BlogB2B EcommerceB2B E-Commerce: A Complete Guide to a B2B Company

B2B E-Commerce: A Complete Guide to a B2B Company

What is B2B E-Commerce?

First things first, if we’re going to delve inside the expansive world of B2B e-Commerce in order to provide you a comprehensive guide, we need to define what it is for you.

B2B E-Commerce or Business to Business Electronic Commerce encompasses the online sale of goods and services between companies through an online sales platform.

This is in opposition to B2C, which stands for Business to Consumer and describes the online business transacted between a business and individual customers who are not part of a business entity.

While B2C transactions are typically simple, B2B transactions tend to lean more on the side of the complex. B2C prices are generally fixed, shipping is forthright, and quantities are low. But for B2B transactions, there’s a sharp contrast worth illuminating.

B2B transactional prices vary on a number of changing variables throughout the buying process. Since businesses are larger entities than your average, run-of-the-mill consumer, the volume of products and services are much higher and have much more complicated rules when it comes to shipping requirements and pricing.

In addition, B2B E-Commerce markets generally have more complex tax and regulatory obstacles to resolve that the normal consumer does not have to worry about.

The complexity of the B2B E-Commerce market makes the solution requirements and implementation processes very demanding.

Categories of B2B E-Commerce

Volume Products – Making the ordering process easier with volume products. This type of B2B E-Commerce represents products that are simpler, lower-priced items that are often ordered in large quantities.

These products are common in CPG, apparel, automotive, and hardware supply businesses. For this model of E-Commerce, the value is in enabling customers to place orders in the fewest number of clicks and the least amount of online hassles.

Subscription Products – More products nowadays are portrayed as a service and are therefore purchased on a reoccurring basis. Purchasing plans can vary as well as what they include and for long you can have them. It’s common to set plans up on a monthly or annually reoccurring basis.

As a result, E-Commerce solutions must support a unique purchase flow and process.

Configuration Products – Networking products, manufacturing equipment, or durable medical equipment tend to be typical examples of this type of B2B E-Commerce.

These solutions usually are dependent on other offerings and as a result, they need to be bundled together. Because the offerings are generally higher-priced, customers want to get a quote before purchasing.

Choosing an ecommerce platform for your business is not easy. With numerous platforms out there and with various flavors, businesses should consider architecture, flexibility, ease of use, functionality. When it comes to architecture – opensource versus SaaS choosing which one to go with is a challenging task.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of the architecture models.

SaaS vs Opensource Platforms

Many brick and mortar stores are finally going full digital in order to keep up with the rising trends in today’s world of commerce. Yet, there’s often one big thing that hasn’t been fully considered. And that’s whether you want a SaaS or OpenSource platform. Each has their own benefits and we’ll walk you through both in order to help you make a decision.

First, a couple of quick definitions.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – Your store is hosted on another company’s servers, and they manage the technical side of keeping your store up and running.

Open Source – With this model, you are responsible for installing the platform on a server and managing the technical details around hosting, securing, and running your store.

SaaS E-Commerce Platform Pros

  • Less Technical Work
    • The biggest benefit of working with a SaaS platform is all the work you don’t have to do. All the technical stuff is done for you, so you don’t need to manage your own hosting, maintain store security, or install complex software updates.
  • Faster Set Up
    • No downloading and no installing. You can just create an account and build your online store through an easy-to-use and simple web interface.
  • Ease-Of-Use
    • SaaS platforms are built to remove what would otherwise be an enormous amount of complexity out of E-Commerce. This makes the process all the easier to use for new or non-technical merchants.

SaaS E-Commerce Platform Cons

  • Less Control
    • You don’t have full access to the underlying code and therefore you do not have a black canvas with which to do whatever you want. You need to work within the confines of the tools that the platform gives you.
  • Hidden Costs
    • As with anything, you always have to worry about the secret, hidden costs of using a SaaS. Usually, a platform will appear inexpensive until you realize that it only offers the most basic of functionalities.

Open Source E-Commerce Pros

  • Complete Control
    • The biggest reason people use Open Source platforms is because of all the freedom you enjoy with them. You can create a wholly-unique shopping experience for your customers.Since you have full access to the underlying code, you can control almost every aspect of the store to do things that aren’t possible on a SaaS platform.

Open Source E-Commerce Cons

  • Hard to Use
    • Open Source platforms are usually made for developers who already possess the working knowledge required in order to use them effectively. Open Source platforms are not kind to those without such knowledge such as merchants.
  • Lots of Maintenance
    • Depending on the complex nature of your online store, staying on top of hosting, security, and software updates could easily become a full-time job. This is why merchants keep an agency on retainer to take care of it.

Basically, if you don’t need a highly-customized store and would rather focus your time on running a business, you’ll do better using a SaaS Platform. If you have the budget to hire a developer or need an individualized shopping experience, go for Open Source.

You can’t go wrong either way. Just assess your needs and you’ll discover the right option.

Top 5 Reasons Brands Are Adopting B2B E-Commerce

You might’ve noticed your competitors opening up digital stores, recently. It’s possible you’ve discovered some of your distributors going digital, too, with their own consumer-facing stores.

Why? Well, with the sudden yet gradual onset of COVID-19 throughout the planet, many brands have been tasked with the difficult choice to close a business temporarily or permanently. And the difference between fates lied in the decision to go digital.

And success has been had. But COVID-19 is just one of many reasons brands nowadays create a digital counterpart to their brick and mortar stores and here are the top 5 for your convenience.

#1 – Three M’s: Make More Money

Generally-speaking, you already know how to build success and sales through in-person sales channels. It could be at trade shows or store visits, but regardless of the channel itself, your sales reps drive business value by building rapport and educating customers on their products and providing tailored product recommendations.

However, even your best sales reps only have customer visits every few weeks. B2B E-Commerce allows you an opportunity to capitalize on what was previously dead time between trade shows and rep visits by making that in-between reorder process as easy as possible.

Retailers can access your entire line to place an order on their terms instead of having to keep track of your sales rep hours.

#2 – Expand Marketing & Product Education

Don’t get it twisted. Having a transactional order hub is not the only benefit of a B2B E-Commerce portal. There’s massive potential to leverage it for marketing and product education – another key to continued success in the digital age.

You can maintain a permanent brand showcase by having your entire catalog on full display 24/7. Your retailers will always know where to go to view and order products. No need for them to wait for a visit or a phone call anymore.

You can also offer brand and product collateral and run promotions, as well. Your B2B E-Commerce portal should afford you the ability to message customer-specific promotions to your retailers upon login and give them the marketing collateral they need to support them in the buying process.

#3 – Close More Sales Faster

B2B E-Commerce eliminates any need to trouble your sales rep team with simple and unnecessary product inquiries over email or phone. Customers can just login online and get answers to their questions.

There’s no need for your reps to answer questions about product colors or sizes. Also, consider providing inventory levels to buyers know if a product is out-of-stock or nearing it. Availability dates for out-of-stock items keep buyers informed. I

t’s because of these measures, many brands that adopt B2B E-Commerce portals see order volume increase because they no longer have to wait for a sales rep to visit them to place an order.

#4 – Expand Sales & Reach New Customers

Many look at B2B E-Commerce as a way of accessing new geographics and demographics. Having a fully-established portal allows you to profitably serve customers you couldn’t see before or have been forgotten.

In fact, many brands quickly discover that customers who haven’t purchased with them in years are now buying from them again. You can also efficiently handle retailers with small orders or lower order volume because customers now have access to place orders themselves.

Accommodate customer orders of any size or volume as the costs of sales have reduced. You can also easily invite retailers to join your portal or extensively market your collection to new retailers.

#5 – Respond To The On-Demand Economy

This is an On-Demand economy. Customers want what they want when they want it and you have to deliver. They require simple shopping experiences online, on their mobile devices, and in-person – whatever is most convenient at that moment.

They want to purchase the exact item they’re looking for in the exact volume within the exact delivery timeframe.

B2B E-Commerce adoption is a direct response to customer expectations fueled by the on-demand economy as it puts control back into the hands of buyers and integrates with wholesalers’ core back-office systems, driving operational efficiencies and reducing fulfillment times.

Selecting the Right E-Commerce Platform

While it’s becoming obvious that B2B E-Commerce is here to stay, you still have time to get in on the ground floor. Selecting the right solution for your B2B E-commerce needs is crucial if you want to dominate in your industry, so here’s a few pro-tips to help you select the right E-commerce platform.

Pro-Tip #1 – Simplify the Purchasing Process

Only the successful B2B E-Commerce platforms have built-in functionality that allows businesses with multiple buyers to purchase from you using the same account.

Also, set up different kinds of roles and permissions for those buyers and ensure your platform supports an order-approval process based on those permissions that control how much they spend, payment options, etc.

Pro-Tip #2 – Customization is Key

An E-Commerce platform should support price quoting to craft personalized offers for large or made-to-order requests. The entire quoting process should be digitized and offer the ability to negotiate with your customer, convert the quote to an order with an agreement is reached, and check out online.

Pro-Tip #3 – Quick Ordering is a Must

B2B buyers reorder the same products, over and over again. So, make quick ordering options a priority. The platform must enable buyers to place repeat orders quickly and efficiently by either typing in or uploading SKUs, or crafting an order from a previous one. Or they’ll find someone who can.

Pro-Tip #4 – Strong Content Development

Present rich content that serves different stakeholders so they can efficiently research and evaluate your products.

Provide detailed info including product specs, CADs, configuration guides, comparison charts, volume pricing, user reviews, and whatever else you can to allow buyers to easily answer any questions they have.

Pro-Tip #5 – Embrace Flexibility

Trends in B2B E-Commerce change just as fast as the industry changes. And your business needs to keep up. So, flexibility is key and not necessarily consistent. Your platform is going to have to not only fit your current needs but your future business models and strategies.

Pro-Tip #6 – Go Mobile Now

Here’s an open secret we can share. All B2B and B2C buyers are mobile. So, naturally, your platform needs to support mobile commerce.

Research shows that 80% of B2B buyers, in particular, are using mobile at work and more than 60% report that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase.

Pro-Tip #7 – Look to the Clouds

Focus your E-Commerce platform search on cloud-based solutions. Cloud offerings offer distinct advantages to B2B companies even with the most limited commerce experience.

By taking care of all the infrastructure, cloud-based solutions free up your team to focus on creating a better online experience for your customers.

Pro-Tip #8 – There’s No I In Team

There’s no reason to do any of this online. As you weigh your E-Commerce options, it’s critical to have an implementation partner with B2B expertise – someone who knows how to deal with both the technical and change management issues that are likely to arise.

Be sure that your vendor has a deep bench of partners and developers in markets around the world to ensure you have a choice and can get started right away.

Finally, before you pinpoint on a B2B E-Commerce platform, make sure that it checks all the boxes that will help you achieve the top B2B business objectives.

For more on how B2B Ecommerce by SellersCommerce can help your B2B website grow, you may request for a demo now.

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