How to Modernize B2B Ecommerce by Switching to SaaS: Q&A with StrikeTru
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Although open-source solutions, like Magento, offer greater control and flexibility over site customizations, they often involve a high total cost of ownership (TCO) in terms of software, hosting, implementation and support fees. And as your business outgrows your open-source technology, you may seek to modernize your B2B ecommerce environment and shift to an Open SaaS solution.
With the combined benefits of open source and SaaS, BigCommerce offers a turnkey solution that allows ecommerce businesses to respond to fast-changing customer demands. Even with an expanding product catalog, B2B businesses can improve how they merchandize without worrying about platform maintenance headaches and significantly reduce the need for customization.
But as many B2B ecommerce merchants may know, making the big switch from open source to SaaS isn’t always a walk in the park.
What Are Some of the Deciding Factors for Proposing BigCommerce to Your Clients?
VG: “We work with a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses and merchants, and I’ve seen multiple clients, including larger clients, that struggle with having a good online presence when they have a Magento backend.
“It’s primarily because it’s an open-source platform that is not as easy to set up and maintain. It has too much flexibility and when you have a platform like that, you need a development team that’s well-versed in Magento, and your requirements should also warrant the flexibility and associated costs of the platform.
“We also felt that for B2B functionality, BigCommerce offers out-of-box functionality at a very compelling price, and it comes with such good support.
“We knew that with BigCommerce, we [could] pick up the phone and get a [customer support representative] within a minute, and, in my experience, they were very knowledgeable. All of these things put together make us comfortable in proposing BigCommerce.”
What Was Your Experience Developing the Marketplace Connector App and the Ease of Integrating Akeneo PIM with the BigCommerce Platform?
VG: “Based on [advice from BigCommerce], we developed an app that synchronizes all the product data structures, data and assets in the Akeneo Product Information Management (PIM) system into the backend of BigCommerce.
“It’s a completely API-based system, so I had my team look at the APIs, and they were pleasantly surprised that there’s lots of helpful documentation available on your website.
“We quickly got a trial site going so we could start experimenting. Then, we had access to the support team, which we honestly didn’t need much because there was so much documentation available. We were already working with some accounts, so we were familiar with the functionality of BigCommerce … But what made it super easy to build a connector was the fact that the APIs are so comprehensive and well-documented. We were sort of self-servicing ourselves, which is great. We never ran into a wall developing the Akeneo PIM connector with BigCommerce — and that’s big.”
What are Some of the Advantages of Working with an Agency like StrikeTru?
VG: “Especially during COVID, we’ve seen that most people are now buying products online — so companies have to transform to respond to the surge on digital channels. There’s no “ifs” and “buts.”
“To transform, you have to solve your core technology and data issues. Best practices here include deploying new tech tools, implementing agile data management practices and then making your data very usable and portable across departments and across your customer and partner ecosystems.
“Often what we find is companies, especially SMBs, don’t have expertise on those tools and don’t have the staff who can set up and operate those tools, especially in the beginning stages — that’s where the agencies come in.
“We bring in best practices in deploying these tools. We bring in the expertise on these tools that the companies don’t have; we know how to deploy and configure them, and integrate them. We’re also data architects and know how to solve data challenges. We are also process re-engineering people. We get to understand all of the client’s data and commerce processes and re-engineer them to best leverage the new tech tools. We align client requirements with the capabilities of these tools, and also provide project management and training services to help avoid stalled or failed projects.”
How Does Moving a B2B Business Online Impact the Sales Team if They Were Previously Supporting B2B Customers?
VG: “What’s happened — and this is something that a wholesale distributor of industrial supplies told me when I interviewed them in the past — traditionally, they had good margins on all kinds of product lines, close to 30% — and that afforded them the ability to have direct sales people sell those products to their customers.
“But now, thanks to Amazon and all the price transparency and intense competition online, for certain products that are commodities, the margins have shrunk to a point where the business can’t always support a direct salesperson. So, they have to go online with those products.
“Now, what the distributor wanted to do is essentially start selling more of those commodities online, such as a set of micro sites or power tools — it’s a commodity category. You can walk into Lowes or Home Depot and get those products. You don’t need a high-end sales guy to sell those to you.
“The margins are low, so the only way to make money there is to leverage all their existing relationships and access to product and distribution, and then sell online and survive even on those lower margins because they’re scaled. Then, eliminate the salesperson out of the equation because they are high commission.”
What Strategies Did Your B2B Clients Use to Onboard Customers to Buy Online?
VG: “I’ve had some B2B clients wanting to transition away from relationship-based sales and onboard customers to buy online, and often they are bogged down in technology issues and getting it all working properly for B2B. They also have channel conflict to worry about. So there are other challenges that they have to account for before they can move a lot of their clients in mass.
“I think channel conflict is a key one. They need to make sure their current sales team is brought into it, even if it means they have to adjust their sales compensation, whatever it is. Once those discussions happen, I think they have a wholesale buy in, then they can aggressively move their customers online. I would say technology and data issues, if they overcome that, then they can resolve their sales and business issues. After that is when they would really go at it.”
What Advice Would You Give to Other B2B Companies Looking to Shift Their Business Online?
VG: “If I can say one thing: Don’t wait. You don’t have time, so get started now.
“In today’s digital-first environment, you must digitize operations and digitize now, otherwise you risk being out-competed and becoming irrelevant. If you are going through a digital transformation, assess your current state of content and commerce operations and develop an implementation roadmap and be methodical about that. You can take a crawl, walk and run implementation approach with today’s modern tools. You shouldn’t feel like you need to solve for everything [from] day one. You can always solve some high-priority use cases first and move on to others next — that’s where a roadmap comes in.”
“I’ve had a lot of clients who are very anxious about seeing results right away, and I think the key message is it’s an investment — so you have to be a little patient. You have to invest first, and then you should have realistic expectations on what this investment is doing for you, whether it’s commerce or content. Don’t be impatient, because you might get disillusioned and move on. It is stable stakes today. So you have to do it. Invest in it and do it right.”
Explore the B2B Ecommerce Solution from BigCommerce
Are you a B2B business looking to make the jump from open source to SaaS? Schedule a demo for BigCommerce B2B Edition, and our migration experts will be happy to assist you in the transition. And for extra insights on all things B2B, check out The State of B2B Ecommerce: 2022 Trend Report.
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