A customer portal is a separate, private web environment personalized for the needs of a particular customer. As a key element of the B2B online strategy, a customer portal is a part of a general eCommerce website, where each registered customer can log in to access their specific content, features, pricing, etc. You can also segregate your customers into groups so that different groups have access to different types of portals. For example, you may offer branded customer portals to your biggest clients, create specialized portals for wholesalers and distributors, and provide common functionality and only basic personalization for everyone else.
A unique benefit of customer portals is the maximum freedom of personalization that you can provide to your diverse clients. You can also use them to test specific functionality, loyalty programs, and customer segmentation strategies before using them at a bigger scale.
Customer Portal vs B2B eCommerce Website
Even though modern B2B eCommerce websites are built upon the customer portal concept, they are not exactly the same. First, a website usually acts as the gateway to the customer portal functionality. Registered customers can log in on your website to proceed to the customer portal that corresponds to their access rights. As such, a modern B2B eCommerce website is a whole framework for building, hosting, and managing customer portals for your diverse customers.
Also, a B2B eCommerce website functions as a general webstore for non-registered buyers. They can view catalogs, access product information, and search for specific items. Modern B2B eCommerce websites provide instant personalization upon login so that customers can also access their unique pricing information without redirecting to other places. In this regard, customer portals are used in addition to (or, rather, as an extension of) a B2B eCommerce website for the most unique customers or customer groups.
Customer Portal for Resellers and Distributors
Companies such as manufacturers, who rely on wholesalers and retailers as their distribution channels, should take advantage of customer portals as a great way to streamline their channels management. It is not uncommon today for manufacturers to sell direct to consumers via an eCommerce website. More companies are jumping on the eCommerce bandwagon even though traditionally using distributors as middle men. However, distributors still play a major role for driving sales, and that’s where customer portals, in the form of reseller portals, help manufacturers preserve their distribution channels without forgoing selling direct to consumers.
By creating personalized portals for distributors, wholesalers, or retailers, manufacturers enable them to order online with contract pricing and custom curated catalogs that allow them to have their margins and pricing advantages when selling to end consumers. Selling online to their distributors also helps manufacturers to minimize operational cost by automating data sync with their ERP and accounting systems, managing prices in a centralized manner, and automating loyalty and bonus programs. And such tool as a CRM, when integrated with a reseller portal, allows manufacturers to have a full visibility into their partners’ performance and potential bottlenecks in channels expansion.
Branded Customer Portals for Key Accounts
In B2B, personalization may go a long way to keep your key accounts happy. Ultimately, you should consider creating a branded customer portal for each of your biggest clients, displaying a unique theme, content, pricing, payment terms, and self-service capabilities. With the recent advancement in B2B eCommerce technology, branded portals can be rapidly built based on out-of-the-box components.
Implementing Customer Portals with OroCommerce
OroCommerce is a one-stop-shop B2B eCommerce platform that enables you to create a highly personalizable online experience for your diverse buyers and partners. Open-source at its core, OroCommerce can be used by startups and community projects with in-house teams. OroCommerce Enterprise offers the enterprise-grade features and performance for established companies. There are multiple options to implement a customer portal that meets your business goals.
First, OroCommerce is among the true leaders in B2B eCommerce that can bring a B2B eCommerce website of your dreams into reality. It is a platform of choice by many companies who seek an upgrade from Magento. You can combine numerous out-of-the-box features, our extensions, a built-in CRM solution, seamless ERP integrations into a perfect website that corresponds to the ambition of your enterprise. OroCommerce is also fully customizable to support unique functions and backend integrations that you may need.
Second, OroCommerce offers vast access management and personalization capabilities to create any type of customer portal your clients may require – a branded portal, a reseller portal, or even a marketplace. OroCommerce also provides an extension for punchout catalogs to ensure your customers who use e-procurement systems for online shopping are absolutely happy when using your website.
Third, OroCommerce supports headless deployment, meaning that you can use any third-party content management system or eCommerce frontend application on top of OroCommerce business logic and backend capabilities. It also makes transferring your existing eCommerce website logic, themes, and customer portals onto OroCommerce very straightforward. Moving to OroCommerce will help you upgrade your B2B processing capabilities across all of your existing eCommerce solutions, including for multi-website configurations.
And finally, OroCommerce provides flexible eCommerce workflows that can support different partner-reseller relationships through a customer portal. For example, it can take orders through your B2B eCommerce website and then designate which distributors should fulfill those orders based on distributor performance, geography, or a round-robin approach. You can also build eCommerce websites on behalf of your distributors where you can drop-ship products on their behalf. Whatever the way you want to manage your distribution channels online, OroCommerce offers the flexibility that your B2B partners may not even expect.