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We are undergoing a sustained digital transformation. However, despite statistics such as the In-depth: B2B eCommerce 2021 showing the B2B eCommerce market in 2020 alone being worth US$5 trillion, there is still an alarming number of businesses who believe that they can manage perfectly well without going online.

Such an outdated mentality is short-sighted, and those businesses will likely struggle to survive if they don’t wake up soon. Their competitors will go digital, leaving them trailing behind and unable to compete.

As daunting as it may seem at first, transitioning from regular commerce to eCommerce is mercifully straight forward. Investing in a B2B eCommerce platform will not only open a broader market than you probably have right now, but it will also mean you can take on competitors that are already trading digitally. If you consider the following factors, choosing a suitable solution will be less painful than you think.

1. Focus on the needs of your and your customers’ business

Both you and your customers have a particular set of business needs. Some of those needs may be common to both, while others won’t be. Either way, a B2B eCommerce platform must be flexible enough to accommodate the requirements of everyone who uses it, both in the front and backend.

Sadly, while B2C eCommerce platforms are cheaper, they are not suitable for B2B eCommerce applications. The reason for this is because B2B buyers have very different purchasing needs compared to B2C customers. A detailed comparison of the two is available in B2B vs B2C eCommerce Differences: 6 Tips on How to Sell to Your Real Customer

Which B2B platform you choose ultimately will depend on the type of business you run and its specific needs. If you are a wholesaler, your buying and selling processes will differ significantly from those of companies involved with manufacturing or distribution. 

Therefore, whichever platform you get, it must accommodate the your business needs while also allowing you to adequately service those of your customers. So, you may require features like personalised price lists and catalogues for each customer, controls to allow customers to access parts of the system, an integral CMS (content management system), etc.

2. Customer accounts

In the B2B world, businesses form ongoing relationships with one another, which is quite the opposite of what happens in B2C. Unlike B2C customers who are generally looking just for the best deal, each B2B customer is likely to need different credit terms, custom pricing, special delivery arrangements, etc., in return for repeat business and a long term relationship.

Therefore, your B2B eCommerce solution must be able to create and manage separate accounts with unique features for each customer. That will allow you to offer each one a personalised experience, closely monitor transactions and avoid costly mix-ups. Furthermore, a decent system will also enable you to group (segment) customers by geographic location, order volume, order frequency, etc., further helping you manage them effectively and focus your marketing efforts accordingly.

3. Provide information tailored to individual customers

Unlike B2C customers who have time on their hands to impulse buy on the internet after hours of endless scrolling, B2B buyers are much more specific in their requirements. For example, they look for particular quality levels and specifications, guaranteed delivery dates, volume discounts, etc.

Therefore, as a B2B seller, your platform must have the facility to provide price lists and catalogues individually tailored to each customer or customer group.

4. Electronic payment options

Not so long ago, payments were commonly made by cheque, although some businesses also used credit cards or manual bank transfers. However, those methods are rapidly giving way to electronic transactions, with B2C and B2B customers making extensive use of online banking and payment gateways such as PayPal, Wise, Stripe, etc. Furthermore, the transactions can be made instantly ‘on the fly’ from mobile phones and tablets, so no longer can companies use the old excuse that the cheque is in the post.

Therefore, all good B2B eCommerce platforms allow you to accept electronic payments. However, many customers will still want special payment terms such as lines of credit, so the platform you adopt must have sufficient flexibility to accommodate those demands too.

5. Range of delivery options

Many B2B customers – particularly those involved with manufacturing – have rigid timescales to which they must adhere. For example, a production line may depend on the prompt delivery of raw materials or parts, or it may be that storage space at the factory is limited. Either way, delivery demands are likely to vary significantly between customers, meaning your chosen B2B eCommerce platform must be flexible enough to customise the delivery options to each one.

6. Scalability

As your business grows, it makes good sense if your B2B eCommerce platform grows in tandem with it.

For example, over time, your eCommerce company may grow to capture overseas markets. That will inevitably place different demands on the business, like managing foreign currencies, languages and taxation. Therefore, it would be wise to choose a platform that can either accommodate such demands from the outset or be easily upgraded to do so.

Don’t get left behind – go digital now!

Hopefully, you now realise that irrespective of the kind of business you operate, having a solid digital presence is becoming increasingly crucial as each day passes. The transition from traditional to digital methods is simply impossible to avoid if you want to remain a serious competitor in any field. 

While the considerations discussed in this article are the most important for all types of business and will certainly help you choose a B2B eCommerce platform, they are by no means exhaustive. Other factors such as ease of use, maintenance, security, hosting, etc., may also be important to you, so having a complete understanding of your business and customers’ needs both now and in the future will help you ascertain which features you do need. OROCommerce would be a great starting point, offering fully scalable B2B eCommerce solutions for distributors, wholesalers, brands, and manufacturers.