November 16 by Patrick Wolf
By 2020, a significant volume of business will be transacted online with B2B eCommerce Platforms projected to be a $1.1 trillion industry. If they haven’t already, most companies are looking for ways to move into the digital age and capitalize on this trend, beyond just a website to sell all of their goods online. Consider that “the most digitally advanced parts of the economy have increased their productivity and boosted profit margins by two to three times the average rate in other sectors over the past 20 years.” No matter what you sell – complex deals, bulk items, custom built orders, variant prices, advanced configuration – it can all be sold with your omni-channel B2B E-Commerce Software.
3 Categories of B2B eCommerce Software
1. Volume Products
This category might be considered the ‘purest’ form of B2B E Commerce in that it focuses on the transaction and making the ordering process easier. Volume products tend to be simpler, lower-priced items ordered in large quantities, and are most common in CPG, apparel and accessory businesses, such as hardware and automotive supplies. Companies must be able to support transactions that can come in the form of pre-orders, re-orders and other formats such as spreadsheets and custom order forms. In this model, it’s essential that the E-Commerce product enables customers to place orders in the fewest amount of clicks.
2. Subscription Products
In the digital age, a growing number of offerings are delivered as a service or an entitlement, and can be purchased in monthly or annual plans or even via ‘automated re-orders’. In this model, customers don’t purchase and check out with their items, but instead ‘sign up’ for a service. As a result, the B2B eCommerce solution must support a unique purchase flow and process.
3. Configurable Products
Examples include networking products or manufacturing equipment or medical devices or telecommunication solutions. These products may be dependent on or need to be compatible with other solutions, and may require configuration or bundling. Because these products often sell at high price points, customers and partners usually want to get a quote before purchasing.
How to Choose the Best B2B eCommerce Software
Can the solution accommodate these business models and changes?
– Moving from physical sales to subscription services
– Shifting focus from enterprise to SMB customers (or vice versa)
– Expanding from domestic to international sales
– Offering complex, highly configured products along with aftermarket parts in bulk quantities
– Evolving from selling through wholesalers and distributors to selling volume products direct
When evaluating B2B eCommerce Software, find out if it will:
– Make it possible to ensure a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints
– Provide all users – including inside sales and external customers – with the same view of account information, including contract terms and renewals
– Allow customers to request a quote and initiate orders online but complete them with their account executive, and vice versa
– Generate accurate invoices and allow customers to view and pay them online
– Empower the company to collaborate with its business partners and resellers around customer demand and orders
– Accommodate changes in go-to-market strategy should the company embrace new business models, roll out different products, or pursue different customer segments
When it comes to evaluating support for specific product categories, find out if the solution provides the following features:
– For volume products: bulk order and Microsoft Excel order interfaces, re-order from history, pre-order or saved order, volume incentives and rebates, multiple-ship to from single order, freight and other promotions, as well as quoting, workflows and approvals.
– For subscription products: new account origination, bundles, update/modify/upgrade plan, update account, renew, cancel, bundle offerings, notifications of account, and view/modify contract.
– For configurable products: configurations, bundles, quoting, guided selling, workflow and approvals, and order orchestration.
Realize Your B2B eCommerce Platform Value in 90 Days
For many years, companies have perceived it to be expensive, time consuming and risky to launch B2B omni-channel E-Commerce. In the days when legacy, on-premise solutions reigned supreme, companies were accurate in their assessment.
But the times have changed and a major paradigm shift has taken place. By taking advantage of solutions built upon SaaS and the cloud, companies can achieve time to revenue and time to value in as little as 8 – 12 weeks. The key is to choose an agile, flexible solution that makes it possible to easily and continually add value, and personalize the look, feel and functionality to better serve partners and customers over time. The ideal solution is designed so companies can focus on the customer and partner experience, and accommodates all touchpoints with these parties by offering more than a shopping cart. Just as important, it must be capable of supporting the company’s current and future product sets and business models.