How to become a successful online B2B player?
If you can successfully translate the B2B customers’ needs into specs of your web store, you will become a successful online player. If you want to make sure you can fulfill all the B2B buyers needs, its’ essential to take your ERP system as starting point.
Use customer log-ins on your web store
B2C web stores often use single log-ins for its customers. In some cases it’s even possible to place orders via a guest account (i.e. if you are not planning to return to the web store quickly). Due to the fact that B2B customers can have specific pricing and they want to assign specific roles to employees, you should make sure your customers could have specific log-ins for your web store. These log-ins should allow customers to have specific roles per log-in. By having this, your B2B customers can decide whether they want specific log-ins for employees that can only compose orders, manager log-ins for the ones that can actually place the order, finance log-ins to have a look at the invoices etc. To make sure all of your customers can see the right products, prices, discounts etc. (see next point), it is crucial to integrate your ecommerce solution with your ERP system. Within your ERP, all customer details are stored. So by taking your ERP as starting point, you won’t have to insert all these information in your web store. Furthermore, since you are only using the ERP for your data, there is no chance of having redundant data.
Show customer specific prices and bulk discounts
Since B2B customers often agree on specific prices/discounts, they also want to purchase goods online against these prices. Besides, B2B customers often order in bulk. Therefore it is crucial to show your B2B customers what’s the price for a certain product based on their agreement and whether it’s possible to get a quantity discount or if there is any delivery discounts possibly. It is crucial to do so, since B2B customers are often purchasing at different prices.
When you are selling to business and consumers, it’s possible to create a consumer page and a business page. Consumers do not want to create a profile and log-in before they can see the prices of the goods you are selling. So by clearly communicating whether a certain web store page is meant for consumers or businesses, you can get the best of both worlds.
Complex pricing structures are already part of your ERP system. Besides, pricing structures change over time (think about new agreements with customers or new discounts for certain products). Since these structures are recorded in your ERP, it is beneficial to have these linked to your web store. By making your ERP system the foundation of your ecommerce, you can easily make sure that all customers will see the right prices, discounts etc. on real time basis. Every time you change any price structure in your ERP, or you add new pricing rules for a certain customer, this will be shown in your web store in immediately. Integrated B2B ecommerce makes it possible that all pricing data is connected in real time and you will never face price redundancy.
Verify the preferred payment methods among your B2B customers
Also within B2B you will have some major customers and some smaller customers. When your smaller customers are not ordering in a strict routine, they may want to pay via their organization’s credit card. When a big customer is ordering every week, they might just want to be invoiced every month. If you have a lot of (large) customers, this can be a difficult task. Maybe you allowed just a couple of your customers to purchase on account. Furthermore, maybe some of your most loyal customer can order up to 500.000€ on account per month, while some smaller customers can order up to 100.000€ per month. All these customer specific information about payment options is stored in your ERP system. To easily verify whether a customer can order on credit and up to what amount, make sure your ecommerce solutions is linked to this crucial information.
B2B shipping methods cannot be covered by B2C ecommerce solutions
B2B shipments are totally different from B2C shipments. Almost all B2C shipments are being done via the traditional carrier services (UPS, PostNL etc.). Due to large order sizes and/or large, bulky products, this can be a big issue for B2B ecommerce. You probably need freight shipping. Your B2B ecommerce solution must be able to understand which shipping method is applicable for a certain order. Then, it’s also important to understand the different shipping costs according to the shipping method.
To determine the right shipping costs, it’s very important to know where your customer is located. As well for determining the expected delivery time you need customer information. Also, shipping costs can differ for each of your customers. For instance, if a customer is ordering each week, you are more likely to offer lower shipping costs. For new customers, risks are higher and so the shipping costs will be. All information regarding shipping methods and -costs is being stored in your ERP system. You can show all customer-specific ordering conditions to the customer depending on the details of the order in real-time. Furthermore you will eliminate shipment mistakes, which is very interesting since 91% of all customers recognize that manually processing offline orders is one of the main reasons for shipment mistakes.
Simplify repeat purchases to strengthen your long-term relations
As mentioned in the first section, online B2C purchases are characterised by single time purchases while online B2B order are being placed regularly. A lot of businesses keep ordering the same products to make sure their business processes can continue smoothly. Repeat purchases are therefore an important measure for these businesses; based on previous orders, new orders can be placed or adjusted. So when switching to selling via a web store, make sure your customers still can access their order history. Also, when you are selling via an ecommerce solution for some time, it’s very useful for your customers to get insights in offline purchases as well. Remember that B2B buyers are using your web store on a daily basis and they use it for work purposes. So, make their lives as easy as possible.
Offline orders and order history is always stored in your ERP. So again, make sure you are not wasting your investment and take your ERP as starting point for your ecommerce solution. When doing this, customers can easily order online and you are still able to adjust the order within your ERP system if necessary. It will be directly changed in your customer’s account. All data is based on one single source of truth: your ERP.
Furthermore, it is possible to automate your sales. Long-term customers often have a specific purchasing pattern. Based on information about on- and offline order history that is available in the ERP, new quotes can be generated automatically. Your customers just needs to verify the quote. Create an easy and sophisticated purchase environment for your customers by connecting your web store to your ERP data As mentioned, B2B buyers are not purchasing (online) because they like it, or because they are looking for something themselves. It’s part of their job. So, to spare their valuable time, make sure your web store provides an easy and sophisticated purchase experience. Now, 83% of B2B buyers use supplier websites for online research but less than half of those find it the most helpful channel. Stand out and take advantage of your competitors that lack online easiness and usability.
Also B2B buyers do not necessarily want to get in contact with a sales rep. It’s just 12% of all B2B buyers that have that need and 68% of them already purchase goods online. How you can make sure all information is available in your web store? Make sure ERP is the center of it. Within your ERP system, all information regarding your products is being stored. Think about stocks, prices and product details. By making your ERP the center of your web store, you are ensured of the fact that all information on the web store is complete. Furthermore, if you change information within your ERP system, everything is updated in a matter of seconds. B2B buyers can find all product information online and you are never facing the problem that your ERP system isn’t consistent with your web store.
Fully integrated B2B ecommerce provides so much more than just an online shopping cart
As mentioned, a fully integrated B2B ecommerce solution provides you a sales portal that allows B2B buyers to easily find the right product to purchase. When selling offline, due to large assortments it can be very difficult for customers to find interesting products besides the ones they are structurally buying at your company. An integrated web store helps you to show related products to your customers, so you can start cross selling and up selling. Besides providing a more sophisticated purchasing experience for your current customers, it helps you to grow internationally very easy. It is selling via the World Wide Web, so accessible for anyone and anywhere!
B2B companies can sell a huge variety of products. From consumer goods to semi finished products. Or even from technical components to raw materials. In many cases, product information is more important for B2B buyers than consumers. Think about a component for an advanced machine. The B2B buyer needs to know exactly whether the component fits the machine. If not, it’s useless! In the past, many B2B customers have allocated additional sales resources to answer product-related questions from B2B buyers and have thought of many ways on how to show their catalogue online in pdf for example. Having a web store that is connected to your ERP is a functional online product information center as well! Your B2B customers can find all of your products, including all technical information on a single website.
To maintain long-term relations with your B2B customers, an integrated ecommerce solution can also be used as an online administration center. Due to the real time connection with ERP, both online and offline information is available. So customers can find all invoices, online and offline order history and product information at one place. Although not many people are aware of the fact that an integrated ecommerce solution can be used as an administration center, still many of our Sana customers are telling us that their customers use their web store as information center.
B2C and B2B customers are very different. Not just offline, but also their online habits. By understanding these differences, you can create a great social experience. The best way to translate B2B wishes into a successful web store is by taking your ERP as starting point. A web store that is fully integrated with your ERP allows you to:
- Create customer specific log-ins for your web store
- Show your customers different prices based on mutual agreements
- Effectively manage customer payments on credit
- Implement B2B specific shipment methods
- Create easy repeat purchase possibilities for your customers
- Have a web store that is easy in use for all B2B buyers
- Provide your customers with more than just a shopping cart.
- Sana – Keeping your B2B company in the best possible sharpe with ecommerce
- Acquity Group ‘State of B2B Procurement’, 2014