Skip to main content

 

Are you looking at B2B eCommerce solutions for 2021 or planning to move more of your B2B sales online? Choosing the best platform can be challenging, so researching vendors and defining precisely what you need and what success looks like is crucial before investing.

The best B2B eCommerce platforms are built using modern, cloud-based technology. Gone are the days of slow, poorly designed and non-responsive sites. Rapid technology innovations have delivered a whole raft of improvements and new ways of doing things.

So, what worked for you five years ago may still work. However B2B eCommerce is evolving and it could be time to look for improvements to ensure your B2B eCommerce proposition stays relevant. 

INTUS by Iconography
INTUS by Iconography

We find that businesses wanting to sell to other businesses via eCommerce need to be approached with a different mindset than conventional B2C eCommerce projects. It's never a 'one size fits all', INTUS offers a service that's built to fit your needs

Would you like to know more? ›

When’s the best time to invest in a modern B2B eCommerce solution?

Maintaining and retaining a field sales force has long been a mainstay of B2B business. Often preferred to B2B eCommerce solutions. But now, sales reps are unable to make the face-to-face calls they used to. And while a zoom call will fill the gap and save you petrol money, it’s not the same as the human touch. 

Customers have always liked to have a visit from the sales rep. And the supplier has always thought it worthwhile having a sales team wear out the shoe leather, putting a face to the name behind the brand. A good sales rep will make sure the customer is happy. He/she will offer tips on best sellers and useful market intelligence about what’s going on in the market, what’s new and what’s old and being discounted - end of lines etc. 

Building a strong salesperson/customer bond leads to loyalty and can help keep the competition on the fringes or out altogether. And that’s why the evolution of B2B eCommerce solutions has been gradual with only partial adoption of digital solutions. In the absence of reps on the road having the best B2B eCommerce platform you can is now paramount.  


B2B eCommerce success starts with defining your objectives

Businesses over the years have gradually evolved the way they transact business with their B2B customers. The drivers for change have been many and various though no-one in living memory had a pandemic to deal with.


Key drivers for information and communications tech

Digital tools to support business transactions are not new. B2B eCommerce solutions follow a long line of things like electronic payments, EDI, VPNs and Extranets. These have all played their part over the years. And so most owners and managers will know that the key drivers for any investment in information and communications technology are:



Maintain and extend operational excellence


Promote and deliver new products, services, and business models


 
Support customer and supplier relations


Better and faster decision making at all levels of the business



Maintain and develop competitive advantage


Ensure the business can survive and thrive


To make your objectives more specific to understanding what might be the best B2B eCommerce platform for you, dig down into what’s going on for you right now. What would you add to that list? What specifically are you looking to do? Where are the pain points, what’s not working and why? What do your customers tell you they need? What’s missing from the relationship? It might be one simple statement: you want to encourage B2B clients to buy more online. And to do that, you need the best B2B eCommerce platform.


How to set a budget for your B2B project

Comparing apples with apples is hard when the vendor market for B2B eCommerce solutions looks like a fruit cocktail. When you last tried to find the best B2B eCommerce platform, it may have been simpler. You’re not expected to be an expert in this field. 

So it helps to speak to someone in a similar situation to yourself who has already made a recent upgrade. They will be able to give you tips on vendor types and price expectations. Be sure to test out their advice and match it to your own needs. The best B2B eCommerce platform is the one that works for you. There’s no question you will be making a sizable investment, so make sure it’s a good one. 


Total cost of ownership is always a good measure - the multi-year costs of the initial set-up added to the annual licensing, upgrades and support costs. Don't forget to include any integrations that may be necessary with back-office accounts and other functions. Ask what the upgrade path is and whether your annual fee includes the next software versions for free. Patches and bug fixes should always be at no charge! Ongoing support and troubleshooting is another one to have in the whole life cost. 

 

And while each vendor will vary in how they present and deliver their offer, it pays to make a detailed comparison between as many as you see fit to shortlist. Setting your B2B eCommerce budget will inevitably be informed by this research. The results may require you to review what you thought it might cost - down or maybe up.


Advances in cloud technology infrastructure have seen hosting and bandwidth costs tumble. Diverse and extensive competition amongst software vendors means you should be getting better value for your money.


Choosing between bespoke build eCommerce vs Software as a Service (SaaS)

Bespoke build is a term that’s been around for decades. As with SaaS, it’s important to be careful to define exactly what it is. No-one these days should expect to have something built from the ground up. It would cost too much, and it’s not necessary. Gone are the days when your whole business was reliant on one or two key programmers staying employed in your supplier company. 

At the dawn of the Apple Appstore, there was a commonly heard phrase, “there must be an app for that”? It’s a fact that so much code has already been written and rewritten to meet many business problems. So, the job these days is to assemble components and configure them to suit your needs. And bespoke-build in the 2020s is about having your precise needs met and not having to compromise. If you want the best B2B eCommerce website be prepared not to compromise. 


SaaS solutions like Magento and Shopify may restrict you online growth


SaaS limitations

The SaaS alternative could mean you have to compromise - to fit in with the constraints of what are often generic solutions to everyday business needs. SaaS is not always a one-size-fits-all, and you can select the features you need, though usually from a limited options list. So if your brief has complexities that are unique to you or your industry, a bespoke build is likely to meet your requirements best. You will come to know this as your vendor discussions proceed.

Note also that SaaS solutions are very often provided by large multinational businesses relying on specialist resellers to implement. The significant advantage of a bespoke build by a heavyweight technical eCommerce agency is they have total control of the code. This means the configuration and the customisation of existing modules can be tailored precisely to fit your needs. This control means the agency vendor can more often than not say yes to your request.


Learn more about Magento ›
Learn more about Shopify ›

Shortlisting desired B2B eCommerce features

Setting your objectives and defining the must-have functions for your B2B eCommerce is a critical part of understanding the software supply decision. If you think your needs are simple now, then be careful not to buy a solution that leaves no room for expansion. You will need to scale it at some point, and if there’s no headroom, you’ll have to start again. 

eCommerce security issues are always on the list and usually at number one if anyone technical is on the review team. And rightly so, as this is about financial transactions based on sensitive information. If you need to provide multiple price lists and discounting options based on tiered customer classifications, you need to make sure the system can deliver it.  

Customer Management options will vary from system to system, so be clear about how you want yours to operate. Remember, the aim is not to compromise if you don't have to. And lookout for the things that you didn't know you could have. Features that unify B2B eCommerce with other parts of the business like inventory management and live stock feeds.


Choosing an experienced B2B eCommerce agency

With a thorough list of your requirements cross-matched to the list of features and functions on offer, then you will get some clarity on vendors to shortlist. But that’s not enough. You need to understand just how any particular solution does the job you expect it to do.


Better still, you need to see it in action, preferably with your data in it - a trial or demo version. Then you need to road test that trial version with the people who will use it - your sales staff and customers.


An experienced agency with a good depth of knowledge will be able to accommodate these requests. They will have answers to the difficult questions, and they will explain how their current modules deliver. If additional code is required they will explain how bespoke code gets the job done. You have to solve the problems in outline before the job starts. Don’t give the go-ahead on a promise - you need evidence. 

Only give the order if you have the confidence your needs will be met. It’s not unusual for vendors' salespeople to dodge giving you the best advice, telling you what you want to hear, taking on the work and then failing to deliver—a waste of time for everyone



We are Iconography


 

We don't just build an eCommerce website for our B2B customers; we work with you to understand your needs and produce a fully rounded solution. 

Our innovative B2B clients challenge and trust us to deliver online solutions tailored to fit their existing business processes, providing a solid foundation and bridge to the future.

A team of seasoned eCommerce and omnichannel specialists, a dedicated group of digital artisans. We've been building profitable, high performing eCommerce and omnichannel businesses for our clients since 1997.

If you’re interested in exploring how our B2B solution can take you to the next level contact the team here.


Custom B2B eCommerce
Custom B2B eCommerce

We understand how to structure eCommerce for trade customers. INTUS Trade provides the specific stock, lead time and product information they need and the pricing, promotion, ordering and delivery options necessary to ensure all our trade sites are a useful resource which supports customers and adds real value.

Would you like to know more? ›