Well…almost anything. The real question is…
What functionality should you be looking at for B2B ecommerce?
As with many areas ecommerce, the answer is remarkably simple, with immensely complex ramifications. The answer is, it depends. The strategy that will work best for one company will not work as well for another. It depends on a number of variables including: the size of your company, how many products you ship, how many orders you ship, the average value of the order, how embedded the industry is, what systems you are using, what systems your customers are using, how your customers are currently ordering, how your competitors are currently selling, and so on.
It would be impossible to discuss every possible option and where it could be implemented here. In this article will try and introduce you to some of the functionality that you may not be aware of.
Top 10 things that you should be considering for your B2B ecommerce
1. Hidden pricing
Many companies still wrongly assume that the only type of ecommerce is B2C, and hence assume that all ecommerce works in the same way as B2C. One barrier we often come across is that companies “don’t want to show the world their wholesale pricing”. The answer, you don’t have to. It’s possible to only show wholesale pricing when someone is logged in, while allowing users that are not logged in to only see the product without prices (or with retail prices).
2. User unique pricing
Another barrier to adoption is often that different customers have different pricing. Those that have been customers for a long time may receive preferential pricing compared with new customers. With an ecommerce system you can show pricing, or discounts, based on who the customer is. Not all B2B customers need to have the same price.
3. Dynamic pricing
Another useful feature of ecommerce systems is that pricing can easily be made variable based on order quantity (or other criteria). Customers pay a lower price the more they order. This can be built in, allowing (and encouraging) those customers who are purchasing higher quantities to benefit from discounts.
4. Quotes/POs and other formalities
B2B platforms are capable of generating all the (PDF) paperwork required, and will often interface directly with accounting packages or other systems. In times of old it may have been necessary to send contracts back and forth, but now documents can be automatically generated online, saving time.
Most B2B companies offer a line of credit, and this can be set up in the system. Whether it is based on an amount or on a period, companies can offer lines of credit within the system. This allows customers to log into the system, order goods, and pay for them at a later date.
6. Point of Sale (POS)
Offering online solutions to customers is all well and good, but for a number of companies, face to face is still how they sell product. For these companies: why not set up an ipad that salespeople can take to meetings, enabling orders to be taken then and there? This saves time, and reduces fall off. It also allows you to take advantage of the other benefits of having them on an ecommerce system. See here for more info.
7. Bulk orders
If your customers order hundreds or thousands of products from you, then they are not going to be happy with the idea of having to go through your site, clicking on all the products, adding them to their basket. They don’t have to, they can upload spreadsheets of SKUs and quantities, or reorder past orders with the click of a button.
8. Automatic reordering
For more advanced systems, you can link your ecommerce with your customers ERP system. This can trigger a reorder when stock falls below EOQ. This streamlines the process for companies that order the same products on a regular basis, saving time and money.
In larger companies, the person ordering the product is often not the person signing it off, or paying for it. These hierarchies can be built into the system to ensure that all parties are getting the information that they need.
Many of the marketing features within B2C ecommerce have the same effect when applied to B2B. Whether it is offering products aimed at cross selling or upselling, or offering incentives to purchase more, many of the same rules of good ecommerce are applicable in B2B as well as B2C. For example, the product recommendations that are commonplace on consumer-focused ecommerce sites, can be of great benefit to B2B too.
This is only a small cross-section of some of the functionality offered by B2B ecommerce platforms. For an overview of some of the other features, you can see the below diagram taken from The Forester Wave report on B2B ecommerce.