According to Frost and Sullivan, the global b2b ecommerce market is set to hit $6.7 trillion by 2020. Over the last few years, the growth in business-to-business online sales has encouraged a large number of manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers to implement some type of ecommerce technology to meet increasing customer demand.
However, analysts in the US estimate that up to 85% of these ecommerce projects are ultimately unsuccessful because the solutions lack the necessary functionality, provide a poor customer experience, and fail to integrate with existing business systems. Here we take a closer look at some of the signs that suggest it’s time to upgrade your b2b ecommerce platform.
Firstly, if your ERP or accounting system forms the basis of the company’s online interface, you’re probably not providing customers with the kind of modern, engaging experience they’re looking for. Businesses starting out in ecommerce often use these systems to front-up operations, but although critical information is stored in them, they were never meant to be customer facing. A purpose-designed ecommerce platform that seamlessly integrates with accounting systems is a much better solution, which enables data to drive features such as personalisation and real-time stock notification. It is essential that your ecommerce platform can integrate with other existing business systems, or you risk ending up with siloed information.
Secondly, we frequently speak with companies who need to add specific features to their ecommerce system in order to meet the complexities of b2b selling. Many of these companies were sold b2c ecommerce platforms by vendors who created a nice looking website – but did not understand the unique functional requirements of a b2b platform and how features like account-specific pricing, tailored discounts and individual payment terms need to be built-in. Now heavily customised, such legacy systems are complex, clunky and almost impossible to support. At the same time, today’s b2b ecommerce sites must be optimised for mobile devices, as a new generation of younger buyers demands the same purchasing experience on their phone as they’re used to in their personal lives.
Next, the issue of ongoing site management. If you need a specialist web developer to make even the smallest copy amendment to your site, it may be time for change. A b2b ecommerce platform with an easily accessible, intuitive content management system enables you to make additions and changes to your site as they are required, without having to pay for the services of a developer. For example, you can create promotions, run campaigns, add in new products and create additional content exactly when your business needs to. With an ecommerce solution built for b2b, you can customise your site to better serve the needs of every person in your team.
Having a comprehensive content management system doesn’t remove the need for unfettered access to your vendor’s support team for resolution of more complex technical issues. We often hear companies complain that their original ecommerce providers have disappeared without a trace after the installation process, as they don’t have the resources to offer ongoing technical support. But in our opinion, ecommerce providers should be trusted partners throughout the life of your platform. For example, they should be able to help resolve technical issues in line with service level agreements, supply software updates, and advise on best practice. If your current vendor is unable to offer this kind of hands-on service, it’s time to move on.
Finally, there’s the issue of flexibility and scalability. If there’s no clear technology roadmap for your platform, or worse still, your provider says that your solution will no longer be supported and there’s no replacement or update planned for the future, you should find a new ecommerce partner. Your platform should have the flexibility to scale with your business so you can easily add in the features you require, when you need them. And your provider should keep you regularly posted on planned updates new releases, so you understand exactly what the future holds.
Remember, while implementing a new b2b ecommerce platform may not always be welcome in the short term, with the right technology partner and the right technology solution, it will deliver rapid return on investment and business stability in the longer-term.