Successful B2B businesses have one thing in common: they understand their competitive advantage and use digital tools to help them maintain it. If your website can’t set you apart from your competitor, it’s easy to lose your customers (to Amazon, for example).
It also doesn’t help that most people are unfamiliar with B2B eCommerce or features of B2B eCommerce platform. Many to this day associate B2B sales with machinery, hardware, or industrial supplies. In reality, B2B eCommerce businesses sell everything from consumer products like food, clothes, and cosmetics, to automotive parts, medical supplies, and raw materials.
Business-to-business commerce encompasses many different verticals, business types, and professionals such as vendors, procurement, and supply chain managers. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors can engage in eCommerce or operate eCommerce stores of their own that span different locations, time zones, and countries.
The B2B business world is massive and certainly diverse, but most B2B eCommerce features are quite similar. To offer the ideal customer experience and make it easy for others to do business with you, you need an eCommerce platform with features built specifically for B2B duty.
Features Key to a Great B2B Experience
To successfully address the needs of their online buyers and succeed in their competitive markets, B2B sellers must equip their webstores with a number of key features for B2B eCommerce.
With the B2B eCommerce market booming, companies are becoming more accustomed to buying online and more demanding when it comes to the B2B online experience.
Whether you’re a B2B business upgrading your existing website, building it from scratch, or already using a B2B eCommerce platform, make sure you can support the following B2B capabilities.
Top B2B eCommerce Features List
Let’s take a look at the most important B2B eCommerce features to streamline sales productivity and improve the customer experience.
Access Controls, Roles & Permissions
In B2B, customers tend to be different users with different job titles and responsibilities. That’s why it’s important to ensure that users have access to only the information needed to perform their work and nothing more. Typically, there is always an admin user who can create other customer users and grant permissions to buyers and non-authorized users.
As the most common category of users, buyers can be further split to differentiate between purchase managers and junior buyers. In such a use case, a purchase manager may have full permissions to work with invoices, orders, tax codes, etc., while junior buyers may only access quotes, prices, and shopping lists.
Corporate Account Management
Unlike in B2C, the B2B eCommerce user experience requires much more personalization. A B2B account can often comprise multiple users with unique roles and purchasing rights, especially when dealing with company sub-divisions or sub-units.
Your system’s corporate account management capabilities should be able to address complex, hierarchical corporate account structures. Buyers should be able to configure their own account management structure, add authorized users, and create purchasing rules regardless of how many businesses, teams, departments, offices, or branches they may have.
Multiple Organizations, Websites & Stores
Many businesses manage multinational brands that operate across various countries, currencies, and tax regulations. Thus, scalability and localization capabilities of your B2B eCommerce solution may become a critical requirement for your business.
These B2B eCommerce features are typically addressed by a purpose-built B2B platform out of the box. For example, OroCommerce Enterprise Edition includes flexible and robust multi-website management tools allowing organizations to control multiple businesses from one central admin console. If you build a custom eCommerce solution from scratch, don’t forget to address scalability and security requirements that come with multi-website capabilities.
Content Management System
Having access to in-depth product information is a critical requirement for many B2B buyers. Because they purchase items for pragmatic (not emotional) reasons, merchants have to offer supplemental information to ensure buyers know what they are buying. Product descriptions, videos, certifications, marketing sheets – all this information help you clearly communicate the advantages of your products and preemptively address questions and pain points of multiple decision-makers.
A B2B eCommerce platform with robust CMS capabilities enables marketing and merchandising teams to update content and product pages without IT intervention, further streamlining productivity.
Personalized B2B Catalog Management
There’s no one size fits all approach to product management. Your eCommerce solution must be tailored to the way you do your business and not the other way around. Thus, personalized B2B catalog management is probably the most prevalent among B2B eCommerce features.
For example, you may want to bundle certain products together or set minimum order quantities for different customers. Personalized catalogs enable sellers to customize product catalogs to specific corporations, divisions, business units, and even individual buyers or customers. Each group has access to its own catalog where purchasing managers are able to view content and purchase products.
Multiple Price Lists
Pricing in B2B eCommerce can get quite complex. Prices may depend on the purchasing volume, pre-negotiated discounts, frequency of purchasing, and many other factors. They may also be calculated dynamically based on specific business and pricing rules (another useful eCommerce feature).
All this calls for the ability to create and customize multiple price lists for each customer, company, or business unit authorized to purchase from you. Price lists can also contain an unlimited number of price points, various tiers, and different currencies, adding to their complexity. Moreover, keeping these price lists in sync with your ERP system is another challenge, but more on that later.
Multiple Shopping Lists
While corporate buyers can place orders through multiple venues, many prefer to use shopping lists for bulk or repeat orders. That’s because B2B customers work on multiple projects, require different products for different areas of business, or can even purchase on behalf of different individuals. Such selling environments necessitate more than one shopping cart for different purchasing needs.
Aside from the above, shopping lists should include many time-saving features like the ability to perform actions in bulk. Your B2B eCommerce solution should allow buyers to add, remove, duplicate lists, or use them to request quotes or submit orders. Other businesses may want to offer customers both shopping list and cart capabilities.
Streamlined Buyer-Seller Interaction
However advanced a website may be, a B2B eCommerce website cannot offer a complete substitute for a salesperson. Even in a negotiation between the buyer and seller, some B2B eCommerce capabilities can significantly streamline this buyer-seller interaction.
For example, one way OroCommerce improves these interactions is by providing buyers with an easy way to create and submit inquiries, purchase orders, and Request of Quotes (RFQs) electronically. Sellers are then able to easily respond to orders and quote requests on the same platform, thus facilitating an efficient negotiation process between the buyer and seller. Another example is the Buyer Assistance feature that enables sales reps to purchase on behalf of the customer, thus ensuring a stress-free buying process for inexperienced or first-time online buyers.
Payment and Invoicing Options
Business transactions are complex and differ from company to company. While one company may choose to pay on delivery via wire transfer, another company may want to purchase on approved credit or Net 30 payment terms. Aside from credit card, eCheck, and other traditional payment methods, the best B2B eCommerce solution should offer additional options such as ACH, partial payment, credit lines, and guarantees either natively or through integration.
Once payment goes through, you may want to transfer this information to other systems. Aside from integration with payment gateways and processors, consider if you’ll need to sync orders to accounting and financial systems.
Segmentation & Custom Reports
With a treasure trove of customer data, your B2B eCommerce platform is fertile ground for account-based marketing, segmentation, and customer behavior analytics. You should be able to track key business KPIs and determine how they get affected by different marketing tactics, UX improvements, and new product offerings.
As an essential feature for B2B eCommerce analytics, your solution may include a customizable dashboard and reporting engine along with advanced segmentation capabilities to enable your marketing team to gain actionable insights into the customers’ data. Apart from tracking key business indicators, it will help you understand your customers’ purchasing patterns, and prepare timely, targeted marketing campaigns.
Flexible Custom Workflows
When selecting your B2B eCommerce software, don’t forget to consider the flexibility of your solution. An eCommerce website should never be “set it and forget it” exercise. Eventually, markets will change, opportunities will present themselves, and customers will ask you for more features.
One crucial capability during your technical evaluation should be the ability to create an unlimited number of custom eCommerce workflows to support both buyer and seller-related processes. A flexible workflow engine should allow you to customize various workflows from onboarding and quotation, to order submission, checkout, and replenishment.
Customers increasingly prefer to self-serve instead of calling sales reps over the phone. However, not just any self-service portal will do. B2B-specific portals should be responsive, intuitive to use, and have specific functionality. For example, business buyers often have to ask for quotes, submit orders, create reorders, modify details, or track shipment – your solution should support this.
However, sometimes, all the B2B portal features in the world will not replace human interaction. Look for B2B eCommerce self-service capabilities that you can personalize to each customer or adjust as circumstances change. Your focus should be building and nurturing strong customer relationships, and self-service capabilities play a part in getting you closer to these goals.
The average B2B business relies on many systems, and their eCommerce platform is just one of them. Most businesses rely on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to manage product specification, customer, pricing, and order data. Other businesses may rely on customer relationship management (CRM), product information (PIM), eProcurement, warehouse management, and other systems. B2B brands require an effective way to send data between these systems and the eCommerce software.
Integration facilitates critical functions such as real-time inventory updates, pricing consistency, and order synchronization, enabling you to offer customers a better experience across multiple channels. Look for a system that integrates with tools you already use, but don’t forget to consider its architecture, APIs, and technology partner ecosystem.
More B2B eCommerce Features
Your B2B eCommerce store is the first impression many buyers will have of your brand. It’s unique in the fact that it’s a marketing, sales, order management, and customer support tool all in one. Therefore, you must take the time to understand your needs, your customers’ needs, as well as your future trajectory and start your eCommerce software selection on the right foot.
The good news is that you probably don’t need to have all the B2B eCommerce platform features from day one. What’s important is to think ahead and select a solution that will serve your needs today and tomorrow. Look for systems that are scalable – you won’t have to re-platform in a few years’ time. Pay close attention to customization features – they’ll help you react to changing market conditions and deliver on customer needs.
It’s key to choose a B2B eCommerce solution or platform that can rise to the challenge whenever the time comes. As a frame of reference, consider the B2B eCommerce features OroCommerce provides to its users.
Questions & Answers
What is a B2B eCommerce platform?
A B2B eCommerce platform facilitates B2B eCommerce, or in other words, business-to-business transactions in electronic form. Since sales and order processing are performed digitally, business sellers can increase efficiency and productivity while controlling and personalizing the experience for their customers.
What are the top B2B eCommerce features?
Aside from features seen in B2C such as intuitive search and responsive websites, B2B eCommerce features include roles and access controls, corporate account management, personalized product catalogs, personalized pricing, shopping lists, B2B payment methods and terms, quick ordering functions, self-service portals, ERP integration, automation, and more
How do I choose the best B2B eCommerce platform?
To choose a B2B eCommerce platform that’s right for you, make sure your eCommerce platform’s features match your workflows. Look at your shortlisted solution’s architecture, security, integration options, customization potential, and deployment methods. Don’t forget about SEO, mobile, and search capabilities.