2023 is a year of challenges for CEOs. Inflation and recession are exerting financial pressures, changing technology is accelerating digital transformation, and buyers are demanding high-grade customer experiences.
Enterprises naturally turn to eCommerce as a means to reduce financial pressure through improved efficiencies and to make customers happy with better buying experiences. While many SMEs (small to medium size enterprises – less than 250 people) may find stock solutions for their eCommerce needs, it’s a different matter for enterprises (250 or more employees).
Enterprise-grade eCommerce solutions provide scalability, flexibility, and connectivity you don’t find in B2C and entry-level B2B eCommerce platforms.
This guide provides an overview to help CEOs with the task of selecting an enterprise eCommerce solution. You’ll get an overview of the nuts and bolts of an enterprise eCommerce platform, the advantages that enterprise-level solutions bring, the types of solutions available, your hosting options, how to build your requirements, and real-life case studies from companies engaged in enterprise eCommerce with success.
Enterprise eCommerce Systems: Common Features, Functions, and Benefits
There are many eCommerce offerings on the market. It’s easy for the choices to overwhelm. But every eCommerce solution offers the same basic set of features and functions.
Here are the functions you find across most platforms. Of course, what distinguishes the products is the degree to which the functions can be customized and how they scale to the enterprise level.
Every enterprise needs the ability to create catalogs of products to offer their customers. With enterprise-grade solutions, catalogs must be capable of handling hundreds of thousands of SKUs. In B2B transactions, the negotiated contract controls the products, prices, and terms of sales. Because each contract may be different, enterprise product catalogs must be customizable.
Stay away from solutions that limit the number of SKUs or experience performance degradation as the number of SKUs and catalogs scales to meet company needs.
Price List Configuration in OroCommerce
Along with extensive product catalogs, enterprise-grade offerings must provide the ability to handle extensive price lists. Like catalogs, prices in B2B transactions can vary depending on the customer, the amount ordered, and any number of other variables.
When choosing enterprise eCommerce solutions, make sure that can handle multiple price lists, and its performance doesn’t drop as the number of price lists increases.
Quoting is just a normal part of the workflow in enterprise B2B sales negotiations. Enterprise solutions provide quoting functionality to make it easier for potential customers to contact you and request a quote for your products. This is usually the opening round of sales negotiations. Modern buyers expect this process to be digitized and modern eCommerce solutions deliver. In addition to creating a quote, the quoting function may include functions to calendar and track follow-up activities.
Enterprises operate in multiple jurisdictions and have complex tax accounting needs. As you choose your enterprise-level eCommerce system, pay attention to how it can handle multiple taxing jurisdictions and whether it allows you to customize the tax scenario for each customer.
Account management and control
Company hierarchies vary across enterprises. Account management and control are crucial to secure data and maintain the integrity of the system. At the same time, customers need to establish their own account controls to mirror their own organization hierarchies and approval controls.
Keep this in mind when choosing an enterprise solution: It must mirror complex company hierarchies
Enterprise eCommerce solutions allow both buyers and sellers to maintain control over their accounts and customize them to suit their individual company needs.
Content management system
When choosing an enterprise eCommerce platform, you’ll find most offerings include a content management system (CMS). Ideally, this is a low-code tool. The CMS functionality comes into play when creating websites, landing pages, and downloadable assets. If the CMS offers weak functionality or requires knowledge of coding and development, you’ll need to add on a third-party CMS. Beware, this is how the total cost of ownership incrementally creeps up.
Strong CMS functionality is key for enterprise eCommerce
Enterprises commonly operate across borders and in multiple geographic locations. To meet these needs, enterprise-grade eCommerce platforms allow you to localize the content displayed. This way, products sold to clients in the US display prices in US dollars, measurements using the imperial measurement system, and all text in English. And products sold to clients in Mexico are displayed with the text in Spanish, the cost in Mexican pesos, and the dimensions using the metric system.
You’ll often find many brands and sub-organizational units under the umbrella of one large enterprise organization. This requires multiple websites and digital assets to support the individual business units as well as the enterprise as a whole. This can be an update and maintenance nightmare for IT. Fortunately, most enterprise eCommerce platforms support multiple websites and front-end experiences from a unified backend. One eCommerce installation should serve all business units.
Shopping carts and wish lists
Modern B2B buyers expect a B2C-retail type experience. Even if retail sales are much different than B2B sales. These buyers are doing more than just researching products, they want to negotiate contracts, and make purchases. Robust B2B enterprise eCommerce solutions include functionality to take orders and integrate with payment processors for payment or credit agencies for sales on terms.
Because business purchases often are made with team input, a shareable wish list functionality allows buyers to share proposed purchases internal to their organization. When selecting an enterprise eCommerce system, if you don’t see this crucial functionality – move on.
Integration with other business services
How many applications does the average enterprise use? The answer ranges from 1,295 cloud services on the high end to 254 on the low end. Productiv research finds that only 45% of apps in a company are being used regularly. No matter the number of apps, platforms, and business solutions you currently use, the enterprise eCommerce platforms you choose should provide connectivity to share data appropriately.
For example, enterprise eCommerce platforms should integrate with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, product information management (PIM) system, warehouse management system (WMS), order management system (OMS), and third-party logistics providers. In addition, it should integrate with third-party apps to perform marketing activities like review aggregation and adding custom badges to products. When choosing an enterprise eCommerce platform, this is a make-or-break functionality.
5 Advantages of Enterprise-Level eCommerce Platforms
Enterprise-level eCommerce platforms are a step up from SME platforms. They provide much of the same functionality and features, but at a higher level. They are designed to manage business processes online and offline and extend far beyond a basic shopping cart and checkout workflow. Enterprise platforms are digital transformation tools that improve efficiency and empower sales and marketing teams to grow the company.
The top advantage of an enterprise platform is its scalability. It provides near-infinite growth potential without loss of performance. Companies can create as many catalogs and price lists as needed, even down to the individual customer level. This granular level of personalization never degrades speed or performance so matter how large you grow. Enterprise platforms don’t limit your ability to grow, they enable growth.
Another advantage of enterprise-grade solutions is their flexibility. While other eCommerce platforms use rigid workflows, enterprise solutions conform to the way the company does business. Not the other way around. Enterprise platforms are so flexible, they work with traditional architecture or as a headless solution for the ultimate in development flexibility. Expect flexible deployment options and implementation alternatives.
The vendors offering enterprise eCommerce understand the need for connectivity. Because it takes so many solutions, programs, and apps to run a business, the eCommerce platform must integrate seamlessly. The API offering is greater, and these business solutions have rich ecosystems surrounding them. While you’ll find both open-source and proprietary alternatives at the enterprise level, open source solutions will offer the ultimate in connectivity. Because the code is open, you can modify it at will to connect solutions to meet your business needs. Where lower-grade solutions may require complex workarounds, enterprise solutions simply connect.
Enterprise digital transformations are focused on the customer, so it makes sense that enterprise-grade eCommerce solutions put customer experience front and center. These platforms allow for immersive digital experiences that include audio and video as well as traditional product catalog displays. They support chatbots and live chat, extend for ticket-management for support, and include relationship management functionality. Where a standard eCommerce platform allows one user to an account, an enterprise platform allows each customer/user to define their own access and authority. In this way, customer hierarchies are recognized as well as the internal enterprise hierarchy.
Enterprise eCommerce platforms provide much more than tools to build a website. They digitize workflows to improve business processes. In addition, your platform should be a source of data to make better-informed business decisions. When used in conjunction with the website and other digital channel analytics, you can spot trends early and adapt to an ever-changing business environment. Enterprise eCommerce isn’t a sales tool, it’s a business tool that adapts to any business model. It should support B2B, B2B2C, B2C, and B2X business models as well as handle a marketplace with ease.
Security gets an upgrade when you move to enterprise-grade eCommerce platforms. You should expect Level 1 PCI compliance as data flows through the payment gateway. While data may be encrypted, passwords are not. Instead, sensitive password data is stored as an irreversible hash. Enterprise products offer multiple layers of security through layered configurations. They allow you to set permissions at global, brand, or even user levels.
Learn more about B2B eCommerce and 2023 trends to watch
Types of Enterprise eCommerce Solutions
The enterprise eCommerce solution market is saturated with offerings. This makes comparing apples to apples difficult. To improve your understanding of eCommerce and help you choose the right one for your business, it’s important to understand the different approaches to developing and offering enterprise solutions. The most common solutions fall into these broad categories.
Software as a Solution (SaaS) eCommerce platforms provide you access to proprietary code hosted on the vendor’s servers. This is a popular approach for SMEs that lack technical resources because most of the development work has already been performed by the vendor. The drawback is that while this type of eCommerce solution gets you to market quickly, it does so with the least amount of flexibility. You’ll find that workflows are set and can’t be changed. Product catalogs have fixed characteristics that can’t be changed and your ability to customize will be limited. How the product comes out of the box is exactly how you will implement it. No real changes are possible. On the other hand, data security is provided by the vendor, and you aren’t responsible for maintaining the code. But, you are totally reliant on the vendor for support.
Open source eCommerce is the opposite of SaaS eCommerce. The code is published publicly so it provides the ultimate in flexibility and customization. While the solution might provide 80% of what the enterprise needs out of the box, every bit of it is customizable. The implementation of this sort of eCommerce requires the services of a developer but once deployed, it often includes low-code tools like drag-and-drop webpage creation to make maintenance easier. Enterprise open source eCommerce platforms operate in an ecosystem of developers, integrators, and users for global support in addition to vendor support.
At the enterprise level, you may find eCommerce systems written from the ground up specifically for implementation at the company. These eCommerce solutions are written without a third-party framework.
This is the most resource-intensive approach to creating enterprise eCommerce. Your tech team must develop the entire front end (customer-facing) as well as the back end (employee-facing). It is only for companies that are digitally mature. The company is totally responsible for securing hosting and maintaining data security. With the wide variety of other types of solutions, selecting this approach only makes sense when data security and business requirements dictate it.
This approach takes the flexibility inherent in building custom enterprise eCommerce solutions and marries it with the ease of using open-source code to create a hybrid solution. This type of eCommerce solution is used by enterprises with IT resources to complete the project or financial resources to bring on the development and integration partners necessary to do the work.
You select the open source vendor with the most core requirements you need for your case and then build out based on the core code. Hybrid solutions get to market faster than totally custom, coded-from-scratch solutions and generally cost less to develop, deploy, and maintain.
Within the different types of enterprise eCommerce solutions, you’ll find options that take a monolithic approach. This is one large, self-contained interconnected set of modules. A change in one part of the platform requires a change in other parts of the platform. This may look ideal in the beginning, but as more and more changes are made, you may find you need to completely redeploy the application. SaaS, open source, custom, and hybrid solutions may also be monoliths.
Enterprise eCommerce platforms with a modular approach break the platform into separate modules. This allows multiple developers to work on the implementation without interfering with the work of others. One great benefit is that bugs in one module can be resolved before the code is connected.
A guide to microservices, monoliths, modules, and composable platforms
Learn how to choose the right approach.
Enterprise eCommerce Hosting Options
Once you’ve landed upon an enterprise platform, you’re faced with the decision of where the platform and data will reside. If you opt for a SaaS solution, you won’t worry about this decision – the vendor takes it out of your hands. SaaS applications and your data are all installed in the vendor’s cloud.
On premise deployment means your application and data reside on servers that are physically located in one of your buildings. Your IT staff are responsible for physically securing the equipment and supporting infrastructure, as well as maintenance, updates, backing up, and security of the data. You assume all risk and responsibility for the security of the equipment and the data. This option only makes sense for the most digitally mature enterprises with sufficient IT resources.
A private cloud stores your data and applications off-premise in a data center. You may own and operate the data center or you may pay another company for the use of a portion of their data center. If you are using a third party, your data and application will be hosted on dedicated servers in what is called a single-tenant environment. Think of single-tenant as a single-family home. Only one family in the house. Choose this option, if your regulatory environment requires a highly secure environment, but you lack the resources to host onsite.
A public cloud is where an independent company owns and operates the server technology. They host your data and applications on a subscription basis. You pay a set subscription fee or pay based on the resources you use. This is what is called a multi-tenant environment. Just like one apartment building is home to many families, each in their own apartment – a public cloud is home to many companies, each with its own set of dedicated resources.
Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM all offer public clouds. This option is less expensive than a private cloud and allows you to scale up and down as necessary. The public cloud owner offers IT services such as backup and is responsible for maintaining the hardware, software, and firmware required to keep the server operational.
Vendor hosted cloud
SaaS enterprise eCommerce platforms all operate on a vendor-hosted cloud. If you select an Oracle eCommerce product, you have no choice but to have your application and data hosted on the Oracle Cloud. Other enterprise eCommerce platforms like OroCommerce offer the flexibility to host on the OroCloud or any other cloud. When selecting vendor-hosted clouds, you’ll remove some of the burdens for technical support and infrastructure security. Many vendors also offer application maintenance services too.
How to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform for Enterprise Business
So, with so much at stake, how do you go about selecting an enterprise ecommerce platform? Remember, despite what salespeople may pitch, there is no right solution for every company. Enterprise eCommerce is all about scalability to grow with you, flexibility to match your use case, and connectivity to integrate with existing business systems. That being said, use this framework to choose the best eCommerce platform for your enterprise.
Identify business goals
Begin by identifying the business goals to be achieved by deploying the platform. Whether this is the first eCommerce site for the company or you are replatforming it is important to start with identifying goals and key performance indicators to judge progress against the goals.
From a change management standpoint, it is always good to involve stakeholders early on. This increases buy-in for the project. In addition, stakeholder input is essential to identify the core functionality that must be provided by the platform. Don’t just lean on the word of sales, marketing, or IT. Bring in stakeholders from all areas of the company.
Determine the best approach
The digital maturity of the enterprise, your IT resources, and business goals will all guide your selection. If you are digitally immature and lack resources, a SaaS approach may make sense. If you have digitally-experienced resources, other approaches may be more appropriate and will certainly give you more flexibility in achieving your goals.
Create an RFP and Select Vendor
Once you have an idea of what you want, it’s important to create a framework for evaluating vendors. It’s important not to compare vendors one-to-another but instead compare vendors to the yardstick of your requirements. Look beyond features and functions to determine the size and strength of the partner network, the scalability of the platform, and the ability to integrate with your existing tech. Creating an RFP and forecasting your future requirements makes this process much easier.
Create MVP, Launch, Iterate
Oro firmly believes in the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach to implementation. This allows you to scope, create, and launch a scaled-down version to validate the implementation. This approach minimizes risk and financial commitment. Once the MVP is validated, you can begin to iterate with additional functionality.
Download free enterprise eCommerce RFP template
How to Forecast Future Requirements
The eCommerce platform you select today should grow with your company into the future. As part of the RFP process, you’ll want to think about what functionality you’ll need in the years to come and the scale at which you will operate.
Picking an enterprise eCommerce platform that will grow with your company, doesn’t require a crystal ball. It requires a look at your 5-year goals.
- Will this new platform handle the number of customers you plan to add or products you want to launch?
- Will new products be highly customizable? If so, you’ll want to make sure the eCommerce platform you select allows for matrix ordering or configure, price, and quote workflows.
- What new technology will you integrate in the future? Will the eCommerce platform you are considering integrate seamlessly?
- Are new customer experiences on the horizon or are there plans to enter new selling channels? Your platform should provide maximum flexibility for any number of channels or experiences you launch.
- Will you enter new territories or launch new subsidiaries? Localization and the ability to operate multiple websites from one backend will be key.
Lay your long-range goals out and compare them to the eCommerce platform to ensure you have the flexibility, scalability, and integration options necessary to grow your enterprise.
Checklist for CEOs
When it comes to eCommerce, the C-Suite doesn’t get into the weeds. But you still need an overall checklist. As CEO, make sure you ask questions about:
It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles an enterprise eCommerce provides, if it doesn’t integrate well with what you have now and what you plan to have in the future, don’t consider it. Scalability and flexibility mean nothing if you can’t integrate. Confirm integration with the ERP, WMS, PIM, and other business systems.
Your solution must offer rock-solid security for the application code and the data. Ensure you can create audit logs to identify who changed a record and when the change was made. You want multi-factor authentication and lock-outs to stop brute force attacks in their tracks and multi-layered configurations with access control lists to keep data safe.
To achieve desired efficiencies, the solution you pick must be easy-to-use for your customers and your employees. Resistance to change lessens when the new solution makes the job easier. In addition, you’ll reduce your training time and cost because the easier the software is to use, the faster employees retain the knowledge of the new process.
Make sure you are looking at the total cost of ownership. This includes license and user fees, any costs per transaction, maintenance costs, support fees, and the cost of any additional hardware that must be purchased.
Enterprise eCommerce Solution Case Studies
Ready to see enterprise eCommerce in action? These companies all implemented their enterprise-grade solution for eCommerce with great results.
Looking for a Scalable Platform
These companies were constrained by a solution that couldn’t scale with their growth.
Dunlop Protective Footwear manufactures protective footwear for workers in a wide range of industries. They sell in over 75 countries. Their existing system hampered their ability to grow as it couldn’t keep up with customer needs.
With OroCommerce, customers got the self-serve experience they wanted, sales got high visibility from start to finish, and efficiency improved with digitized workflows. A fully integrated system only took 4 months to implement as most of what they needed came out of the box. Traffic, conversions, and order values are all up.
TruPar disrupted the forklift and warehouse equipment parts market by setting up its original online store. But, as the company expanded across the US, Canada, and Mexico their original application just couldn’t keep up. Customers needed improved visibility into inventory and shipping and the company needed to manage a database with 8 million parts.
OroCommerce provided the scalability to handle existing SKUs with room for growth. Prices are now calculated automatically, and the company manages multiple websites from a single back end. They are enjoying a 25% increase in online revenue and a 70% increase in average order value.
Looking for a Flexible solution
Every B2B instance is unique. That’s why flexibility is important. Here are companies that are making the most of a highly flexible enterprise eCommerce solution.
SaltWorks is a premier manufacturer of specialty and gourmet salts for industrial, manufacturing, and retail markets. They needed an eCommerce solution that could handle their very different business models – B2B and B2C. Their existing solution was B2C focused and required numerous extensions and workarounds to support their B2B customers.
By implementing OroCommerce, Saltworks found the flexibility they needed to handle both B2B and B2C customers without extensive workarounds. Each customer segment receives a customer experience tailored to their needs. From pricing to products to shipping options – two distinctly different businesses are digitized to user requirements.
BME France is a leading construction materials distributor in the EU. They needed a unique digital presence for each brand (such as Busca and Raboni) to serve the needs of the brand’s customers and sales teams. However, they didn’t need additional complexity. What they did need was the flexibility to bring a traditionally offline business online with rich product data and quoting functionality.
With OroCommerce, BME was able to integrate their ERP and PIM to offer customers complete product information including stock levels and location. A streamlined quoting process benefits customers and sales teams. A unified backend brings logistics, business logic, and workflows together in one place.
No business solution is an island. Enterprise eCommerce solutions should connect with other business software and applications to eliminate data silos and improve productivity. The ability to integrate should be a top consideration when selecting your eCommerce platform.
SupplyCore is a government contractor and supply chain integrator that operates with the DoD, GSA, DoS, DLA, and other government agencies. Every agency and contract is unique. They needed to bring together legacy procurement systems in a modernized and unified platform.
OroCommerce’s modular design allowed Supply core to unify these legacy systems and offer customers a single place to submit orders. Customers get a self-serve experience and internal teams benefit as highly complex workflows are now digitized.
Igual distributes health and hygiene products through a network of showrooms in 7 locations. They needed unique websites for the hotel, cleaning, and restaurant segments they service. This required integration with ERP and information from multiple locations.
OroCommerce creates a unified experience, no matter the customer segment. Customers can self-serve and teams focus on building stronger relationships.
9 Best Enterprise eCommerce Software Vendors
The eCommerce marketplace is saturated with a large number of platforms. However, not all eCommerce offerings are able to handle the complexities of B2B selling. An even fewer number are capable of operating at the enterprise level.
Some offerings, like Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento) started as a B2C eCommerce offering, while others, like Optimizely, grew out of a CMS. Each of these products has strengths and areas where they excel. However, only OroCommerce was built from the ground up with the needs of enterprise B2B eCommerce in mind.
- Adobe Commerce (Magento)
- SAP Hybris
Download a free comparison chart featuring the top enterprise eCommerce platforms
Selecting Enterprise eCommerce in a Nutshell
Enterprise-grade eCommerce solutions offer the functionality to handle complex B2B transactions and a variety of business models at scale. They are evaluated on their ability to scale, customize, and connect with other business systems.
No one solution is right for every business case. In general, look for flexibility that allows the software to conform to your business processes and model. Don’t settle for constraints on the number of SKUs or transactions and avoid long-term vendor lock-ins. The ability to integrate is crucial and scalability is key to long-term success.
Pick a vendor and integration partner that is committed to the success of your project and willing to scope an MVP and work with you to meet your eCommerce goals.
Talk to OroCommerce about your enterprise eCommerce needs today
What eCommerce platform is the fastest growing?
What features are crucial for a B2B eCommerce platform?
B2B eCommerce platforms should be highly flexible and customizable to fit any business model or need. They must scale to grow with the business and connect to a wide variety of applications. They should deploy on-premise or on the cloud and offer state-of-the-art security for data and code. Workflows, pricing, and catalogs should be customizable, and customers should be able to define permissions to meet their own company’s hierarchy.
What is the right enterprise eCommerce platform for my business?
Every enterprise is unique. No one eCommerce platform is perfect for every use case imaginable. That being said, when choosing an eCommerce system for your business, look for the option that maximizes flexibility, scalability, and integration while giving you 80% of what you need right out of the box.
Why B2C eCommerce solutions can’t fit enterprise eCommerce requirements?
B2C eCommerce may be conducted at the enterprise level, but not at the complexity level of B2B eCommerce. B2C prices are fixed and customers make emotional purchases, often on the spur of the moment. B2B eCommerce transactions are usually negotiated on a per-contract basis and involve multiple decision-makers. The eCommerce solution that handles the complexity of B2B can handle the simplicity of B2C, but B2C solutions just aren’t equipped with the functionality required for B2B eCommerce.