If you're a B2B merchant and don't have an eCommmerce site yet, take note:
According to a research by Forrester, USA's B2B eCommerce will grow from $780 billion in 2015 to $1.13 trillion in 2020.
Another Forrester research has found that 59% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep and 74% find buying from a website more convenient.
Image source: Forrester
Having a "brochure" website no longer cuts it if you want to build an online presence that will increase your sales and profit.
To keep up with the market, you need a B2B eCommerce website that can support end-to-end customer experience -- from initial research all the way to purchasing, order tracking and customer support.
No doubt, building a website from scratch and having to address a slew of technical requirements can be daunting. Here's how you can get started to minimize headache and increase ROI:
1. Get Business and IT On the Same Page
Before you start building anything, start with assembling a team of stakeholders from both the business side and IT side of your company.
These two departments need to work closely together to translate your business case -- which covers metrics such as site traffic, conversion, average order value, and reduced cost etc. -- into requirements, user experience and features for your eCommerce site.
Matching your technology requirements with your business needs early on in the process can help you nail down what you need from your eCommerce platform, so you don't waste time and money on bells and whistles while missing out on key features that would increase your ROI.
2. Gather Platform Requirements
To generate a unique set of requirements that'll best serve your business, your next step is to combine industry best practices with the unique needs of your business.
Your unique needs would likely reflect what distinguishes you from your competitors. By understanding your unique positioning and competitive advantage, you can select a platform with functionalities that help augment what your customers already like about your business and make them work even better to generate more revenue.
3. Build Use Cases
Putting together technical specifications could turn into an abstract exercise that makes you lose sight of the most important thing -- getting visitors to convert into customers.
Use cases illustrate how potential buyers would interact with your site, helping you get into the nooks and crannies of user experience so you can refine the exact features and functionalities to support your business case.
This process requires the close collaboration between the business and IT department, to make sure that business needs are addressed with the most cost-effective technology solution.
4.Research and Select Vendor
With a clear set of requirements, you can now select a vendor for your eCommerce platform.
There are many moving parts, such as technical architecture, navigation and search, personalization, product information management, inventory update, as well as time to set up and ease of on-going management.
Here are a few things to consider when you're selecting a platform:
- Scalability & reliability of the platform
- Flexibility of the Product Catalogue Management
- Degree to which the platform is customizable
- Time to launch the customized solution
- Ease with which third party APIs can be integrated
- The price-value proposition of different platforms
- Pre- and post- launch support from the vendor
Your eCommerce platform should allow you to create a seamless user experience, so you can put your potential buyers on the fastest path to purchase with least friction. This involves making sure it integrates with all existing systems -- e.g. payment processing, credit approval, inventory tracking, content management -- to avoid errors and headache down the road.