Too many choices can make finding the right B2B eCommerce platform difficult. It’s important to identify the technical requirements and capabilities in order to determine which one will help your business grow.
The B2B commerce market and the trends driving it
This year, 2021, will see an offline-to-online transformation, replatforming, and a digital launch period for B2B commerce. It’s time for companies to adopt the latest technologies or improve the ones they’re currently using to be more efficient in terms of reaching and dealing with customers or maintaining logistics processes.
According to Adobe, these are the biggest trends for the upcoming months in B2B commerce:
- B2B marketplaces will grow
- B2B merging with B2C
- Direct-to-consumer growth
- Progressive web apps
- Fulfillment of pivots towards safety
At Divante, we see that B2B and B2C commerce are starting to share more and more common features. It’s obvious that COVID-19 has pushed all the sales online. Things like comprehensive product descriptions, high-quality pictures and videos, or chat are now equally necessary in both markets. The safety restrictions are an important factor, too. That’s why we’ve launched a Click & Collect Accelerator that can also easily be adapted to B2B solutions.
How have the expectations of B2B enterprises changed?
Buyers in B2B want to have the same user experience like they have in B2C shops. However, the platforms used for B2B trading are still mostly EPRs and CRMs. These hardly provide any of the required user experiences. That’s a huge chance for attached and customized front ends like Spartacus for SAP/CX, which supports B2B features well, Virto Commerce, or Vue Storefront.
How can you achieve business success that’s sustainable?
As much as possible, B2B companies should be trying to connect with buyers in the same way as with B2C consumers. That’s with specific content, features, and an aligned set of experiences. Without it, your eCommerce strategy will fail or won’t succeed in the long run. You can’t afford that. Changing market environments challenge retailers to put all their physical assets, like their portfolio, content, and technology, into an online platform.
What are the most important technical requirements to boost sales in the B2B market?
Continuous buying cycle
In B2C, spontaneous purchases are quite common. On the other hand, in B2B, this way of purchasing is less frequent and the quantities are often large.
Enable bulk purchases: For large quantity orders, buyers should be able to add their own list of items to their order.
Request a quote: If a business requires a large number of units, they might request an individual quote before buying. A B2B procurement platform should offer this form of purchase if necessary
Purchasing departments are actually more like buying centers. They coordinate the purchase of a lot of items by following defined processes. Digital commerce systems should be designed to positively support these situations.
Cost centers and budgets: Some buyers prefer to assign their orders and invoices to defined cost centers so that budgets can be assigned to each of them.
Release workflows: For any business that has a process that must be executed offline, it’s important to implement a reliable online equivalent. Digital approval workflows help buyers to save time while ensuring compliance with company regulations.
The key in B2B is to retain the most valuable customers. The key to maintaining customer relationships is tracking all purchase touchpoints and storing them in a reliable CRM system.
Integrated CRM system: Because customer data management is as important as all the other sales functions, you can’t afford to have silos of information. It should be an integral part of the commerce ecosystem.
Manage touchpoint data: Real-time monitoring of customer purchasing behavior and addressing their wants and needs with the products you offer is the key to increasing sales volume.
In addition to specific ordering processes, pricing in B2B differs significantly from B2C because large volumes are usually ordered on a recurring basis. Although it’s true that the price for bulk orders is calculated on the basis of scaled prices, in many cases, you should also be able to provide individual discounts.
Custom pricing logic: Individual prices and discounts are expected by regular customers. This is why the pricing engine in the commerce system needs to allow individual customer pricing logic.
Dynamic pricing: Machine learning can be used to monitor the performance of your pricing models in real-time and adjust them accordingly.
Discover more technical requirements in commercetools’ B2B Commerce Whitepaper.
Differences in B2B and B2C eCommerce strategy
The solutions needed to increase B2B eCommerce profits
Headless commerce solutions
The chosen eCommerce platform for your B2B commerce will stay with the company for many years. That’s why the decision should be backed up by strong foundations. Speed, scalability, flexibility, API-first, cloud native, and being in full control over your customers’ experience are only a few of the advantages of headless commerce solutions.
With headless commerce, you can use best-of-breed products and services that will be perfectly suited to your needs. If one element works poorly, e.g., search, PIM, etc., you can always test another solution without dealing with the eCommerce platform at all. Still, if you ever need to change it, it’s possible without ruining the whole ecosystem because it’s just API.
We think of an eCommerce platform as the glue between all the architecture puzzles. You don’t want to renovate after a few years. It’s better to build on it by adding other pieces. We won’t reveal all the advantages of headless architecture just yet, but you can find out more on our dedicated landing page:
One of the benefits of choosing a headless platform is the option to choose the best headless front end. By the best, we mean a platform with all the features of progressive web apps (PWA). Here are just a few of them:
- Accelerate your development process. You build your PWA once and use it as a mobile site, desktop site, mobile app, or any number of other things.
- Improve user acquisition. PWAs decrease the cost of user acquisition (CAC) because they can be downloaded directly from your site.
- Increase conversion rate. A PWA usually loads in two or three seconds, has a decreased bounce rate, and instantly engages users
We are the main contributors of Vue Storefront, an open-source frontend for any eCommerce.
How to choose the most suitable eCommerce platform for B2B enterprises?
We believe that headless architecture is the best answer to the challenges of today and tomorrow in B2B commerce. It’s perfectly suitable to your business because, with this approach, you create your own ecosystem that has a 100% compatibility guarantee. If something is not working or just doesn’t satisfy you, you can always try other solutions without changing the whole platform.
Our recommended solution for enterprises is commercetools as the core of the architecture. This platform not only achieves the highest scores in the B2C segment (IDC MarketScape, Forrester Wave, and Gartner Magic Quadrant) but also has been named a “Strong Performer” in the 2020 Forrester Wave B2B Commerce Suites. This is their first time in this evaluation. Also, the company recently released a new whitepaper about technological foundations for B2B commerce where you can read more about their approach and discover case studies.
Choosing the platform is just the beginning. The next steps are to create the whole ecosystem of composable commerce including payment and shipping services, search and recommendation engines, promotion and loyalty, PIM, etc. There are many solutions for each of those, so it’s good to have an experienced eCommerce partner that can advise you about the choice and help with the implementation process.
Last but not least, the front end. The powerful commercetools’ API underlines the strengths of Vue Storefront with out-of-the-box PWA features, support for a plugins ecosystem, and automatic project setup. Combining all these puzzles, you get a flexible, scalable, and modern eCommerce stack with customization options for future market challenges.
The need to improve digital experience for B2B enterprises
It’s inevitable that the need for an online presence for B2B enterprises will grow in the upcoming years. For those who have been there for some time, the technologies are beginning to get outdated, and the structures are becoming too rigid for rapid development in a fast-paced, changing environment. For the newcomers, there’s a question about which platform and technology will fit them and the market demands. The challenges are everywhere.
Whether you’re looking for digital replatforming or building a new eCommerce, it’s crucial to find the right partner that will guide you through the whole process and be your technology advisor. We’ve been helping create eCommerce solutions for B2B and B2C businesses since 2008.
If you need help or have any questions, feel free to contact us.
Published April 7, 2021