behavior. Don't let this information go to waste. Integrate email marketing services with your platform and organize your mailing right. You may also use cross-selling and upselling techniques thanks to the platform functionality for even more effective sales.

4) SEO-friendly

B2B ecommerce industry is much more sophisticated and is far from the B2C transactions. These are high risk transactions that involve not only lawyers but also negotiations, multiple meetings, and more. Considering the complexity of B2B ecommerce transactions and the intent of the “end buyers”, these purchases usually include deep pre-transactional research. And here comes SEO for B2B ecommerce industry which is a crucial touchpoint here. It is a mistake to think SEO is not important for B2B. Organic search can provide quality leads and eventually cater contract closures.

In simple words, SEO is all it takes to ensure your online shop is visible to the search engines. Large part of all customer searches come from Google. The level of optimization of your store will determine whether your customers find your products or services at all.

B2B enterprises need to put the work to determine the priority keywords and support them via content creation, backlinking, and interlinks.

It is vital for a B2B ecommerce platform to have a possibility to set:

  1. A decent sitemap
  2. High quality metadata information
  3. Headers optimized (h1, h2, h3 and more if possible)
  4. Be technically optimized (canonical tags, schema markups, etc.)
  5. Link opportunities (interlinking, backlinking)
  6. Easy-to-navigate user interface

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5) Mobile-friendly

The B2B market is also going mobile just like B2C. Google’s research indicates that mobile drives or influences over 40% of revenue in the top B2B companies. Boston Consulting Group expects this year the number of B2B search queries from smartphones to grow up to 70%. Why is the use of smartphones and tablets growing in B2B? The answer is straightforward: businesses also want to track purchases and inventory status in real-time and be mobile, as the immediacy trend has become vital to keep up with the fast-moving market.

That is why it is crucial to have a mobile-friendly webshop to browse from smartphones quickly and easily

Still, most users experience difficulties in completing a transaction from their smartphones. So, it is more important than ever to offer a smooth experience to your customer, so you won’t miss any opportunity to sell your goods or services and to establish a loyal relation with your client.

6) Security

How often have you been unsure, while shopping online, whether or not your personal data will get stolen? Security is one of the most important things an ecommerce platform should offer a client. The platform must allow you to install an SSL certificate, so the data is secured and encrypted.

If the platform you choose is the one that processes the payments, you must ensure it complies with the PCI security standards. It refers to the technical and operational standards companies must follow to ensure the cardholders credit card data are protected.

In general, the protection of personal data in B2B is particularly important: in parallel with an in-depth study of user data, companies must ensure the protection of this data for their partners and customers.

7) Scalability

Any business strives for growth and an increase in cash flow. In B2B, ecommerce growth means an increase in traffic, products and inventory, and multiple simultaneous purchases. One of the most common pitfalls, when an online shop develops, is user traffic peaks. Unlike B2C, for B2B, successful processing of peak times is vital, as clients usually make orders at the same time (mostly in the mornings). Sooner or later, a site not being designed to withstand the user flow will go down, causing you to lose customers and confidence in your business. That is why it is crucial to determine short-, medium- and long-term objectives, so you have a clear idea of the goals you should strive for to sustain the growth of your e-business.

Don’t forget that scaling down at night is also important as it reduces IT costs significantly.

8) Chatbot

The popularity of chat bots is growing rapidly. Today, when B2B customers need help with a purchase, they want to enter a request and get a prompt response without hanging on the phone and losing their business opportunities.

Thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI), chatbots started giving personal recommendations, which is a great advantage for ecommerce. Chatbot collect information about customers, their location, products purchased to facilitate a repeat purchase or make a personal offer. Also, chatbots work 24 hours a day without lunch breaks, increasing the loyalty of your webshop visitors.

In order to be effective, these 8 capabilities must be incorporated into a modern B2B ecommerce platform. With this article a number of considerations about what to look for in an ideal ecommerce platform have been clarified. However, each company needs to define the list of features that a modern platform should have in order to enable businesses to achieve their business goals.

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About the author of this article

Ilse Lauwens
Director Marketing

As Director Marketing, Ilse Lauwens is driving and executing the marketing campaigns for Virto Commerce looking for synergies and opportunities, while understanding customer & partner needs in the different markets. Ilse has held marketing management roles on a Belgian and European level at different industry leaders in IT, such as WordPerfect, SAS Institute, Cognos, Microsoft and Sitecore.