B2B eCommerce is projected to hit $1.1 trillion by 2020. For B2B merchants, having an eCommerce website has become a non-negotiable part of doing business.
89% of businesses are expecting to compete mainly on customer experience. Simply having a "brochure-ware" website is no longer enough to provide an excellent user experience that will attract and retain customers.
Choosing an eCommerce solution can be a confusing and frustrating experience for many B2B companies. There are many platforms on the market and the long list of features and functionalities can make your head spin.
Before you get sucked into the vortex of bells and whistles, keep in mind that each business has its own priorities when it comes to eCommerce platform. The best solution for your best buddy may not be right for you.
To make sure you're selecting the best eCommerce platform for your business, you need to first get clear on your objectives. Consider your requirements from a buyer's perspective, so you can prioritize features that will help you create a user experience that best serves your customers.
Even though every business has different needs, you should expect the following basic features and functionalities from your B2B eCommerce platform to address the complexities and requirements of selling to businesses:
A cloud-based platform means you don't have to worry about the hosting and data infrastructure of the site. You don't have to invest a large amount of money upfront to purchase hardware, nor do you have to worry about the on-going expense of maintaining your own server.
Cloud-based providers are vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity, so you don't have to sweat about the safety of your data and your customers' information.
2. Mobile Optimization
42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process, and this percentage is only going to grow.
"Mobile responsiveness" is so 5 years ago. You need to do better than scaling down the big screen to fit the small screen.
To create an outstanding user experience for buyers who use mobile devices to research and place orders, your eCommerce platform should be optimized for mobile user experience by including features such as click-to-call, autofill using location service, and a mobile-optimized layout.
Putting together a make-shift eCommerce website by duct-taping bits and pieces together might save you a few bucks upfront, however, you'll probably pay the price later on. As your business grows, the increased traffic, higher purchasing volume, and need for more sophisticated workflows can cause slower load time and other inconveniences for your customers.
Your eCommerce platform should allow B2B buyers to do more than just placing an order. Customers should be able to manage their account, find information (e.g. purchase history,) track orders, and approve quotes without having to pick up the phone.
Enabling your customers to "self-serve" will not only reduce your customer support cost but also offer a better user experience by allowing customers to easily find the information they need when they need it.
5. Payment Options
Unlike B2C customers, B2B buyers typically purchase in bulk and may want to set up a recurring order that bills automatically so they can replenish their stock quickly whenever inventory is low.
B2B buyers also need more flexible payment options. Besides credit cards, your eCommerce platform should accommodate payment by check, ACH, wire transfer, purchasing card or virtual card, and extended credit.
Over 40% of B2B transactions are done with extended credit. It's, therefore, critical that your eCommerce platform is structured to allow for a streamlined process to help attract and retain customers with a seamless user experience.
Your eCommerce platform should be able to display account- and user-specific information and offer a personalized user experience with features such as volume discount based on account history, the ability to re-order from past purchases, and permission to order based on pre-approved budget.
Your eCommerce platform needs to integrate with your existing applications and systems to ensure not only operational efficiency but also a seamless customer experience both online and offline.
As more and more customers are expecting omnichannel customer service, your eCommerce platform should become the central location that stores customer data and reflects real-time updates from all customer touch points in order to minimize errors and frustrations.
8. PCI Compliance
PCI compliance ensures that security measures are in place to protect your customers' payment card information during and after transactions.
PCI security is included in some eCommerce platforms while it's your responsibility to have it set up on others.
If you use a cloud-based solution on which customers' data is stored on the provider's server, chances are PCI security is included as part of the service because the provider is in charge of safeguarding the data.
Now you know what features to look for, the next step is to find the eCommerce solution that meets your requirements. There's an overwhelming number of B2B eCommerce platforms to choose from and parsing through their feature lists could be a full-time job.