How to Choose B2B
Implementing B2B commerce is all cool and dandy as an idea, however, in reality it can be significantly challenging. Even if you aren’t going to build a platform from scratch, choosing the right solution is no walk in the park.
Here we’ll simplify the process. We’ll show you what customers want both on the front- and back-end and offer insights to help you dodge the common pitfalls and get it right the first time.
What makes a good eCommerce Solution?
Today’s customer’s needs are significantly changing and finding a B2B eCommerce solutions that perfectly meets the needs of your particular B2B audience is often a challenge. All that said, it’s important to note that there are a few non-negotiable features your B2B eCommerce solutions should have.
In a survey of 1,000 purchasing leaders, Hanover found customers prioritize self-service, personalized experiences, and quick responses. Another similar research by TreviPay reported that over 50% of B2B buyers want vendors to offer additional payment options besides credit cards. But that’s not all.
DemandGen’s 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Study revealed that buyers now:
- Spend more time researching purchases
- Expect vendors to offer personalized attention to specific needs.
- Make purchase decisions based on changing business needs.
Front-end Features B2B Customers Want
A critical factor to consider before evaluating B2B eCommerce solutions is the features your customers expect to see. Here are core front-end features to prioritize:
1. Self-Service Options
When buyers encounter a problem, contacting your reps should never be their only option. As the Hanover study revealed, customers want to self-serve. They want to access information and solve problems by themselves without contacting customer support. Self-service tools can help fill this need faster and conveniently.
Provide chatbots and live chat support tools to deliver rapid responses to queries. Optimize these technologies with answers towards key areas that will improve the customer’s experience. It may include extensive information on shipping, quoting, orders, and other necessary details.
2. Flexible Payment Options
Unlike in B2C eCommerce, the average B2B transaction occurs in large quantities. These orders are often pre-negotiated and recurring. While one business unit may opt for a line of credit, another may prefer upfront payment through eCheck. Therefore, B2B buyers would expect B2B eCommerce solutions that can adequately handle their payment needs. To meet these expectations, ensure your eCommerce solutions can support multiple payment methods. We’ll highlight some of these options later on.
3. Personalized Experience
According to Evergage, 92% of marketers say their customers expect to receive a personalized experience (a 7% increase since 2019). This data shows that delivering offers that don’t match their expectations or interests may yield less favorable results. Instead, segment your audience and create product recommendations, offers, and personalized catalogs for each group. If you serve several markets (bulk vs. retail, various industries, etc.), customize the experience to match each buyer’s checkout workflow.
Also, make it a point to allow customers to access their order history in multiple locations in your store.
4. User-Friendly Navigation
B2B purchases are often a lengthy process. The last thing buyers want is a clunky website that draws out the process even longer. Your eCommerce store should have an interface that eases the buyer’s shopping experience. Offer the same experience across devices. Navigation icons should take buyers to expected sections. To save time, you may also integrate an autocomplete feature. This functionality predicts and completes buyer’s searches based on previous requests.
Key Features You Need on the Back End
To successfully meet the expectations listed above, you need a B2B eCommerce platform that provides the following.
1. Personalized Support
In B2B eCommerce transactions, there’s no one-fits-all approach. Buyers often have various needs even when they seek to purchase the same product. The ideal eCommerce solution for you is one that fits your business requirements and these needs. It should accommodate sufficient personalization capabilities. These features include product recommendations, custom catalogs, and a flexible workflow engine.
2. Customer Self-Service Systems
Integrate robust B2B-specific portals that can support customers adequately. As mentioned earlier, chatbots and live chat support are valuable. But you can go further. Offer detailed FAQ sections or a knowledge base that helps customers shop or use your platform efficiently. Provide responsive systems that automate complex, repetitive processes. For instance, you could leverage a powerful pricing engine to digitize the request for quote (RFQ) process. This way, buyers can get instant quotes on any purchase. It not only frees up your sales reps’ time but also reduces quoting errors.
3. Intuitive Website
An easy-to-use website improves the buyer’s experience. Consider optimizing your online store for all screen sizes—smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Ensure fast loading times and clear CTA placements. Provide an interface that enables customers to find each item easily. Advanced filters should help them narrow their search within defined parameters. The features you implement should be simple yet powerful to enhance users’ experience.
4. Content Management System
As pragmatic buyers, B2B customers need adequate content to inform their purchasing decisions. If you cannot provide this, you might lose out on sales. The B2B eCommerce solution you choose should have robust content management functionality. It should support various content formats such as videos, product descriptions, downloadable resources, landing pages, and media notices. Besides these forms, it should also allow you to customize the layout and designs without coding knowledge.
Segmenting your audience is highly important to delivering personalized experiences. It is also helpful in improving your marketing campaigns. Thus, segmentation support is a critical feature to look out for in B2B eCommerce solutions. You could segment by customer lifetime value, prior purchasing behavior, location, or other parameters. Once this is set, you can then create personalized offerings and better experiences.
6. Custom Price Lists
Pricing in B2B eCommerce may depend on various factors such as pre-negotiated agreements, order quantity, location, and more. The B2B platform should allow you to customize pricing for each buyer or business unit based on specific rules. For example, you could offer bundle pricing, set various price points, or deliver personalized discounts. Each user should be able to view their custom prices within their product pages and at checkout too.
7. Support for Flexible Payment Methods
As we mentioned before, different companies have their preferred payment plans and options. Pick a platform that allows you to integrate multiple gateways and processors. It may include credit cards, eCheck, mobile wallet, ACH, payment on delivery, etc. It should also accommodate other options like installment plans, guarantees, and credit terms (net 30/60/90). Ideally, your invoicing and financial systems should reflect these options as well.
8. Wish Lists and Multiple Shopping List Support
Your B2B eCommerce solution should allow buyers to save products for later on a wishlist. This list differs from a shopping cart meant for immediate purchases. A wishlist provides a snapshot of customers’ expectations. This information will help you gain valuable insights to optimize your marketing campaigns. The multiple shopping list feature is suitable for buyers that require various products for different areas of business. Ensure that the eCommerce solution allows buyers to add, remove, or duplicate items from the list. It should also support bulk actions.
9. User roles and permissions
A company may have different buyers with varying job roles and responsibilities. Therefore, it’s vital to have a B2B eCommerce solution that allows multiple user access. An admin user will create roles or workflows and grant permissions accordingly. For example, specific buyers may only generate shopping lists and request quotes. Managers may have full access to checkout options, payment information, and related documents.
10. Integrations Options
To run operations efficiently, B2B businesses rely on several systems. A comprehensive B2B solution should effectively integrate with those systems. This enables real-time accurate data exchange on inventory levels, invoicing, pricing, and order management. The software to integrate depends on your business needs. But some critical systems include your ERP, warehouse management systems (WHMS), product information system, CRM, and eProcurement software.
11. Quick Ordering and Re-ordering
It is pointless if other processes move smoothly, and the ultimate stage (order placement) cannot provide the same experience. This is especially important for solutions like healthcare and private label supplements businesses, where consumers expect quick turnaround times on products they use daily. Allow a single-page checkout. Provide buyers the ability to re-order from order history. This feature may allow them to create copies of old purchases for a new checkout. Customers may also upload files for re-orders, add or remove items, and request quotes.
Modern buyers value a seamless experience while transacting with your business. Thus, understanding what features you need to meet their expectations should be a priority. Besides these features, scalability is vital. Customers’ needs are not static, neither is your business growth. The last thing you need is a platform that cannot meet up with changing conditions. Ensure that the B2B eCommerce solution you choose has robust customization features. This functionality will help you adjust the platform to match your business requirements today and in the future.