Know Your B2B e Commerce Platform Options

By
Max Bailey
November 5, 2018

Are you looking to implement a B2B e Commerce platform for your company, but don’t know where to start?

You’re not alone. In recent years, there has been a major shift in the way manufacturing and distribution companies allow their buyers to order from them. The prevalence of e Commerce in the B2C world has increased the demand for online ordering in B2B.

Suppliers, like you, now know that B2B e Commerce is a must have, but what type of platform is best? There are several technology options out there—including custom-built, ERP add-ons, and cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) platforms—and functionality varies widely between them.

For a host of reasons that we’ll get into, cloud-based SaaS B2B e Commerce platforms stand proud as the winner in this contest. Read our summary of each B2B e Commerce platform type, below, and decide for yourself.

Know Your B2B e Commerce Platform Options


Let’s start with a quick overview of each type of B2B e Commerce platform:

  • Custom-built: A custom-built B2B e Commerce platform is just that; built specifically for your organization. It can either be built in-house, by your IT department, or through a third-party vendor. This type of platform requires consistent upkeep and resources in order to stay up-to-date and relevant.
  • ERP add-on: An ERP add-on is an extension of your ERP system that allows you to process customer orders. This option is often appealing to organizations looking to consolidate their technology, but comes with some unforeseen consequences.
  • Cloud-based SaaS: A cloud-based SaaS B2B e Commerce platform is an off-the-shelf, ready to go option. It is made by an outside vendor and constantly updated based on industry trends and preferences. This type of solution is the most flexible, by far.


Now that you have a good lay of the land, let’s dive in and explore the pros and cons of each platform.

Pros and Cons of Each B2B e Commerce Platform

CUSTOM-BUILT B2B E COMMERCE PLATFORM


Pros
: Companies with large enough IT departments and ample resources have historically created their own B2B e Commerce platforms from scratch. Internal stakeholders develop a list of key capabilities they want out of the platform, then a team of software engineers, either in-house or third-party, build a B2B e Commerce platform from the ground up.

Custom-built platforms are attractive to B2B companies because, after all, they claim to be customizable. A typical B2B selling structure is chock full of unique business rules, promotions, and customer-specific product and pricing information, so building a solution that custom-fits your exact business seems to be good idea, right?

Cons: Custom-built solutions overlook a key factor that is necessary to maintaining a successful B2B e Commerce platform—the ability for it to grow with your business. When e Commerce is built from scratch, problems of today are solved, but even the brightest engineers cannot foresee the challenges that will be in store tomorrow.

It is possible to update a custom-built B2B e Commerce platform, but it won’t come easy or cheap. Custom-built solutions are costly to implement, but even more so to maintain. If this is the route your business decides to take, make sure you have a complete team of engineers and customer service reps who are solely committed to its success.

ERP ADD-ON B2B E COMMERCE PLATFORM


Pros
: For suppliers most concerned with a tight ERP integration, an ERP add-on solution appears to be the obvious choice. This type of B2B e Commerce platform is specifically appealing to businesses facing the strain of duplicate order entry—orders taken by sales reps or placed by customers over phone or email, that then need to be manually entered into an ERP.

Of course, time saved in the order entry process is enough to make any sales or customer service rep happy, but what about the buyer?

Cons: ERP vendors may be adept at building complex software that represents financial and inventory data, but they often fall short when attempting to make B2B e Commerce platforms that are modern, easy-to-use, and mobile-friendly. Even though order entry savings will translate into faster processing and shipping, customers don’t necessarily know this or care.

What they do care about, however, is the user-experience they will have. B2B buyers require the ability to browse and select the items they need from your digital catalog fast, on-the-go, and through an easy-to-use interface that makes sense to them. If your B2B e Commerce platform does not solve the problems of your customers as well as your back office staff, you won’t have any orders to process in the first place!

CLOUD-BASED SAAS B2B E COMMERCE PLATFORM


Pros
: Cloud-based SaaS B2B e Commerce platforms are sleek, modern and powerful. This type of B2B e Commerce platform provides your buyers with image-rich digital catalogs, and up-to-date product, pricing and promotional information. Buyers are able to easily duplicate orders and many off-the-shelf SaaS B2B e Commerce platforms come stock with a mobile-friendly app that can integrate directly to your ERP. Some vendors have even optimized their apps to place orders offline.

Ultimately, what makes a SaaS B2B e Commerce platform stand out from the other solutions mentioned in this blog post is its ability to adapt to the needs of a broader user base. For instance, when an update is made to solve for one company’s complex requirements, all licensed users of the software can benefit. And, true to the nature of SaaS, resolving issues is as simple as submitting a support ticket and does not require companies to dump even more money into custom-built solutions.

Furthermore, cloud-based SaaS B2B e Commerce platforms are often built to allow for complex customization features off-the-shelf—and at a fraction of the price it would cost you to hire engineers to update an outdated solution.

Cons: As with any B2B e Commerce platform, there is a trade-off to implementing a SaaS solution. Handing over something as important as your self-service customer ordering platform to an outside vendor requires a deep level of trust and understanding. Choosing the wrong platform provider is a mistake that you do not want to make.

B2B e Commerce Platforms: Concluding Thoughts

Hopefully this post has helped you understand the B2B e Commerce platform options that are available for your business. Now more than ever, companies of all sizes are turning to cloud-based SaaS B2B e Commerce platforms to solve their toughest customer ordering challenges.

The next step is for you to decide which SaaS B2B e Commerce vendor is the right fit for your company, and the best way to make this decision is to see the software in action. You can request a demo of Handshake’s robust B2B e Commerce platform here. This is your opportunity to ask questions and see how your complex customer ordering workflows would play out in real time.

We wish you the best of luck on your B2B e Commerce platform quest. As always, feel free to reach out to us at hello@handshake.com if you you have any questions!