Top B2B e-commerce challenges & solutions

Why would B2B companies switch to e-commerce? In essence, B2B e-commerce seems to follow the same procedures as B2C e-commerce: products and services are sold online. However, there are some differences between both. B2B e-commerce has its specific characteristics, unique requirements and complexities that can hardly be found in B2C.

Different sales scenarios

Whereas in the B2C sector, where every customer gets to see the same online product assortment, B2B digital commerce needs to be able to adapt to different customer requirements. You may offer custom bundles, tiers of product for different retailers based on the relationship you have with them or you could have other very specific sales scenarios. And at the end, your B2B commerce platform needs to be able to support all those scenarios. As a consequence, B2B e-commerce is often dealing with very large product catalogs. When migration to a new e-commerce platform is needed, the challenge is to migrate an entire database, which is not only huge but also extremely valuable. Out of fear that they will lose crucial data, some B2B companies even decide not to migrate at all and stick to their outdated system.

Complex pricing structure

The B2B industry faces significantly higher volumes and transactions that are much more complex than B2C, including multi-level approval processes and pricing negotiations. Your B2B e-commerce platform must be able to support all these options. It is very common for B2B companies to offer different prices to their customers, for example for long-term contracts or bulk orders, but also for initial purchases or promotions. B2B commerce platforms must be able to reflect the customer relationship and specific order conditions in the pricing, as well as special offers or other customer requirements such as special shipping and delivery conditions.

Multi-vendor catalogs

Considering that B2B digital commerce is a distinct type of sales with different sales models, processes, logistics, and shipping this requires a different system and a different approach. As your business grows and it acquires more and more customers and partners, it can become a real challenge to add a supplier to your catalog or deliver an updated version to every customer in your database.

Complex order approval processes

B2B often involves a complex distribution chain with their specific negotiations and approval processes. Another challenge for B2B digital commerce therefore lies in the buying journey with its extensive discovery and validation phases and numerous decision points. B2B buyers conduct multiple searches before engaging with a specific company and they need more information about product characteristics, advantages and features. In some instances, customers may need to understand how your products fit with other products or equipment they already have.

It is clear that B2B companies need a robust and flexible B2B commerce platform that offers all features to meet their specific needs.

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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.