B2B eCommerce sales surpassed B2C eCommerce sales way back in 2012. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. According to Statista, by 2023 B2B eCommerce sales will be $1.8 trillion and represent 17% of all B2B sales.
It’s clear that manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and other B2B sellers must have a strong web presence to remain relevant. And if you intend to grow, you need a B2B eCommerce solution that can generate new sales and scale as you grow. The growing popularity of B2B eCommerce has generated a new niche in software solutions, the B2B eCommerce platform. Picking the right solution is crucial. Here is a look at key features to consider when comparing platforms and an overview of the top contenders.
The New Digital Buyer
The new generation of business buyer is a digital native. They were raised on Amazon and their B2C buying experiences have molded their expectations on the job. They are looking for a self-serve model that offers 24/7 support and one that can be just as easily accessed from their mobile phone or tablet as it is from their desktop.
Buyers are less dependent on sales reps and more dependent on online search. If you aren’t giving your customers this online experience, they won’t be your customers much longer. Just look at how these new buyers want to interact in the digital age.
But it’s not enough to just start selling online. You’ve got to engage to provide the customer experience those buyers want. These buyers are looking for more than simple online product descriptions and pictures. They want to request quotes, negotiate terms, review shipping options, and utilize a variety of checkout workflows, including terms. They want to be able to search by product attribute or problem solution. B2B buyers still want personal relationships with their suppliers, they just want them digitized and available online 24/7.
Once you understand what B2B buyers want, you have a better understanding of what you need in a B2B eCommerce platform.
5 Key B2B eCommerce Platform Features
Like any other technology acquisition, you can start with an analysis of your current needs and a wish list of functionalities you will need in the future. It’s important to keep in mind that scalability is just as important as the other features. Your B2B eCommerce platform should serve you now and in the future. Every business is different, but here are the core features most B2B sellers need to successfully support an online sales channel.
Designed for How B2B Does Business
B2B eCommerce is not B2C eCommerce. The best B2B eCommerce platforms aren’t B2C solutions masquerading as B2B. No, true eCommerce solutions for B2B are built from the ground up for the B2B business model. These platforms will easily integrate with EDI and punchout catalogs and offer a variety of order and checkout workflows. They should be able to sell the same SKU in different units and configurations. And speaking of configurations, traditional and headless architecture should be supported for maximum flexibility in implementation. And because B2B sales are built on long-lasting relationships, a CRM should be included or APIs available for easy integration.
Extensive Personalization Options
Modern buyers want a personalized customer experience. The best B2B eCommerce platforms enable you to create this experience. And personalization plays a major role. Customers should have access to personalized products, negotiated prices, and view customized catalogs. Their preset shipping preferences should be part of their checkout workflow. And since B2B transactions are usually on terms, your B2B eCommerce platform should provide functionality to check credit and extend terms at checkout.
Quick Recorder and Easy Checkout Features
For your customer, buying is part of their job. Your job is to make their job as easy as possible. B2B buyers generally purchase the same items over and over again. Your platform should include functionality to review prior orders and offer up quick recorder forms to speed the order process. You may also want to remove any possible friction in the purchase process by accepting CSV uploads for orders. The optimal reorder workflow should streamline the order and checkout to minimize the number of clicks and screens it takes to complete the transaction. One-page checkout is a must have feature.
User Defined Authorities and Roles
Most B2C sales are impulse-driven and don’t require collaboration with others. The buyer sees the product, decides to buy, and pays with a credit card. B2B selling isn’t that simple. Most B2B transactions involve multiple decision makers. Different parties have different roles and purchasing authorities. If this sounds like your customer base, you need an eCommerce solution that lets users define the roles, responsibilities, and purchasing authorities that represent the way they do business.
Maximum Flexibility and Scalability
Unfortunately, there is probably no eCommerce platform will come exactly out-of-the-box ready for how you do business. So, you need to consider how easy it will be to customize the solution to conform to your business. Looks for flexible workflows and workflow engines to speed the adoption process. You also want flexibility in the deployment method. The on-premise solution that works today may not be well-suited for the future. Look for flexibility in deployment and scalability so your solution grows as you grow. As a rule, you will find that open-source solutions have a rich ecosystem of extensions and plugins that aren’t available with proprietary solutions.
Best B2B eCommerce Platforms List
Just do a Google search on the best B2B eCommerce platform and you’ll see the same names over and over. There’s a plethora of B2C platforms, but there’s only a few platforms that understand the needs of B2B eCommerce. Here are the top B2B eCommerce solutions you to consider to support a successful online sales channel.
Oro changed the way everyone thought about eCommerce with the release of OroCommerce. That’s because OroCommerce was the first eCommerce platform designed specifically with the needs of B2B sales in mind. The solution is open-source solution and in addition to corporate support there is a large and active community as well as an extensive array of extensions and plug-ins. It is one of the few options that allows you to deploy on-premise, on the web, or in the cloud. It comes out-of-the-box with all the key functions you need and is easily customizable. It includes a built-in CRM as well as advanced SEO and marketing to drive even more sales and higher ticket values. It handles B2B, B2C, and B2B2C eCommerce.
This product was originally developed by IBM and sold under the Websphere Commerce name. HCL purchased it to close the eCommerce gap in their product offering. HCL Commerce includes many features you need to get up and run quickly like the ability to handle complex product variants. Like OroCommerce, its powerful workflow engine let’s you easily customize. It is only available on the cloud, but that means it scales easily as your company grows. It supports B2B, B2C, and marketplace applications as well as brick and mortar sales.
SAP Commerce Cloud
This product was previously sold as SAP Hybris. It is part of the SAP suite of business solutions. It is well-suited for large enterprise-level companies with budgets to support the high development cost. It does provide powerful content management and marketing functions. On the downside, the user interfaces are not very intuitive. On the upside, “drag and drop” makes it easy to create new banners and pages. It is offered as a cloud only solution. It integrates well with the other SAP products, like SAP ERP and SAP Marketing. It can handle both B2B and B2C eCommerce.
NetSuite Suite Commerce
If you run the NetSuite ERP, then this might be the obvious solution for you. It supports multi-channel sales, which is great if you have a brick and mortar presence or still need to process phone orders. It supports order processing as well. As you can imagine, it integrates easily with other NetSuite products. It supports B2B and B2C commerce. It can be deployed on the web or as a cloud-based solution. The CMS offers limited editability and it’s not easy to customize.
Commerce Cloud Digital by Salesforce
Salesforce created 2 distinct eCommerce platforms to integrate with their other Salesforce products. If you are engaged in B2B eCommerce only, this isn’t a problem. However, if you sell direct you will need to purchase both B2B and B2C products. Features include easy to set up catalogs and coupons that don’t require the services of a developer to use. It is updated 3 times a year for continuous improvement. The code is proprietary, and the solution must be cloud-based.
Magento started life as a B2C eCommerce platform. With the release of Magento 2 it now includes features that support B2B selling. Like OroCommerce, it supports customer orders via CSV file upload. Like Commerce Cloud you can support multiple brands and companies with one installation. It allows easy custom catalog creation and supports multiple price lists. It is an open-source solution with an active community, a large API library, and many extensions and plugins. However, the cost of these can add up quickly.
Picking the Best B2B eCommerce Solution
Building your eCommerce channel is more than just deciding on a solution. Because your eCommerce platform will be added to existing architecture, you’re going to need some help. That’s why the best B2B eCommerce solution for your company will have an ecosystem that includes solution partners to help you along the way. You’ll want to consider the availability of APIs to integrate with existing payment gateways as well as your ERP, PIM, CRM, 3PL, and other solutions.
The right platform will future-proof your business, it won’t hold you back. Your B2B eCommerce platform should scale as you grow and provide the marketing and SEO support necessary to make that growth happen. Comparing solutions isn’t always easy. For help making apples to apples comparisons, download and customize this free RFP template. It will help you compare features, identify potential technical issues, and determine licensing and other costs.
Because every business is unique every B2B eCommerce installations looks different. Speed time to ROI by selecting a solution that:
· provides most needed features out of the box
· is easy to customize
· integrates effortlessly with your current architecture.
That’s how you select the B2B eCommerce platform that will grow business and scale as you grow.