How to get going with b2b eCommerce

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Despite the exponential growth in b2b eCommerce, we still see many manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors struggling to overcome the challenges of digital transformation. Over the years, we’ve helped a large number of organisations navigate a variety of obstacles on their journey to online trading, so here we take a look at a few of the issues and the actions you can take to get on the right track.

We frequently see resistance to digitalisation at multiple levels within an organisation, especially in more traditional industries where a colleague and customer interactions have previously always been face-to-face or by phone. When these companies embark on the road to eCommerce, such resistance can manifest in a lack of clearly defined objectives or coherent business cases – which inevitably compromises progress.

At the same time, many b2b websites fail to meet the performance expectations of today’s b2b buyers. Companies we speak to often operate b2b sites that have been designed and built by in-house IT departments as simple brochure sites. Invariably these sites are part of siloed legacy systems that are unable to integrate with modern technology, offer very limited functionality, and consequently deliver a poor user experience.

With Forrester reporting that companies operating a b2b eCommerce solution are over 30% more likely to provide a high-quality customer experience, it’s becoming a business imperative for b2b sellers to develop and implement the right approach to online trading. But Forrester also says that in trying to achieve this, more than two-thirds of companies have issues with securing executive support for eCommerce projects, while nearly 40% have to deal with channel conflict, and a similar number face challenges with technology.

In addressing such challenges, the move to eCommerce should be treated like any other strategic project; clear goals need to be set, team roles need to be well defined, and strong leadership is necessary to deliver a successful outcome. It’s vital that the business requirement is the main driver for any technology choices, so the project should have C-suite ownership and oversight from day one. With this high level support, you can build a strong business case based around projected growth and return-on-investment – remember to view the project as a change in strategic direction for your company, rather than an isolated IT project.

The best performing b2b companies put a consistent, high-quality customer experience at the heart of every touchpoint across every channel, including their eCommerce systems. Online, they make it easy for buyers to search and find out about the products they’re interested in by using content strategically. Their eCommerce technology is smart, streamlined and low maintenance, making it easy to manage sales processes while customers self-serve 24/7.

Tight integration with your company’s business and accounting systems (such as Sage and Pegasus) allows further refinement of the customer experience, including account-specific pricing and payment terms, personalised order histories, offers and promotions, and access to real-time inventory data. These integrated eCommerce features help to make it easier for your customers to do their jobs, which in turn means greater efficiency all round. Technology plays a critical part in the way you’re able to sell to buyers, and making the right choices can quickly increase online trading sales and margins as well as promote long-term customer loyalty.