Although B2B eCommerce doesn’t garner the same buzz and attention of its B2C counterpart, it already accounts for more revenue ($559B vs. $252B) and is growing faster as well – 20% in 2013 vs. 12% for B2C. A key reason behind this explosive growth is the expectations of B2B buyers. Just as they’ve become accustomed to the ability to make retail and lifestyle purchases online, they’ve begun searching for a similar user experience when making business purchases. This has disrupted the B2B market significantly and consumerization is presenting complexities that B2B companies have never faced before. (Take a look at our friend Bill, who ran into the same problem.)
Best-in-class B2B eCommerce companies are growing and innovating so rapidly that they’ve already pulled far away from their competitors. In fact, they’re about to lap them. But it’s not too late to get in the race. Many B2B and B2C eCommerce best practices are similar – so take a look at these to get a sense of what you’re up against. Then, simply pick the best partner for your integration, consult with them on the best technology for your business, and follow these best practices:
Offer smart product offers
Leaders in the B2B eCommerce space react in real-time to market demand, and offer customer-specific promotions and pricing accordingly. They take advantage of customer segmentation technologies to offer special discounts and pricing for any customer, group of customers, order, item or geography.
Implement a premium user experience
As more and more B2B buyers clamor for enhanced user experiences, those who respond with robust online commerce capabilities will gain revenue and global market share, while those that ignore the e-commerce imperative will gradually become irrelevant to large sections of the marketplace.
Provide mobile tools for shoppers and staff
Best-in-class B2B suppliers use mobile to build customer loyalty, streamline back office processes on both sites. Customers like mobile because they can track budgets and costs, and place orders from virtually anywhere. Suppliers like it because they can use the data to provide relevant offers and based on customer context.
Offer tools for buying efficiency
Bulk, repeat, and scheduled ordering are all very common in B2B eCommerce. Support for these features is a must-have for any eCommerce site that hopes to compete. Companies also prefer the ability to leverage quick ordering capabilities.
Provide customer self-service and administration
B2B customers prefer to manage their account settings in self-service area within B2B eCommerce store. They can assign rights to their employees, maintain cost centers and budgets, manage individual spending limits and setup new approval rules and workflows.
Maintain real-time inventory levels and pricing accuracy
Industry leaders maintain use mobile tools to ensure their business is always on top of shipping, order fulfillment, and accounting. Inventory control tactics prevent customers from inadvertently making orders that cannot be fulfilled, and provide suppliers with insight into exactly what’s going on at their warehouses and fulfillment centers.
Offer different incentives and promotions and spiffs per customer
Best-in-class B2B eCommerce sites use customer segmentation to offer customer-specific promotions and incentives as a way to drive volume, increase conversion rates, boost average order value, reward loyalty, and even clear out inventory. Of course these promotions can be a challenge to manage, but with the right platform and partner, you can easily configure the technology so it’s easy to manage and integrate promotions by customer.
Support punch out shopping
Punch out is often a requirement for working with by large enterprises. Through strategic partnerships with key customers, integrated punch out lets customers order from a supplier directly through their internal standard procurement system.
Integrate with all back-office technologies
The key is word here is “all’. Don’t wait to integrate with your EDI, CRM, ERP, PIM, OMS, and any other system involved your business. It will cost more money to re-enter the data later when (not if) you need to do so. In the short term, partial integrations can cause inefficiencies and duplication of effort in the back office.
Hopefully these B2B eCommerce best practices get you on the right start. To learn more, feel free to download our white paper, B2B eCommerce: The New Rules of Engagement.