You shouldn’t have to adapt your sales processes to fit in with the functionality of a B2C eCommerce. Instead, your B2B eCommerce store should meet the needs of your business directly.
#1 Request for Quote / Special price quote
Unlike B2C, your customers should be able to interact with manufacturers or distributors with a request for quote. There are two scenarios, either the product is not a listed price product where a customer requires a quotation, or they needed a special price to in this competitive market to secure a deal.
In either scenario, RFQs are used by customers or distributors to assist their customers and meet their needs through negotiations on a better price, more convenient quantities of products, or additional services. This process will help manufacturers or distributors to stay competitive with their customers as well speed up their response to them which is another critical factor to win customers. Ultimately, a customer should be able to convert this quote into an order with a click of a button which saves them a lot of time being spent on an excel or word.
Manufacturers or distributors will benefit immensely with this feature to know if they have to publish a price list for specific products or understand their competition to play a better strategy to lead the market. This competitive information will also help them decide their future pricing strategy.
#2 Multiple Price lists
Price lists are one of the essential features of B2B commerce. There is no single price strategy which will work in the case of business to business transaction. It has to be standard price, annual price, a special price for a period which can be configured for every customer. It is possible to bring in other variation of volume based pricing. Hence pricelist has to be flexible enough to cater to different customers needs.
Many a time the distributors are categorized based on their volume of business, and hence it is imperative for a manufacturer to provide multi-level pricing depending on their dealership level. Or in some scenario, to improve the sales in a weak sales month, there could be a unique scheme which might focus on certain distributors or product groups for a specific period. The eCommerce system has to be flexible enough to run down and help their sales teams to retain different pricing strategy in this competitive world.
#3 Products Setup & Configuration
The digital catalog is the cornerstone of every B2B eCommerce portal. Without it, your buyers have nothing to browse, and you have nothing to sell. Given the importance of the catalog, it’s important not to make sacrifices when it comes to your catalog navigation. Your catalog should be flexible and able to account for:
Single or Multi-Brand Selling. It should be easy for your buyer to navigate through your catalog by product category and––one level above––by brand (if you sell multiple brands).
Flexible Navigation. You should be able to set up your category tree for optimal buyer navigation (e.g., five top-level categories and two levels of nested categories).
Any Number of SKUs. Whether you sell 10 or 10,000 SKUs, your catalog should be able to package an ordering of any size.
Variants. Products that come in multiple colors, sizes or materials should be displayed in an organized manner.
Product Search. Product search has now become a navigation necessity for any eCommerce experience, allowing your buyers the option of quickly jumping to an item they are looking for, rather than browsing a catalog category by category. Ideally, your catalog should allow your buyer to search by SKU, product name, or a keyword.
#4 Integration with backend systems
For most manufacturers or distributors, a B2B eCommerce platform that has to integrate with their backend systems and it is necessary on how they want to handle this integration depends on two main factors:
The level of sophistication of your in-house IT team.
How important it is for your B2B eCommerce portal and backend systems to gets updated in real-time.
Integration options are
Flat File Integration. The simplest (and most manual) option, this will allow you to export a spreadsheet of your customer order data from your B2B eCommerce solution and upload it directly into your ERP.
Scheduled Import/Export. This will allow you to schedule recurring data imports and exports, a less manual process than the flat file approach.
API Integrations. API integrations are superior to more simple approaches because they allow you to write a more flexible and reactive integration, giving you much more control.
B2B eCommerce is fundamentally changing the way manufacturers and distributors can meet the needs of their customers. It is imperative to build your online presence to provide eCommerce flexibility to your customers, digitally manage products with price lists, increase your quality communication time by reducing follow up and phone calls. Your customer’s buying experience should be your core interest to engage more with them.
It doesn’t matter if you’re digitizing your catalog, building a customer portal, or rolling out a complete B2B eCommerce strategy.