Top 10 Things to Ask Before Choosing a B2B Platform
Brent PetersonNovember 25, 2021
In October 2020, Adobe made 6 major predictions about what changes would occur for B2B eCommerce in 2021. Adobe predicted that:
- B2B marketplaces will grow.
- B2B commerce will merge with B2C trends.
- Manufacturers will increase DTC sales.
- Headless commerce solutions will be preferred over monolithic systems.
- More businesses will adopt PWAs.
- Fulfillment methods will prioritize safety and minimize personal contact.
Looking back on the past 11 months, it seems that these predictions were spot on. B2B platforms have become more user-friendly, personalized, and customizable. More B2B buyers are opting for the convenience of ordering online, and suppliers have been doing their best to keep up with the demand for self-service options. Contactless delivery and BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up In Store) are still popular choices for consumers that aren’t going to go away anytime soon.
In a nutshell, the past year has led to exponential growth in the B2B eCommerce space. Since the pandemic began, B2B eCommerce revenue increased by an average of 23% for businesses around the globe. B2B companies that don’t have a user-friendly website will soon be overshadowed by competitors who can offer clients the convenience of 24/7 self-service and personalized product recommendations.
However, B2B companies can have highly specific and specialized needs that some eCommerce platforms may not be able to manage. To ensure that you choose the right platform for your business needs, ask yourself these 10 key questions before locking in your decision with an eCommerce vendor:
1. Is the platform cloud-based?
If you want your store to be both highly reliable and easily scalable, a cloud-based platform is a must. Cloud computing makes it simple for businesses to adjust various aspects of their website depending on high or low traffic levels, company goals, promotional campaigns, or holiday specials. Moving to the cloud also means faster performance for users, and it usually translates to lower overall costs for business owners.
Furthermore, cloud-based platforms have PCI-DSS certified hosting to ensure that businesses are GDPR compliant. Not only does this keep your own store protected, but it will secure all of your customers’ personal information, too. In a nutshell, migrating to the cloud is the best way to set your business up for long-term success and customer satisfaction.
2. How customizable is it?
B2B companies need to be able to adjust seamlessly to customers’ needs and unique situations more than B2C businesses. As your business expands and your client list grows, you’ll need a platform that can support quick customizations and can integrate with a variety of other extensions. If you ever need more complex adjustments for your site, the B2B platform should have the complete code available for your development team, as well as information about the programming language and developer community.
As a B2B brand, you can’t afford to have a cookie-cutter site. Each of your buyers will have their own unique contracts with you, and it’s up to you to choose a site that can efficiently handle a multitude of rules for different users. Personalization is just as important for B2B companies as it is for B2C brands, and the sooner you can understand each person’s needs, the better!
3. Is it possible to offer customer-specific options or products?
As mentioned above, B2B companies are unique in the fact that they don’t have one single product catalog for all customers. Depending on the deals you create with each of your clients, you’ll want to make their buying experience as easy as possible by allowing them to access relevant catalog items and personalized deals or discounts. Your customers will expect to be able to self-service their accounts and make orders without having to talk to a representative, so it should be as simple as possible for them to find the right products at the right price point.
B2B eCommerce sites should include tools to help you build customized catalogs and change the pricing information for different types of users. Be sure to ask if the platform will allow you to customize buyer catalogs without any coding experience or if it’s possible to make changes to several catalogs at once, such as removing an unpopular product from your store.
4. Can the platform manage several types of users?
B2B buyers don’t act alone or impulsively like the customers B2C brands are accustomed to. When you hear from an interested potential buyer, they’re helping their entire company come to a decision about who to do business with. In order to attract B2B buyers and make your brand stand out, your eCommerce platform should make it easy for each client to create different user types. For example, some employees may have access to the catalog and submit quote requests, whereas only a few may be able to view the account information. Having this level of security and personalization will make clients feel more reassured about working with you.
5. Does it support an omnichannel presence?
Both B2B and B2C companies rely on several different channels to reach their audience. Whether your target audience is on Facebook or LinkedIn, you need to have a website that can easily integrate with your other online profiles, especially when it comes to order management and inventory tracking tools. All product and company information on all of your online and offline channels should be aligned to prevent customer frustration and to provide a streamlined shopping experience.
If you want to sell on other platforms besides your websites, then additional features like marketplace support, fulfillment options, and shipping solutions are absolutely necessary. Remember that B2B buyers aren’t always using their laptop or work computer to search for vendors; lots of them casually browse different options on their phones or tablets (more on this later).
6. Does the platform offer convenient payment methods?
In 2020, a report on several small B2B businesses found that offering clients different payment options increased each company’s revenue by as much as 30%. The purpose of ordering and purchasing items online is that it should be faster and easier than doing it over the phone or in person. The B2B platform you choose should allow customers to receive online price quotes and quickly order items from past purchases or SKUs. It should also make it simple for your company to maintain accurate requisition lists and give customer service and sales representatives the ability to create orders on a client’s behalf.
7. Are self-service tools available right out of the box?
Transparent business practices are a top priority for clients, and your customers will want to be informed about where their packages are and when they can expect to receive their order. In each client’s account, they should also be able to review previous orders, adjust shipping addresses, manage different employee accounts and permissions, track the status of orders, and see purchase reports.
On B2C sites, customers expect this level of visibility about the status of their items. Retailers from Amazon to Walmart will send their customers alerts when their orders are packed, when they’re shipped, and what time they should arrive at their door. B2B companies need to be able to reach this same level of accountability so clients aren’t left in the dark from the moment they order something to the time their supplies arrive.
8. How easy is it to change and update content on the site?
Although the phrase is worn out and overused, it still rings true today: content is king! Creating insightful and relevant new content is a necessary part of running an eCommerce business. It keeps your customers engaged, attracts new potential buyers, and gives your site more visibility overall. With enough high-quality information, your company can become recognized as a trustworthy source for others within your industry, and the increased traffic will bump up your SEO rankings.
Most eCommerce platforms make it easy for anyone to create blog posts directly on their websites or integrate other blogging extensions. You should be able to sort your posts into different categories, delete old or irrelevant content, and create tags to keep all of your blog posts organized. Other features to look for include drag-and-drop templates for blogs so that anyone within your organization can publish content without needing to know any coding.
9. Can the platform easily integrate with other systems?
No matter how much platform vendors may try, it would be impossible for a single eCommerce platform to offer every possible tool and feature that a B2B retailer needs. The best option is to choose a platform that can be integrated with all kinds of other systems so you can get specialized support in places that matter the most to your business. For instance, product information management software can be a lifesaver if you have an expansive catalog of products and have difficulty keeping track of inventory.
10. Is the platform mobile-friendly?
Like we touched on before, B2B buyers are coming to expect all kinds of websites to be mobile-friendly and easy to navigate on their devices. People frequently use their phones to buy items on B2C sites, so B2B companies need to close the gap to meet current client expectations. Your eCommerce platform should be able to offer you different options for reaching these mobile customers, such as a progressive web app, a responsively-designed site, or a custom native app.
There are numerous platforms that claim to be great for B2B and B2C websites, but you need to choose the vendor that’s right for your unique business needs. What works wonderfully for one B2B brand might not work for your company or meet your clients’ expectations. If you want some more tips or advice for selecting a platform, check out our blog or reach out to a Wagento developer for one-on-one support!
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