As with most questions in ecommerce, the answer to which platform (or indeed if you should use a platform) is that it depends. It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where money wasn’t an object, and as a result, it was possible to have the very best solution. Unfortunately, as the KPI for ecommerce is profit, spending (what can be) vast sums of money developing a B2B ecommerce platform is not going to be the route for everyone.
The question that we are going to try and address in this article is…
What is the best choice for SMEs (and in particular brands), when it comes to B2B ecommerce platforms?
Firstly, it is important to blur the lines, and not to think of B2B ecommerce as vastly different to B2C ecommerce. Many of the same rules apply. What makes a great B2C platform, can often be translated into B2B (with a few changes). It is also true that B2C customers can become B2B customers and vice versa, so having 2 completely separate systems is unlikely to be the best route forward.
Assume that a potential B2B customer wanted to see what your products were like before they made a bulk order. There is a high likelihood that they would go onto your site, purchase one (or a few) products, and see what they were like before enquiring about bulk purchases.
Surely, if this system works well, the most cost-effective way to develop a B2B ecommerce platform is to build it on an existing B2C site. From WooCommerce to Magento, there is a solution to (at least test) the appetite for B2B ecommerce.
What if you don’t have a B2C ecommerce site, what should you choose for B2B?
It depends on your size; smaller companies can test B2B on a number of platforms. The obvious first step is to see if there is a demand for products on platforms such as Alibaba.
If you are already selling B2B offline, and are interested in streamlining this process by taking advantage of ecommerce, then even options like WooCommerce have plug ins that will allow you to hide pricing to the public, and offer different pricing based on quantity. This is not a large-scale solution, but it can be a good first step for smaller companies.
For medium companies, and for those serious about getting into the B2B ecommerce space, there are two main players: Magento and Oracle Netsuite. According to Forester research, Magento has the slightly stronger current offering, especially when you consider the community aspect of Magento, and how active it is. Magento’s 2.2 update was aimed, to a large degree, at improving its B2B functionality out of the box. It includes more advanced features like business hierarchies, which when selling to larger organisations can be very useful to ensure that the right information is getting to the right place. However, be sure to identify what your system needs to do before making any decisions.
You can find out more information on B2B ecommerce here