User Management in B2B Ecommerce: Registration, Approvals, Permissions

Although in a B2B world, users are regarded collectively through the prism of a single organization, their convenience and satisfaction are your top business priority. After all, all business interactions happen between people, and it’s still people who make business decisions and buy products behind the technological curtain. By prioritizing user management, you’re killing two birds with one stone: while improving your current interactions with customers, you are also working on retaining your relationships.

Before diving into user management in B2B, let’s reiterate a few key points from our last article on personalization.

In B2C, an account typically belongs to a single individual user who makes decisions independently and thinks of a shopping experience as entertainment. In B2B, on the contrary, the account structure is complex and involves multiple business units and individuals; decision making is systematic, and shopping is someone’s job.

We’ve highlighted the above points because a good user experience and management involve accommodating the user’s decision-making process. Bearing that in mind, in this article, we’ll look into such B2B user management components as user registration, approval workflows, access levels, and permission.

User registration

The user management starts with registration. If in B2C, the process is straightforward (and sometimes can be bypassed altogether), in B2B, registration is a complex procedure that may involve several steps, including those performed offline. A business user is more than just an abstract entity; a user is a business partner who must be verified (if stipulated by internal policies) and onboarded.

User registration might look like this:

  1. After a company submits registration details to a B2B ecommerce platform (via a link on the website), it goes through a qualification and verification process. The seller’s representative calls back to confirm the details and asks for more information to identify the client (or to ensure their solvency).
  2. Upon successful qualification, the client is onboarded as a business partner; the user who initiated the request is identified as an administrator with user privileges to add other authorized users.
  3. The administrator logs into the business portal with the received credentials and creates user profiles for individual users and business units such as teams, departments, branches, and so on. The authorized users can be assigned different roles and have varying access levels and permissions in accordance with their job functions and responsibilities.
  4. Administrators (or anyone else with relevant permissions) can create order templates, manage orders and other users (edit user details, add, or remove users).

Approval workflows in B2B ecommerce platform

An approval workflow is a standard business process that requires responsible individuals to sign off on data at a certain stage. A typical approval workflow will consist of multiple touchpoints with checks from different stakeholders. The number of stakeholders is directly proportional to the risk and value of the purchase.

Your B2B ecommerce platform should allow administrators (managers) of buying organizations to configure customizable approval rules for users to appraise and approve orders based on order value, the number of items, shipping costs, and other criteria specific to the customer’s business. Including customizable workflows into your B2B ecommerce platform is a significant step forward on the path to an all-encompassing self-service portal, which is a great way to increase customer satisfaction and reduce the collective effort required in controlling the workflow offline. You can also add other features like push notifications to speed up the approval process eliminating barriers and reducing the time it takes for customers to order.

6 steps of a simple order approval workflow

A simple order approval workflow may include the following 6 steps:

  1. A user places SKUs to the cart and proceeds to check out;
  2. The user enters shipping and payment details on the checkout page and hits ‘Submit purchase order’;
  3. At this stage, AI determines if the order qualifies for approval: assessment of value, number of SKUs, shipping costs;
  4. Approvers are notified by email/push notification;
  5. Approvers act on the notification and either approve or reject the order;
  6. In case of successful approval by all involved parties, the order is submitted.

Customers should be able to specify the rules and conditions that trigger additional stages of approvals. For example, if the order value exceeds $15,000 or the number of items exceeds 100 SKUs, the people responsible for order management receive a notification for an additional checkup.

Each rule might need its own thresholds and approvers in the following fashion:

  • If the value of the purchase order is less than $10,000, it is automatically approved;
  • If the value of the purchase order is more than $10,000 but less than $15,000, it must be approved by the purchasing manager;
  • If the value of the purchase order exceeds $15,000, it needs to be approved by both the purchasing and the financial manager.

Your B2B ecommerce platform needs to account for such granularity and allow users to set up their own rules, thresholds, approvers, and so on, from their user dashboards, without manual intervention from your developer team.

Access levels permissions in B2B ecommerce platform

Permission (access) management allows administrators to grant or revoke permissions to perform specific actions and define what users can do within their accounts. Because businesses tend to have multiple decision-makers and users with varying job responsibilities, it’s crucial to allow access to information on a need-by-need basis. For example, business partners may prefer some user groups to view certain pages but not edit them. Similarly, your business partner may prefer to limit access to catalogs to warehouse users who do not have catalog-related roles.

The B2B ecommerce platform must allow users to configure user roles and grant or revoke permissions.

Typically B2B ecommerce solutions have predetermined roles that can be further customized to reflect the tasks users perform within the ecommerce application.

For example, Virto Commerce permission management starts with assigning roles to users, where roles are just a collection of permissions. This way, a single role can be assigned to multiple users, or multiple roles can be assigned to a single user. Again, depending on the ecommerce solution of your choice, the permission structure can be different.

Some possible permissions may include:

  • Managing accounts (permission to create, remove, or edit accounts)

  • Managing roles (permission to create, remove, or edit roles)

  • Managing orders (permission to create, delete, or edit orders)

  • Managing catalogs (permission to create, delete, or edit catalogs): managing categories, managing SKUs

  • Managing price lists (permission to create, delete, or edit price lists): managing item pricing, managing import jobs (permission to import price lists)

  • Managing fulfillment inventory

  • Managing content publishing

The value of user management in B2B ecommerce

Because the customer lifetime in B2B is longer and transaction values are much higher, there’s fierce competition for leads. Thus, to stay ahead of the market game, your business needs to provide a better user experience to help customers do things independently. At the same time, your support team deals with more complex questions.

The user experience design must overcome the critical steps in the buyer’s journey: your B2B ecommerce platform must make it easy for customers to self-service and place orders without getting stuck on their way to checkout. Providing a good user experience and allowing your customers to manage their users according to their internal policies is a dramatic step forward in doing B2B ecommerce the right way.

Checklist for providing an exceptional customer experience 

These are a few takeaways on how to improve user management:

  • Design an easy and straightforward user registration process;
  • Design an experience that works for each type of user (accountant, operator, logistics manager, etc.);
  • Design for multiple jurisdictions and business granularity (department, branch, etc.)
  • Design seamless approval workflows and clear interactions between approvers;
  • Allow users to manage access levels and permissions;
  • Give customers a way to manage orders and reorders.

Needless to say, solutions need to be adapted on a case-by-case basis. Because of the diversity of possible scenarios, your B2B ecommerce platform needs to be flexible and extensible. Virto Commerce is both. Moreover, you can design any module you need, with any business logic, on top of the standard package.

If you are interested to learn more about how Virto Commerce can help your business achieve outstanding user management and experience, you can schedule a demo now. Our experts are always ready to help!

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Marina Vorontsova
Technical author and eCommerce advocate