A version of this post was initially published on Quality Digest.
B2B eCommerce, just like B2C eCommerce, involves people performing transactions online – but that’s where similarities end. In B2B eCommerce, customers are businesses, be it suppliers, vendors, or merchants.
Another thing that sets apart B2B eCommerce from B2C is that many B2B businesses still do many back-end activities manually.
In the age of rapidly advancing technology, it may surprise some that many businesses still copy-paste orders from Excel into the ERP or CRM system. These manual tasks distract staff from critical work such as sales or growing customer relationships. It also creates bottlenecks that prevent teams from working effectively.
With every new customer, product, and order, businesses generate a large amount of data. With a lousy handle on data, it’s easy to misplace critical information. Businesses end up spending time on unproductive activities such as locating, coordinating, and rechecking data. Multiply that by many employees, and the result is lost sales.
Furthermore, COVID has disrupted many aspects of businesses and forced manufacturers to pivot to new markets and shift resources away from unproductive activities. It’s no wonder that many manufacturers are now looking to automate eCommerce processes.
To compete, manufacturers should centralize data and optimize the experience for sellers and their customers. They need fast-loading, responsive self-service portals, and storefronts.
Their eCommerce back-office should connect with other sources of truth such as ERP and CRM. Powerful workflow automation capabilities transfer data from one system to another, helping improve efficiency and reach goals.
Request for quotes
Many manufacturers use RFQ (request for quote) and negotiate prices with customers. Since manufacturers deal with numerous businesses with different requirements and purchase considerations, they require a streamlined quoting workflow that performs the right actions every time.
For example, if a buyer needs to purchase more than a certain amount of items, an automated workflow notifies a sales rep to negotiate a price. When customers request a quote, they can submit their requirements to sales, while workflows also relay this information to the CRM system.
A robust and flexible B2B digital commerce platform is the first step to automating back-office processes. And, being open-source is a big part of that: it propagates community, cooperation, and knowledge sharing.
Open-source applications are more robust, have a thriving community of partners, developers, external contributors, and integrators. Developers can customize and build on top of the system for additional functionality.
As mentioned before, the B2B buying processes are vastly different from a B2C purchase. An eCommerce system with a native B2B-focused feature set and workflow automation engine is a must to meet manufacturers’ growing needs.
Yet, an enterprise-grade feature set is not enough. A robust and scalable API makes it easy for manufacturers to extend capabilities or integrate their eCommerce platform with other applications.
Open-source, cloud-based technology allows manufacturers to future-proof their digital commerce presence and shorten their time to market. Taken together, this offers manufacturers the much-needed flexibility to adapt to changing B2B customer needs and market conditions.