Whether your B2B Business needs an updated eCommerce system or your business needs to evolve and add B2B as a new channel, B2B as a business model requires the appropriate tools to handle your requirements in order to perform and deliver the right customer experience online.
Wide-ranging features can be made available for the B2B space, where capabilities can be in the form of a native feature, an App, API enhancement, or custom code. When offering your products and services, the set of tools to fit your organization has to be intuitive and easy to manage so that sales reps can focus on the sale, given their training. Here is a list of features that are usually part of the toolset to be available:
- Price discounting by volume: The more they order, the better the discount. Simple supply and demand concept that’s a key component as an incentive for vendors to gather up their order and get the best deal.
- Access Controls, Roles, and Permissions: In today’s business world, several departments would require to access the purchase order to review, edit and approve it. This requires a vendor to manage their portal’s access of their own employees, and give them the correct permissions to have an order created, reviewed, and approved to be sent off.
- Multiple Shopping Lists (or Purchase Orders): Given different departments would have different needs, each should be able to have its own purchase lists. B2B buyers have regular items that are needing to be re-stocked, it could be stationary, or a retail product.
- Corporate Account Management: Corporate business rules can be complex, where certain events must occur before placing an order. Stock levels of certain items have to reach set minimums for example, or product associations (if you buy product A, then a Product B must be present). Such business rules are important to ensure the reduction of operational friction.
- Personalized Catalog Management: Don’t offer the world, but what they need can often be appropriate for the organization. A lot of times this presents itself into a corporate portal – when logged in, only the products that are pre-approved are present for consideration.
- Content Management and Branding: When it deals with corporate buyers, a lot of times the portal is branded to their organization, and in order to refine the UI/UX, a solid content management system is required for this presentation. Shopping experiences are important and ease-of-use to ensure there are no supply chain disruptions to getting what the corporation needs.
- Discounting and End-of-Life items: Corporations require additional knowledge to share information about products, especially when it comes to change. Lead times, discounts, and what is the follow-on product that replaces it in its category. Communicating these with alerts, and the available volume is critical. And when making the product move out of the warehouse, discounting is an important tool.
- Payments, Line of credit, and collections: A lot of businesses operate with Net-30, Net-60 or 90. The account manager that manages the B2B buyer will often take them through a credit application (credit scores), and as the relationship grows, the line of credit does too. Rewards and penalties can be introduced such as interest rates, or fees associated with late payments, or declined credit card payments. Customer service is a key component in offering B2B services has to have the tools to entice bigger volume all the while maintaining a low risk when it comes to financial dealings.
- Custom reports: Both buyers and the seller requires these to analyze patterns and behaviors. For buyers, keeping on top of their budgets and the seller on their KPIs. There is of course seasonality and cycles of purchasing, to which comparative reporting (Year-on-Year, or Month-to-month, and Quarter-to-Quarter) are all part of the course.
- B2C features to be available in B2B: When employees would like to “get their own”, it is a great perk for them to have their very own place to order items that the company has access to. This means the platform has to have B2C capabilities where a simple transaction can be done. Of course, not all products might be available so the system needs to know which ones would apply. Features like coupons for discounting and other B2C features would also be present.
Promoting customer satisfaction in the B2B world is not going to get you famous on social media, but having sleek and efficient tech will make your digital media marketing and search engine optimization operate more effectively. This does not apply only in the United States, but everywhere businesses operate with a high penetration of internet and smartphone devices.
Custom Apps and APIs
Platforms have either an open architecture or a partially open one these days. As an example, Shopify has a restricted architecture being a SAAS platform which has an architecture very b2C leaning, and basic B2B can be implemented via a Custom App. On the other hand, you have BigCommerce with their Open SAAS and an API throughput that’s about 100x faster, which gives you the ability to have a much greater integration with other systems. Magento being a hosted system have endless capabilities if you have the right programming team.
The B2B eCommerce platforms
Shopify + B2B App
While there is no B2B application from within Shopify, there are ways to provide a B2B environment where there are retail prices, and when “logged in” your credentials are associated with the B2B submitted form to be an affiliate. Pricing then adjusts for the B2B buyer once logged in, to then select what products they are looking to buy, and check out. This is a very simple business model and can be achieved with a Custom App. An example of this is Veila Hair Extensions where other Hair Salons can get their Hair Extensions at a discount over retail pricing. A Custom Shopify App built by TheGenieLab handles the customer type once logged in.
BigCommerce B2B Edition
With the announcement in the summer of 2021 of the BigCommerce B2B Edition, this Open SAAS platform offers some solid capabilities in both features, and API possibilities to customize your business model into the tool. Aimed at the mid-market of B2B, this platform can evolve significantly due to its Open SAAS architecture. Both your business model and business size scaling can stretch the platform and still meet your needs – scaling your costs as you grow. So if you are looking for simplicity and avoid PCI compliance, hosting fees and various updates and constant development costs regarding maintenance, this platform might be worth considering. BigCommerce experts and sizeable community support this platform in getting you set up.
WordPress + WooCommercer + B2B by Addify
For an open hosted architecture, WordPress with Woocommerce gets you a store and adding the B2B by Addify as the additional plugin will give you the greater B2B feature set listed above. You get full control of the code, a great support community and your choice of UI/UX with an API and server environment of choice. While this allows for your full control of the platform, the ancillary costs of hosting/PCI compliance with the various maintenance efforts will have to be factored in, as well as having a development function required to maintain the system.
B2B Magento 2 by Adobe
B2b Magento is the ultimate hosted Sales and Marketing eCommerce system and comes with the burden of being one of the most complex as well. Having multi-store, multi-business model and multi-payment gateway capability defines it are the beast of eCommerce. This platform covers all the above requirements as well as all the various marketing, SEO and funnels that you might be looking out for. Skilled Magento developers are required to maintain this system, where the core is not encouraged to be modified as maintenance updates will conflict or delete the changes. However, getting past the PCI and hosting, this platform is truly capable, and for the businesses that need to manage and control all aspects of their eCommerce, this platform will deliver with the proper development support.
This platform will compete with Magento with its strength to be focused on B2B, while Magento tries to serve all aspects of eCommerce. OroCommerce positions itself to be mid-corporate B2B, with its full-featured capability in managing anything in the B2B space. Given its capabilities, it really serves the corporate space and is at the upper-tier of the B2B platforms when it comes to its capabilities, reports, and management.
As in most cases, knowing your market, size of your business and your customer needs helps identify which platform might be more suitable. When it comes to the platform that scales the most from med/small B2B to Med/Large BigCommerce B2B edition will win it as it will scale as well its costs are not tied to the payment gateway, yet you are in an Open SAAS environment. For those that need to jump into the corporate B2B space, both OroCommerce/Magento B2B are serious players, where your IT organization will probably review and recommend which one is more suitable.