Are You Outgrowing Your Ecommerce Platform? Part 2: B2B Features & Budget

When you’re finding your perfect eCommerce platform, there’s more to consider than you may think. Here’s a rundown of everything to keep in mind while finding your match.

B2B eCommerce features to look for.

Room for now. Room for later.

Your business is always changing. With luck, most of that’s growth. With even more luck, your customer base is growing right alongside you. More sophisticated platforms, like Magento 2, enable you to engage your audience in any stage of your company’s life cycle. Here are just a couple ways how:

  • International Waters. Limited payment options restrict your capacity to make conversions. Not everyone uses PayPal, not everyone has Visa, and the overwhelming majority of buyers in B2C commerce prefer paying in their own currency – and it’s no different for B2B. If you’re lacking options to target locally across the globe, you’re just not going to make genuine connections with your customers. No one likes receiving form letters. You need to be able to personalize your approach. Taking steps like making your store open to a wide variety of global currencies means you’re doing everything you can to make sure that when users visit your site, it feels like they never left home. That’s eCommerce without borders.
  • Multiple Domains. There are a number of reasons for creating multiple domains or subdomains. You might want a separate subdomain for Germany, one for Spanish-language users, one for the US, and on. You might be an administrator who executes eCommerce development for the various separate sites which are all under a parent company’s management. No matter the multi-site basis, if you can’t manage all of these from the same admin, it’ll cost you; time, resources and headaches. And that’s a deal-breaker.

You need a sophisticated search engine.

Your customers need to find what product they’re looking for. That’s important for any website, eCommerce or not, hands down. But this is B2B. When you start talking about hundreds or even thousands of distinct SKUs, your search functions had better be up to the task.

Front-to-back customizability. Flexibility. Tailorability.

Your platform should bend to your will – not the other way around. To get there, you need as many options and capabilities as you can get your hands on. When you can customize your front-end, you’re able to deliver your customers a fluid and lasting purchasing experience. When you’ve got full control over your back-end, you’re cutting costs, and saving yourself the internal headaches and delays that come with trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Look for a platform with:

  • Past-order view for returning customers. The more complex your or your customers’ B2B orders become, the more order-retention options become mandatory. Never require them to manually assemble the same order twice
  • Recurring order options. Creating longevity in a partnership is easy when all they have to do is click a button to keep the magic going. Ongoing subscription models and auto-generated orders and purchases ensure they’re able to get exactly what they need, every time, quickly and efficiently
  • Self-service quotes & approval. Not only are automated quotes the height of eCommerce convenience, they’re a surefire way to win over buyers, too. No reps needed. Trackable quotes statuses and the ability to convert quotes to online purchases are must-have features
  • Real-time inventory. This is one of the best ways to price discounts for ordering in bulk. On-the-fly updates keep things running smoothly for you and your customers, at every stage of the buying process
  • Tiered & volume pricing. Optimize your bulk-ordering process and allow your customers to get the most bang out of their buck. What’s more: ongoing pricing models like these are made far more efficient and effective when you already have some of these other options, like real-time inventory updates and automated quotes, up and running in tandem

Tiered pricing.

More often than not, price becomes the prime determinant in choosing a platform and the “one-price-fits-all” approach certain platforms tout can be attractive. But you’re your own unique business. And what we’ve found is that when something promises to be a “catch-all,” it catches nothing. Or worse, catches a few things you’d like but nothing you need. Find a platform that can grow with you. Power for today. Power for tomorrow and beyond.

Third-party support.

Development partners find ways to make eCommerce platforms do things you’d never expect them to be able to do. Just because something isn’t right for you out-of-the-box doesn’t mean there’s not simple or intuitive way to get there. Plus, vested and wide-scoping third-party support can be telling of an eCommerce platform’s pedigree. If everyone seems to be hopping into the same boat, there’s usually a reason. Quality seeks out quality, so this is one place the law of large numbers rings true.

Start thinking about budget.

When you’re new to business, it can be difficult know how something like a new eCommerce platform or ERP is going to affect your budget. And especially as saturated as the market is today with different options, it can be a seemingly insurmountable task to spend hours slagging through options and walk away feeling like you’ve got the full picture. What the decision most often comes down to is cost.

If you’re choosing a new platform – speak to eCommerce platform vendors directly. It might sound a little counterintuitive, but a vendor will be able to field any questions you have and work with you to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need, beyond mere ballpark costs.

While we’re talking budgets, we’d like to note: the highest-costing platforms don’t always equate to the right fit, either. Depending on your company’s stage of growth, you may be wanting to buy the most expensive item in the store and walk out wearing it – but just because something’s the priciest doesn’t mean it’s right. Take general timing, your company’s growth, and a potential platform’s longevity and scalability all into account.

Automate these areas, ASAP.

Excel spreadsheets

It’s just too time consuming, too easy to make mistakes, when you’re relying on manual input to execute your orders records and inventory. We’ve got a simple test to know if your methods are outdated. First, ask yourself: Am I still using the same spreadsheets from 2004? Yes? Then STOP. Easy as that.

Procurement & buying process – Especially if you’re B2B.

In the short run, automating your order flow is going to pay off big time. Automate your purchase requests and approvals, the process of sourcing and evaluating suppliers, and your business’s invoices and payments. Eliminating needlessly repetitive tasks and procedures means you start seeing returns on day one by freeing up your team, allowing them to focus on business-critical items.

Sync your eCommerce data with an ERP

Syncing your business’s data with an ERP is the way to go if you’re looking for a long-term payoff. Track and house customer info, inventory & replenishment, product data, and keep it right where you need it: out of sight, but never more than a click away.

Automate your company’s customer service

Automated customer service can save you some serious headaches. And it doesn’t have to be as Orwellian as it might sound. Customer service means more than handling returns, gripes, and user queries. It’s how you interact with your customers, in any stage of the buying process. This means your solution needs to be nuanced and personalized both in its indirect and direct capacities.

Live chat, for example, is a powerful way to connect with your buyers, while still keeping costs down. It’s simple, fast, and effective, and leaves buyers feeling like they can come to you with questions or concerns at any time. Features like order tracking are also a must these days. Most customers want to know what’s happening with their packages at all times, up to the second they get it. Automated delivery updates help everyone keep their cool.

For every size of business, there’s an appropriate eCommerce platform that’ll help bring things to the next level. The trick is finding it—hopefully this blog offers insight into what your business should be seeking out. The tools available to you are more varied and powerful than ever before, and your business deserves the best fit.

Just make you’re looking for these three key things: 1. You’re getting practical platform features that not only work for you now, but will continue to work for you as your business grows. 2. The cost of the platform is right for your budget—you don’t want to pay for features you don’t need. And 3. The platform that can automate your workflow—it’s amazing what machines can do for us.

And that’s it—in all truth, outgrowing your B2B eCommerce Platform is a good issue to have. It signifies that your business is headed in the right direction. Being proactive toward the problem allows you to grow all the more.

Alright, so what’s next? In part 1, we discussed pain points in your business and in part 2, we found ways to alleviate them using B2B features. In part 3, we’ll discuss action items for you to implement into your business that’ll keep things purring along. See you then.

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