How to stay ahead of the curve in b2b eCommerce

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Today’s b2b buyers expect to be able to make their business purchases online. They want the ability to self-serve, when they choose, without being tied to placing all their orders through sales reps or customer services teams. Analysts report that in excess of 70% of buyers are now making their business purchases online, and the number is increasing all the time.

So if you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler or distributor, there’s no better time to adopt b2b eCommerce. Even if you’ve already made the move to eCommerce website software, it’s worthwhile continually reviewing your eCommerce provision to ensure it remains aligned with business goals and continues to deliver the kind of customer experience that buyers demand.

Whether you’re just about to embark on your b2b eCommerce journey, or you’re looking to upgrade an older technology solution, here are a few tips on how to stay ahead of the curve…

Break down your channel silos

Operational integration and cross-functional collaboration drive productivity in today’s top performing businesses. Wherever silos occur they are broken down. The same principle has to apply to online and offline trading.

eCommerce needs to work side-by-side with traditional sales channels where face-to-face and telephone sales have previously been the norm. Sales teams need to see eCommerce as a sales-enabler that’s working with them to deliver their goals, and not a management ploy to cheat them out of bonuses. To help achieve this:

  • Involve sales reps early on in discussions where you are assessing different eCommerce approaches technology platforms. Help them get to grips with the way eCommerce website integration can help them hit their targets.
  • Give reps commission on all orders placed by their customers, whether those orders are taken online or offline.
  • Encourage reps to focus on developing new business, opening new accounts, assisting with higher ticket purchases and consulting with customers to help them self-service.

Selecting an eCommerce solution that’s intuitive and helps sales teams do their job more efficiently, and has the flexibility to adapt to changing business and customer requirements is critical to breaking down barriers and getting everyone onside.

Work towards an integrated, omnichannel customer experience

Make sure your b2b eCommerce platform supports an omnichannel customer experience. Buyers should be able to move seamlessly across your b2b e commerce website – from desktop to tablet to mobile.

Your field sales reps and telephone customer services team also need access to the same eCommerce technology and back-end as the self service channel, so that everything stays consistent and in the same place. This is where a platform that integrates with business and accounting systems (such as Sage and Pegasus) really comes into it’s own – not just for the personalised customer experience it enables, but also for the support it provides to front-line teams.

In addition, making sure that the back office can handle a high volume of orders through tight software integrations is key to making b2b eCommerce scalable for your business.

Get the customer insights you need to sell more effectively

Data and insights drive better customer service and more effective marketing. Combining data captured online with personal insights will help to shape the customer experience and improve the strike rate of reps in the field.

For example, features built into your eCommerce platform, such as easy customer access to their order history, make the buyer’s job easier. They can reorder items effortlessly on a rolling basis – and you can offer them similar or complementary products as additional purchasing suggestions when they log in. You can also tailor individual promotions to each customer’s preferences.

Your reps can use data to spot trends with different customers, which could help increase order values and provide product recommendations to increase average order values.

Importantly, being able to capture these insights and use them to create a more personalised customer experience requires a best-in-class b2b eCommerce platform.

Forget your legacy eCommerce tech

The above recommendations – breaking down online and offline silos, building an omnichannel customer experience, integrating business and eCommerce systems, and using data effectively – are almost impossible to achieve with out-dated legacy technology.

Many old systems were originally deployed as a stopgap approach and contain a lot of manual processes. Strictly speaking, many are not eCommerce solutions at all. To stay ahead of the curve, a modern, streamlined approach to b2b eCommerce is required. Software-as-a-Service platforms are best placed to keep pace with a fast changing market and evolving customer demands.