With different processes around payments, budgeting, cataloging, and custom product needs, business-to-business (B2B) selling is unmistakably more complicated than selling to consumers (B2C).
For decades, B2C businesses have made the move from brick-and-mortar, phone-based selling to online commerce (and arguably back again!). Meanwhile, B2B ecommerce has traditionally been slower to transition to ecommerce. There are two main reasons for this:
1. The processes around account management, purchase orders, and invoices continue to be done in-person with offline methods, especially when it comes to older retailers.
2. Software features and capabilities are slow to adapt to and accommodate the complex needs of B2B retailers.
With the introduction of modern B2B ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce, brands can now channel their previous business complexities into apps, API integrations, and built-in native features — allowing them to capitalize on the online B2B audience and reap the benefits seen by many B2C businesses – all without compromising their sales team and long-built, hard-won B2B customer loyalty.
What to consider before moving your B2B business online
1. What are the metrics and KPIs that you want to come out of your online channel?
Before you get started on building out an ecommerce store, sit down with your sales team to get an understanding of what kind of traffic you want to see go through the online channel, versus inbound offline sales.
Determine your online target market.
The people who shop online need to be marketed to differently — they may not respond to direct mail as well as they’d respond to a retargeting ad. Think of your online and offline clients as two separate personas with the same inherent motivation: to purchase your product.
2. What will your product taxonomy look like?
B2B businesses are organized primarily through online and offline catalogues. In ecommerce, the way your products are displayed on your website has a say in the conversion rate — the rate at which people purchase a product.
If you don’t organize your website well by using proper categories and search functionality, it can hit your bottom line. Take time to conduct user testing and A/B test the categories of your website and your product taxonomy to ensure that shoppers are getting the best user experience possible.
3. What is your online pricing strategy?
B2B selling often relies on incentives, pricing negotiations, contracts and agreements — especially with long-time customers.
While you don’t want to limit their ability to shop on your online store, you do need to make sure that they get the same discounts and customer service in the digital environment.
Thankfully, a number of ecommerce punchout tools like PunchOut2Go can integrate your purchasing database with your ecommerce platform.
4. What integrations do you need?
While working with larger organizations, B2B sellers must be able to connect their products to the buyer’s procurement system, like Ariba, Coupa, or SAP.
Stepping stones to your B2B ecommerce store
Now that you’ve done the research and decided to move your B2B business online, you need to equip your business with the right tools and solutions to facilitate your growth.
This starts with you identifying the ecommerce platform you use, as well as the agency you hire to help build out the design and experience of your website.
1. Picking the right ecommerce platform
While there are several different ecommerce platforms available for B2B businesses, the biggest decision you’ll need to make is whether you want your platform to be hosted on-premise, or in the cloud as a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, solution. SaaS solutions like BigCommerce typically have a lower total cost of ownership, as well as better security and uptime features.
For highly-customized businesses that have a lot of functionality requirements, on-premise solutions have traditionally been the go-to solution, but higher barriers to entry (like needing a staffed development team, hosting capabilities, and a generally higher cost) have made on-premise solutions less attractive for modern B2B practices.
2. Picking the right agency partner
Unless you have a fully-staffed and trained group on your team that can master the creation and launch of your B2B storefront, you’ll need to be on the lookout for an ecommerce marketing agency to help you bring your ideas to life.
Thousands of agencies across the world have experience building ecommerce stores, so how do you pick the right one for your project? Start by determining the following:
What experience does the agency have in your industry? Do they have examples of clients similar to you?
Ask for proof of satisfied clients. This could be through testimonials or case studies, or through a quick reference phone call.
How quickly can agencies turn work around? You want to ensure that they do a thorough job but also have the ability to work within your anticipated timeline.
“Moving to BigCommerce was a great business move for us, and we couldn’t have chosen a better implementation partner. The Americaneagle.com team helped us with custom integration for our existing systems and did a great job. I would definitely recommend Americaneagle.com for anything related to BigCommerce as they know the platform very well." — Mike Eldridge, Owner, Safety Glasses USA
The introduction of SaaS platforms and coinciding tools has paved the way for B2B ecommerce success. As the amount of people moving their businesses online increases, it’s important for you to stay ahead of your competition and strike a clear path for growth by using the best resources available: your ecommerce solution and your partner agency.
BigCommerce and Americaneagle.com have partnered up to provide clients with the most secure and intuitive B2B ecommerce platform, paired with the onboarding and development you need to outpace others and grow your business online.
About the Author: Corinne Watson
Corinne is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services and ideas to the commerce industry at large with educational content. When she’s not working, she’s creating and designing for fun online.