The business-to-business (B2B) landscape is changing as it shifts away from the traditional offline territory towards a more online world.
This shift has been quite rapid, as the B2B ecommerce volume in the U.S. more than doubled from 2009 to 2019, leaping from $3.1 billion to $6.7 billion.
Due to this substantial growth, ecommerce technology has quickly become top of mind for B2B businesses.
Typically defined as the sale of goods or services through online transactions between businesses, B2B has transformed online retail by processing orders digitally. This has resulted in increased buying efficiency and effectiveness for all B2B businesses, from B2B2C to wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors.
There is no better time or opportunity to craft an ecommerce plan. The first step? To provide the right things to your customers, you need to find the ecommerce platform that’s right for your B2B company.
By reviewing the following factors, you can consider how your choice of B2B ecommerce platform will impact your company:
Different types of B2B companies will have different needs. When researching a solution, organizations must first understand the differences between them:
First of all, your team's ability to use your chosen platform hinges on a few things:
Each platform's interface is different and tailored to users with a specific level of coding and developer knowledge.
Not every B2B ecommerce software will work for your team — and they're not supposed to. That's why it's important to pick not the best platform but the platform that your team will be able to utilize best.
The switch from one ecommerce platform to another — or from an old proprietary platform to a new one — is not always a seamless transition, especially for your customers.
When implementing a new solution, make sure that you have a clear plan in place for onboarding your pre-existing customers. You do not want to surprise them with a new platform in which they have no idea how to operate.
To streamline the whole process, some ecommerce organizations provide extensive launch services to ease the transition and provide real-time training for both your customers and your in-house staff still getting used to new workflows. This could be the difference between a long, drawn-out implementation process and one that’s easy for everyone involved.
If you’re an organization that uses many different, essential business software — such as ERP, PIM, CRM, OMS, etc. — then finding a platform that can integrate with them is crucial.
You do not want to find yourself in a situation where you have spent money and time investing in an ecommerce platform only to find out that it doesn’t work with the software you currently have. That’s more than just a waste of time and effort; it’s a loss of potential revenues as well.
The most highly-rated platforms out there provide a solution that connects all of your software in one easy package without holding you back.
Security is the number one priority for many customers when selecting a platform. Ensuring that their data is safe is critical to their implementation of your service and its ultimate success.
An ecommerce platform dedicated to B2B needs to be able to provide security when it comes to:
With each of these items dutifully safeguarded, customers will be more likely to select your service.
If that wasn’t enough, dedicated security programs can help prevent your site from cyber attacks and ultimately, help to increase your SEO ranking. It pays to be secure.
By cost, we mean not only the monetary cost but also the internal cost of getting the site up and running, maintaining it, etc. One significant differentiator is how software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms like BigCommerce compare to on-premise platforms.
While on-premise platforms allow for an extraordinary amount of customization, they also require full-time developers to work through the complex nuances of the buildout. In addition, an on-premise solution carries the weight of security and compliance, which can get expensive as well.
With a SaaS platform, many of the extracurriculars that can bog down the process are handled by the third-party vendor — simplifying the process while lowering costs. Furthermore, by using a SaaS platform with a long history, you can better forecast future costs far more easily.
While there is no easy answer when it comes to SaaS vs. on-premise solutions, the difference in overall costs may end up one-sided.
Providing a customizable, flexible solution is a must for B2B ecommerce platforms. Long gone are the days when companies could simply release a ready-made, all-in-one solution and have it work for every company and individual. Technology has grown rapidly —specificity is king.
Ecommerce platforms that provide extensive customization are more likely to attract merchants and customers. The main reason for this? Scalability. Organizations that experience extreme growth or are preparing for it need a solution that can grow alongside them.
Businesses across the world have realized this and are offering solutions with increased functionality and designs — without the additional costs. With new methods like headless commerce taking off in popularity, the desirability of customization appears only to be increasing.
Becoming more data-driven is a critical part of maintaining or building success in the modern business world. Understanding the data that you have at your fingertips, while being on the lookout for more sources of information can help differentiate you from competitors and grow your business.
Through the use of platforms like Google Analytics and the interactions of different online channels, it is easier than ever to understand customer behavior — where they’re located, what they’re interested in and what causes them to convert sales.
An ecommerce platform that leverages itself for success should have extensive strategies for data-driven decision making.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most essential features to look for in B2B ecommerce websites and platforms:
Selling to B2B and B2C do not always have to be separate silos within your business — in the modern ecommerce sphere, the ability to do both within the same platform can save you both time and money.
This isn’t a feature that all ecommerce platforms have, though, and it is important to do your research when investigating potential solutions.
The omnichannel experience has changed modern ecommerce, allowing businesses to operate in a multi-channel approach, from physical storefronts to online platforms and social media. A unified experience across all channels helps to increase sales and bring about a more pleasant customer experience.
When researching platform features, finding one that prioritizes omnichannel must be an essential part of the process. With how much the shopping experience has changed in the last decade, being able to sell to customers in every channel they operate in is one of the keys to business success.
The international marketplace is globally accessible in a way that it has never been before. An individual in America can purchase a product in China from Amazon or eBay and have it delivered within a week.
With how connected the world is, having the ability to sell internationally is critical to long-term and sustained growth — and that first starts with multi-language support.
By finding a platform that offers internationalization, you’re choosing a service that will grow alongside you and offer the ability to sell into new markets, whenever you choose.
B2B ecommerce businesses are often more complex than B2C ecommerce businesses. Due to the nuances and rules often associated with selling to other companies, you need to be able to manipulate your ecommerce platform to solve for differing buyer experiences, depending on the user.
Because of this, your ecommerce software of choice should give you the option to allow or restrict access to certain parts of your site on an individual basis.
For example, you may want to:
How to use these options involves taking a look at your B2B buyers' experience and your variety of customers and products. You need to make sure the B2B ecommerce software you choose allows you to make these choices in the first place. Otherwise, you'll run into issues while building out these pathways in the future.
B2B businesses have many moving parts. Between customer management tools, fulfillment centers and punchout catalogs, several different systems need to work together to create a unified order management and customization system.
You need to ensure your B2B ecommerce platform allows for transactional options in one unified solution since having several tools that don’t work together will result in disorganization, confusion and potential problems with inventory management and order fulfillment.
This is particularly relevant if you are a hybrid business offering both B2C and wholesale channels since reducing channel conflict and management are pivotal to your business.
Additionally, you might want to provide your best clients with different delivery options, depending on their tier, location or other factors.
Whenever brands look to create an ecommerce website, one thing is the most important: the user experience. B2B customers need to resonate with your brand and your site's user experience and user interface (UX/UI) to make their experience more satisfying and enjoyable.
For example, you could consider automating your ecommerce product videos to generate videos in bulk. Videos are more visually appealing than text, and you are likely to enjoy higher conversions by scaling your volume of creatives.
As more and more B2B businesses move towards an enhanced UX/UI with optimization options, your best bet is to identify a platform with the personalization options you need. You want to find a platform that enables you to create an ecommerce site that's:
BigCommerce is one of the leading open SaaS ecommerce platforms, internationally known for its low total cost of ownership and highly flexible APIs.
BigCommerce offers its customers a variety of B2B features and add-ons not found in competing for software solutions to deliver a modern, frictionless ecommerce experience.
The BigCommerce platform also makes it easy for hybrid businesses with both B2B and B2C customers to offer different price lists or catalogs to customer groups. In other words, you can provide for both B2B and B2C in one unified solution.
What separates BigCommerce from other digital platforms? One word — features.
BigCommerce B2B Edition’s next-level features make the buying process more manageable and less complex for your customers by providing the following features:
Furthermore, BigCommerce offers business the ability to combine the front-end and back-end of their ecommerce store with headless commerce, which offers additional benefits including:
No other ecommerce platform offers the multitude and variety of features, modules and marketing tools available at BigCommerce.
To research and compare, other ecommerce platforms include:
Now that you know what you should be looking for in a B2B ecommerce platform and you've reviewed the best options, it's time to narrow your choices.
If you have a bit of analysis paralysis, that's okay. Remember, this isn't a decision to be taken lightly.
You should leave with three questions to ponder that should help guide you toward the platform that's right for your company:
If you can answer these questions, you should be able to find the right B2B ecommerce solution with no problem.
The answer? It depends.
On the one hand, selling your products wholesale can lead to a massive spread of brand awareness. The case may well be that your wholesale customers expose your brand to an audience you would have never thought to market. Additionally, selling wholesale also opens the door for other business opportunities, such as dropshipping.
What’s more, your wholesale customers will likely become long-time customers as long as you can provide for their needs.
On the other hand, there are some downsides to going wholesale as a retailer, especially if the retailer is selling Direct-to-Consumer (DTC). Here, the main thing to consider is that you stand to lose part of your brand’s identity throughout the process. While your products are still your products, your customers may come to associate your products — and your brand — with the retailers you do business with. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is something to consider.
Along with this, selling wholesale puts a wedge between you and your customers. Since your retail customers engage with the actual consumer, you may not get as much direct feedback as you’d like regarding your products.
With the help of a B2B ecommerce platform, you can achieve the following items:
The complexity and size of your company will influence what ecommerce platform is the best fit for your business needs.
One business may need to ensure your ecommerce platform provider can integrate all digital and physical customer touch-points. In contrast, another might need a B2B ecommerce solution that provides self-service or has significant reordering or SEO capabilities.
It ultimately depends on your business model and what you are trying to accomplish. There are many B2B ecommerce software options out there that offer partner ecosystems that can meet your online shops' needs.
With a SaaS solution, all of the technical aspects of running a B2B — from ecommerce website hosting to security and maintenance — are taken care of by the service provider. This means you don’t have to worry about breaches or bugs causing downtime for your site — and it also means you can spend more time focused on improving your website and your business.
Most SaaS ecommerce platforms are continually improved by the developers, with new versions released quite often.
With Open Source platforms, the user is responsible for the installation, management and hosting of an online store. While you gain complete control and flexibility of the platform, the costs associated with hosting, security and development can rack up quickly.
Because distributors are the connection between manufacturers and wholesalers, almost all of their sales tend to be on account and are repeat purchases. Therefore, they need customized pricing, account login and net terms for basically all of their customers.
Wholesalers buy from distributors and resell — they can sell directly to retailers, where they would need the ecommerce features above. However, they will still need to prepare themselves for one-off purchases. This is also where volume pricing and guest checkout would be prevalent.
You can secure your B2B ecommerce platform by implementing one or all of the following: