How to Choose a B2B eCommerce Platform for Your Growing Business
Learn about B2B eCommerce solutions, the types of businesses that need them, how to choose, and what to look for in an eCommerce platform.
Recent research shows that business-to-business (B2B) sellers choose to prioritize eCommerce platforms and site features. These business decisions reflect the shifting business landscape, the profitability of online selling, and the bright future of B2B eCommerce. eCommerce sales are growing at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 10.7% in the United States, and the trend will continue. Although the number of businesses functioning exclusively in the email, phone and faxterritory is dwindling, many decision-makers may still be in the dark about B2B eCommerce.
In this guide, we demystify all things related to B2B eCommerce platforms. We discuss the types of B2B businesses that implement eCommerce and explain how to choose a B2B eCommerce platform that suits your unique business needs.
What is a B2B eCommerce platform?
Depending on the type of business, a B2B eCommerce platform can have a lot in common with B2C eCommerce. For example, a wholesaler of stocked items could have the same requirements as a retailer, aside from a few small differences like volume pricing and payment methods. Meanwhile, a manufacturer or distributor selling to wholesalers may need to offer a product configurator or a self-service portal secured behind a login rather than a classic public-facing shopping cart. Because these requirements can be more advanced in B2B, the integrations and business logic required between the front-end and the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can be more complex. Thus, B2B eCommerce platforms are designed to cater to the unique needs and complexities of business transactions.
Common Types of B2B Businesses that Implement eCommerce
B2B eCommerce platforms are versatile solutions that are beneficial to many different types of businesses across many different industries, including:
- Wholesalers and distributors
- Industrial equipment and machinery
- Equipment rental
- Building and construction suppliers
- Automobile and RV parts
- Horticulture and agriculture suppliers
- Chemicals and raw material suppliers
- Food and beverage distributors
- Wine and spirits distributors
- Office supplies and equipment
- Hardware and tools suppliers
This list represents such a wide range of industries because eCommerce has become just about essential to doing business. Any company that has yet to transition is likely eager to do so. A survey among B2B professionals from small and medium-sized businesses in the United States found that the share of those buying and selling via eCommerce platforms increased significantly from 2019-2021 in nearly every industry.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a B2B eCommerce Platform
Choosing the right B2B eCommerce platform is a critical decision. If the eCommerce platform is not the right fit, the technology will get in the way of business. Consider the following factors when selecting a B2B eCommerce platform:
Integration with ERP
B2B requirements often go beyond traditional retail requirements, which require flexible integration and customization capabilities. ERP software is the core business management solution that connects critical processes such as accounting, inventory, fulfillment, reporting, and more. Integrating ERP and eCommerce allows businesses to synchronize data and increase agility, ultimately achieving accurate and efficient eCommerce experiences for both customers and employees. To learn more about ERP integration, read our blog, Why ERP Integration is Important for B2B eCommerce.
At first glance, an entry-level eCommerce solution may seem like a straightforward and attractive option. However, these eCommerce solutions are fairly rigid and do not provide the customizability required by most B2B sellers. After all, B2B requirements can be unique. To create any eCommerce vision you can imagine, maintain control over your customer experiences, and design custom ordering processes, choose a customizable eCommerce platform. To learn more, read our blog, Custom eCommerce Solutions: Importance, Benefits, & How to Choose.
B2B buyers sometimes need to generate and review a quote before proceeding with a purchase. In those cases, choose an eCommerce platform that allows customers to create online quotes and integrate the quotes with the ERP or CRM solution.
Integration with Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ)
Many B2B transactions, particularly in make-to-order industries, rely upon Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ). CPQ is a sales process that involves configuring products based on compatibility rules, determining the price, and producing an accurate, error-free quote. By choosing an eCommerce platform that integrates with CPQ, your business customers have the power to build their own configurations, generate quotes, and place orders. This expedites the B2B buying processes, reduces the time sales representatives need to spend on orders, and increases sales conversion rates. To learn more, read our blog, Unified Configure-Price-Quote (CPG) and eCommerce for Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Volume and Bulk Pricing
B2B buyers often place large orders and expect to see tiered pricing structures for various quantities of product. Offering volume and bulk pricing fulfills customer expectations and incentivizes larger purchases. However, not all eCommerce platforms are designed to support the complexities of bulk and volume pricing. If this is a feature your company needs, choose an eCommerce solution that can handle this smoothly.
So many aspects of B2B relationships are unique, even to the extent that each customer may have their own pricing. Customer-specific pricing is typically determined through negotiations, contract agreements, and unique specifications for each buyer. Providing customer-specific pricing reliably and accurately requires a sophisticated eCommerce solution. If you need to provide customers with their own pricing or plan to do so in the future, look for a platform that can support this complexity with ease for both parties.
In B2B transactions, decisions are often made by a team or multiple individuals within the company. Additionally, B2B purchases may involve complex workflows with different individuals managing various aspects of the buying process, or with different spending authorities. In both instances, multi-user accounts are essential to the success of the customer journey. Multi-user accounts allow administrators to specify user-level, role-based permissions, and security controls. They also ensure each user has a personalized shopping experience. Once again, this is a sophisticated feature that many eCommerce platforms do not support. If your business needs multi-user accounts or may need the functionality in the future, choose an eCommerce solution with this capability.
Multi-Website or Multi-Storefront
B2B businesses come in all shapes and sizes. It is common for B2B businesses to have multiple brands that each need their own website or storefront. With the right eCommerce platform, you can manage multiple brands and storefronts from the same solution. The entire online selling strategy can be managed from one user-friendly interface to rescue complexity, maintenance, cost, and frustration.
Multi-Language and Multi-Currency
One of the most notable benefits of eCommerce selling is the massive audience expansion. With this extended reach, your eCommerce platform needs to be accessible to many different audiences and capable of supporting the unique demands of international business. Choose an eCommerce platform that efficiently handles all languages, currencies, payments, and taxes.
To facilitate a smooth and expeditious checkout process, eCommerce platforms must support all of the types of payment methods customers desire, and B2B sites are no exception. However, B2B transaction methods may and typically do differ greatly from B2C transactions. Some B2B buyers may prefer to pay through invoices with extended payment terms, while others may opt for ACH for its convenience and speed. Choose an eCommerce platform that securely supports all of the payment methods your customers need.
To learn more about trends in B2B eCommerce, check out our recent white paper on B2B eCommerce Trends in 2023, in partnership with Sapio Research! Get the free report here.