Business to business (B2B) sales are changing as buyers become more sophisticated and move online for their research and purchasing. Worldwide B2B ecommerce sales have increased from US $889billion in 2017 to almost US $1.2trillion in 2021.
That’s why many B2B companies are now adopting ecommerce to improve customer experiences and achieve increased efficiency in a highly competitive environment. More than a third say investment in ecommerce technology is their top priority in the next 12 months while over half of distributors are focused on delivering better user experiences.
Cloudfy’s experienced ecommerce experts recognized that complex business to business (B2B) sales required a purpose-designed ecommerce platform.
In 2015 our turnkey B2B ecommerce platform with enterprise system integration was launched. Our goal was to help our clients grow and reduce their cost to serve. We soon added multi-language features and custom pricing to create a comprehensive suite of B2B ecommerce features.
We continue to refine and enhance Cloudfy and our customers benefit from regular upgrades in the cloud.
Before you start the next part of your ecommerce journey you will want to make a B2B platform comparison. Based on the Cloudfy team’s experience, here are ten things to consider when you’re looking for the best B2B ecommerce platform for your operation.
- Your business model
You might want to remove the need for a middleman with a business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) approach where you can have direct contact with your end users. This will allow you to learn more about their needs and provide effective advice and after sales support that will build your brand.
Alternatively, you might sell products in bulk with a discount to wholesalers who will then sell to other businesses. Or, as a manufacturer you might buy parts and raw materials and invest in labor and machinery so you can produce finished goods on a large scale to sell to other manufacturers, suppliers or wholesalers.
Many manufacturers work with distributors to increase sales and gain access to a wider distribution network.
Depending on your operational model your ecommerce solution will need to accommodate a wide variety of data and integration requirements.
- Your sales environment
Many B2B companies have concerns about the impact a new online channel will have on their existing sales, systems and processes.
For successful implementation and adoption your platform’s user interface must be easy to learn and use. An important consideration will be your team’s current level of knowledge and skill using technology as part of their role.
Ecommerce platform interfaces and functionality will vary and some can be more easily tailored to your requirements than others. When done effectively, ecommerce can digitally empower your B2B sales team.
- Customer acceptance
While more traditional B2B companies have been slow to adopt ecommerce there is clear evidence that up to eight out of ten B2B buyers want to carry out research and make their purchases online. In many cases they prefer not to engage with sales representatives.
This is especially true of millennials and Gen Z professionals who are playing an increasingly important role in B2B buying. They are looking for online experiences that are at least as good, if not better than those they find for personal shopping.
If you have yet to adopt ecommerce or you are running an older online catalog-style site with few or no transactional capabilities the time is right for you to carry out a B2B platform comparison.
You will need a plan to introduce your existing and more traditional customers to a new world of online self-service. This might include a formal launch of your new platform with guidance, training and incentives to deliver immediate benefits.
You will also want to make sure your site delivers fast, efficient and effective user experiences and interfaces. Your customers will expect personalization, reward programs, real-time pricing, quality design, accurate and useful product information and excellent performance on all types of devices.
- Business system integration
Many complex B2B organizations use business software solutions for enterprise resource planning (ERP), and management systems for product information (PIM), customer relationships (CRM) and ordering (OMS).
If these systems aren’t integrated with your ecommerce platform you will be missing opportunities to improve efficiency and accuracy. Separate silos of data will need to be reconciled, perhaps overnight, which will delay your processes and affect customer service.
Your B2B platform comparison will show you that some providers offer to connect your software. Some, like Cloudfy, come with pre-built integrations for all of the leading business systems.
- Security and data privacy
As ecommerce grows in popularity it is becoming an attractive target for cybercriminals and fraudsters. In all aspects of our lives, we are becoming more concerned about when and how data about us is used. To give your customers confidence you will need to prioritize security and privacy.
A data breach could be expensive and result in serious damage to your reputation so you will need robust measures in place including protection for customer data, payment details and processes, authentication to prevent fraud, good administration practices and technical defences against cyber-attacks.
- Cost of ownership
You might have expected to see cost at the top of the list of considerations when you’re looking for the best B2B ecommerce platform for your business. However, it’s important to look at your investment in the context of the benefits it will deliver and the risks you could face if you don’t embrace the latest B2B ecommerce technology.
As well as the financial investment in implementation you will also want to consider the internal costs of set up, training, operations and maintenance in the short and medium term. Many businesses are choosing software as a service (SaaS) solutions as an alternative to on-premises platforms thanks to their ease of use and significantly lower total cost of ownership.
If high degrees of security and customization are priorities for your business then an on-premises solution might still be the right choice for you. However, before you make this decision it’s worth looking at the power and flexibility provided by a SaaS B2B ecommerce solution like Cloudfy.
You won’t need in-house technology, backups, developers or ongoing upgrades and updates to meet your security and compliance obligations, all of which can significantly add to your costs.
Part of the business case for the best B2B ecommerce platform for your business will be its contribution to your organization’s capacity to grow. A customizable, flexible solution will help you grow your customer base and scale your business.
Alongside scalability you will also want the flexibility to innovate and test new approaches so you will want an agile system where changes can be made easily. Your ecommerce platform should offer you a powerful application programming interface to simplify and streamline this process.
You will want to confirm that new channels and technology partners can be easily added as you develop your omnichannel strategy to reach your customers in ways that suit them best. You will also want to be confident that you can provide consistent experiences across all your channels.
- International sales and multi-language support
Ecommerce allows you to sell across international borders so your platform should support multiple storefronts, currencies and languages with easy options for international payments, tax calculations and shipping. Even if international sales aren’t currently in your plans you will want to know that your solution can meet these requirements when you’re ready.
- Complex purchasing
The B2B purchasing journey is complex and often involves multiple decision makers with different roles. You can build strong customer relationships when you meet their needs with customized catalogs, Punchout ordering, electronic data interchange (EDI), and multi-role purchasing workflows.
You might want to show standard pricing for non-registered customers and bulk prices for your trade customers based on their contract terms. You could include bundles and volume discounts along with personalized promotions and recommendations based on your customers’ previous buying histories.
Choose an experience B2B ecommerce partner
Cloudfy is a leading SaaS B2B ecommerce platform offering exceptional value, performance and flexibility. You will benefit from an outstanding range of B2B features with pre-built integrations and connectors for fast and effective implementation in weeks rather than months or even years.
As part of your B2B platform comparison we recommend you include a free Cloudfy demonstration.