Eight things to consider before you choose your integrated b2b ecommerce system
An integrated b2b ecommerce system can represent a substantial investment of time and finance. To get it right for your business, right from the start, can be the difference between costly “must-have” and a profitable business sales tool. Research shows, thee are the key eight point for consideration.
- 1The Buyer
- In B2B ecommerce a buyer’s role and responsibilities will vary by company. For example, it could be the business owner ordering, a procurement executive or one of many in a large purchasing department. It could even be a sales rep placing an order on behalf of his customers. Buying decisions are therefore driven by different agendas, different criteria and different company policies. While product price is still key, it’s not the only factor taken into consideration – the building of long-term relationships and trust are crucial to buyers who are charged with reducing business risk as well as securing the best deal. Your ecommerce system has to be intuitive and easy to use, it has to inspire confidence in your business and it has to differentiate you from your competitors.
- 2The Price
- In a B2C situation, the product price is the product price – it’s the same for all site visitors. There may be special offers on delivery or based on purchase volume but the basic product price is fixed. With B2B ecommerce, product prices are usually pre-negotiated with customers and your online system needs to display their individual prices when they log in. Ensuring that the prices and discounts you have agreed with your customers automatically synchronise with your Sage accounting and management systems is essential to saving time, unnecessary work, confusion and costly errors. It can be the difference between making a sale and losing a customer.
- 3The Stock
- Unlike B2C ecommerce where stock status is often clearly displayed before customers buy, many business-to-business online systems are unable to provide accurate stock levels to site visitors. Inadequate stock information, out-of-stock products and the inconvenience of back order situations are irritating and unnecessary for your B2B customers. A lack of real-time stock visibility can compromise customer relationships, resulting in a loss of trust and confidence in your capabilities, so it’s important to choose an ecommerce system that allows customers to see real-time stock positions before they order from you.
- 4The Size
- Most consumer online transactions are one-off purchases for single items or a small number of low value products. In contrast, business customers tend to buy larger quantities of more expensive products in regular, often repeated transactions. Your B2B ecommerce system should be able to handle high volume orders, make it easy for customers to repeat orders without re-keying every time, pick top products, and allow orders to be loaded from a file. By accommodating buyers’ needs and streamlining ordering processes, your system can enhance the customer experience and give you competitive advantage.
- 5The Visibility
- In business-to-business sales, the quality of your customer experience is a valuable relationship-building tool and a crucial differentiator. Today’s market-leading companies therefore ensure that their customer orders are actioned quickly and processed accurately. Ecommerce solutions that tightly integrate with backoffice accounting and business management systems can dramatically speed-up order processing and eliminate the possibility of human error. The best solutions ensure that when an order is placed, it is immediately visible in your Sage accounting system so that queries and changes can be dealt with in the most efficient way.
- 6The Payment
- More often than not, business customers are account customers with credit facilities, so your B2B system must allow them to order without payment with invoices to follow. In addition, your system should have the built-in flexibility and intelligence to recognise and accommodate varying payment terms so that you can maintain control while retaining the customers. The system must be able to reflect you credit control policy by preventing ordering if credit limits are exceeded or notifying Credit Control. It will also need to allow for partial or complete payment of an order by credit card if limits are exceeded, and it should permit card payment of outstanding invoices.
- 7The Shipping
- Shipping methods and rate calculations are an important consideration in B2B ecommerce. Orders can be huge and complex, so the shipping features in your system need to deal with pallets, custom shipping and a range of issues not encountered in B2C transactions. It is wise to review how you charge for shipping and assess whether it is transferable to a B2B system in a way that achieves your commercial aims, is understandable to your customers and does not act as a sales preventer.
- 8The Goal
- Successful B2B ecommerce is not just about selling a specific product at a particular price – it’s about building long-standing business relationships based on trust and confidence. Your ecommerce system is your online ‘shop front’ and its appearance and functionality should reflect your business values and your approach customer service. It needs to operate seamlessly, with a focus on ease-of-use for both your customers and your staff. It should attract new customers and encourage existing customers to do more business with you, to increase the value of each transaction and the frequency of orders. When you choose the right B2B ecommerce system, it will cut your administrative costs, simplify your business processes and improve your margins.