Over the last decade, B2C ecommerce websites have set the standard for seamless transactions and with a young workforce, businesses are now expecting the same efficiency in their commercial transactions.
Businesses risk being left behind as lean digital disruptors are entering markets and capturing market share against more traditional companies.
With the acceleration of B2B ecommerce, businesses have an opportunity for digital transformation and not only make their customers experience more effective but also bring about efficiencies in their own business.
As an ecommerce agency, we utilise the Magento Commerce platform to deliver complex B2B applications for enterprises, delivering easy, intuitive digital buying and account management experiences.
Below are typical journeys and functionality that B2B platforms have to deliver value to end users.
Customer Specific Pricing
A typical requirement for businesses selling to other businesses involves the ability to serve customer specific pricing based on negotiated contracts and deals. Tiered pricing, group pricing and special pricing provides more flexibility for businesses to provide the best deal to customers.
ERP integrations are usually required, to ensure published prices remain accurate at all times online.
Customer Specific Catalogues
Businesses sometimes limit products available for purchase by customers, based on the terms of their contract. In these scenarios, customer specific catalogues are required, ensuring customers cannot order products they are not contracted for.
ERP integrations can power these custom catalogues, to reduce effort in maintaining both systems.
With B2B ecommerce, businesses are not shopping, they are usually replenishing stock. Within this context, accurate inventory is crucial to ensure stock is available and items are available for dispatch. Handling of special order products and visibility of lead time and cut-off time information is also important so customers can accurately plan for deliveries.
Representing catalogues where products are sold in a variety of units of measure or where inventory is managed at the decimal or negative level requires some good data modelling by the solution partner to deliver the right solution.
Warehouse management systems or ERP integrations typically power stock visibility within a B2B platform.
Integrated Order Management for Quick Replenishment
Speed is a critical aspect of B2B ecommerce, where some businesses aim to deliver to customers within the same-day of ordering. Integrating order capture between the ecommerce platform and an ERP or Order Management System is a key requirement to ensure fast pick, pack and delivery to customer.
Mapping the order workflow from ERP to platform is also a common need, to keep customers informed on the progress of their order, via email and SMS updates.
As B2B users regularly revisit a site to replenish stock, site performance becomes even more important so they can quickly set about their task and move on with their day.
Account Self Service
Invoices, credits, and financial statements can all be exposed via a B2B portals account area to make life easier for customers when balancing the books. This type of self service facility can greatly reduce the pressure on customer service or accounts staff potentially allowing them to be redeployed to more revenue generating activities.
ERP or Accounting package integrations are usually required to expose these documents.
End to End Quotation Workflows
Businesses sometimes like to haggle over pricing before committing to a purchase. For that reason, quotation workflows are typically required to facilitate the negotiation and encourage the customer to transform their quotation into an order. Line item price discounts, header level discounts, expiration dates and notifications are essential elements to this process.
Quotation management can be handled stand alone within the B2B platform or integrated into existing processes within an ERP.
Companies & Granular Permissions
Unlike B2C, within a B2B platform, users are placing orders and retrieving documents on behalf of a company. These companies are typically customers registered within a businesses ERP platform. Reflecting these accounts on B2B and support from a company's commercial team is important in onboarding customers and introducing them to the platform.
Large accounts typically require a variety of users to be able to interact with your company, achieving various goals. These can be established as pre-defined roles and permissions, allowing your customers to set limits on what their users can do, such as; price restrictions, order permissions, restricting access to financials etc.
Credit Limits & Pay on Account
Most B2B companies offer credit facilities to customers allowing them settle their bill at the end of a specific period. Pay on account and specifying purchase order numbers is an important requirement to allow users to quickly place orders on the platform.
Functionality to restrict purchases based on credit limits is another common requirement for B2B platforms. This can either be integrated into an ERP solution or act as a standalone facility within the application.
Credit restrictions per user is also a popular feature, ensuring certain users do not overspend on a particular account.
Project Lists, Favourites, Requisition Lists & Quick Order
In a replenishment scenario, B2B users have a need to quickly and easily place orders. This is usually not done by navigating a catalogue or searching for items; it is achieved by curating and maintaining a list which they can share with other users. Project lists, favourites list, requisition lists all offer similar functionality to deliver on this need with the ability to bulk add to cart and checkout quickly
Click & Collect
For businesses with a branch network, click & collect is a powerful tool to empower customers to place their orders ahead of time, providing flexibility for staff on picking the orders ahead of collection. This can dramatically speed up time in store and allows your customer to get back on the road and on with their day.
Mobile & 24/7 Ordering
A major benefit of B2B platforms is the always-on nature. Traditional order capture systems were desktop based and required users to be in the office when replenishing. B2B platforms are mobile optimised and accessible anywhere allowing staff to place orders late in the evening or at weekends, when they are too busy to place the order during the day.
Traditional businesses are starting to diversify their customer service offering by providing out of hours support via Live Chat facilities.
This type of initiative is a key differentiator between competitors and provides a sticky factor with customers. It can also become a sales tool, offering leads to reps to chase offline.
At Element, we have significant experience in developing B2B ecommerce platforms for some of the biggest wholesalers and distributors in the country.
Contact us to find out how we can help your business succeed online.