B2B e Commerce Software: 4 Checklists to Guide Your Efforts
As the business-to-business (B2B) world continues to move their sales and ordering processes online, including mobile ordering solutions for both their customers and sales reps, it is becoming more difficult for suppliers to ignore the benefits of B2B e Commerce software.
B2B e Commerce software enables suppliers with easy self-serve customer ordering, more efficient field sales, and reduced manual order entry for sales reps and back office staff—resulting in increased revenue from larger orders, and lower costs incurred from time wasted on data entry.
If you’re a manufacturer or distributor, and you’re interested in offering online ordering for your buyers, we’ve compiled 20 questions and tips for you to consider in these 4 helpful B2B e Commerce checklists. Whether you’re #1) still deciding if B2B e Commerce software is right for you, #2) choosing a vendor, #3) on your way to implementing a solution, or #4) would just like some help getting buyers to adopt online ordering, there’s something here for you!
B2B e Commerce Software: 4 Checklists to Guide Your Efforts
B2B e Commerce Software Checklist #1: Deciding if your business is a fit
The first step in the process is to decide whether or not B2B e Commerce software is the right move for your business. To help you along, here’s some questions to ask yourself, first:
- How are you currently taking orders?
Do you have a standardized wholesale ordering process, or is it more ad hoc? Do customers reach out when they need more product, or do you employ in-person sales reps to collect orders, or both? If constant phone calls, emails and faxes—and frequent sales visits—are bogging down your customer service and sales staff, it may be time to digitize the process.
- Do you already have an online platform for B2B ordering?
Maybe you have an online ordering system in place, but it isn’t quite getting the job done. It could be that your current online process is becoming outdated, unable to keep up with mobile trends and other expectations of modern buyers. Or, you may be limited in your ability to customize and personalize your platform for individual customer groups. In either case, you’re probably due for an upgrade.
- Are you keeping up with the flow of orders?
Like many other growing businesses, you’re likely experiencing growing pains in the way of customer ordering. If you have one or more back office staff members spending most their time keying in customer orders, you’ll struggle to keep up and scale your business. B2B e Commerce software can automate a lot of these tasks, solving the data entry issue.
- How do you currently attract new B2B customers?
With so many suppliers already offering online ordering, it can be hard to compete without some sort of B2B e Commerce solution in place. Suppliers that are quick to adopt intuitive online ordering platforms, however, often entice customers away from their competitors.
- Have customers been asking for online ordering?
If your buyers have been asking you for a better way to order, it means they’re frustrated with your current process and are ready for a more digital solution. And, if your customers are ready for online ordering, it won’t be long before they start looking for another supplier to meet their needs.
Like most manufacturers and distributors, there’s likely room for improvement in your B2B ordering process that can be fixed with the right B2B e Commerce software in place.
B2B e Commerce Software Checklist #2: Choosing the right software vendor
Now that you’ve recognized your business’ need for B2B e Commerce, it’s time to start looking for the right Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor to implement a solution. As you evaluate each option, consider the following questions:
- Does the solution match the way you sell?
Going back to the first question in the previous checklist, if you’re currently selling through a mix of in-person sales and customer-initiated orders, you need to be sure your chosen B2B e Commerce vendor can offer a suite of solutions to optimize each selling scenario, including native mobile applications for buyers and reps ordering on-the-go.
- How easy will it be to get set up?
The right B2B e Commerce vendor should be able to get your portal up and running quickly. In addition, you’ll need to be able to make easy tweaks to your portal over time through an easy-to-use backend order management system, so make sure you choose a provider that offers an admin portal for simple configurability.
- Does it integrate with your back office systems?
If you’re using a best-in-class ERP system, orders placed via B2B e Commerce software should be able to automatically sync. Ensuring your vendor can enable this automation is key to scaling the way your business processes orders. If there’s other important back office systems you need to integrate with (e.g. CRM, accounting, inventory, shipping software, etc.) be sure to bring this up in your conversations with vendors.
- Can it handle your customization and personalization requirements?
The ability to customize your digital catalog with brand elements and important personalizations, such as customer-specific prices and promotions, is a key factor in selecting the perfect B2B e Commerce software provider for your wholesale distribution business. But, don’t get lost in the weeds and forget about the basics; priority #1 is to make sure your orders can be easily processed online!
- Does the price match your budget?
Price should not be your first consideration, but you definitely need to make sure your business can actually afford the software you choose. As you decide on this factor, do a cost-benefit analysis to determine the ROI you stand to gain from lowering your data entry costs, enabling sales reps to visit more customers each day, and driving larger orders from your buyers.
Ultimately, you must determine whether the B2B e Commerce software vendor you choose can actually solve the problems facing your buyers, sales reps, and back office staff.
B2B e Commerce Software Checklist #3: Getting ready to set up your portal
With the right B2B e Commerce software vendor in place, you’re ready to start setting up your portal! As you prepare to launch online ordering, here’s some tips to keep in mind that will ease your transition:
- Organize your data as much as possible.
If you don’t have your product names, descriptions, and unique SKUs associated with each product in a centralized location, it’s time to do so. Open Excel and create a record each item, as well as any keywords you want associated with each product, in separate rows on a spreadsheet. Structuring your product data, first, will get you 90% of the way to launching your B2B e Commerce portal and ensuring it is reflecting your product line perfectly.
- Nail down your pricing, promotions and other business rules.
Before your B2B e Commerce software vendor can start building out your custom selling rules and customer-specific personalizations, you need to make sure you have a handle on them yourself. Consult your team and start building a detailed list of the logic behind your business rules, and group your buyers into pricing tiers. This will make the implementation process go much smoother.
- Thoughtfully plan out product categories and navigation.
You also need to consider the structure of your digital catalog. To get started, it’s helpful to draw out an actual category tree to start dropping your list of products into. Keep your categories high level (like the way aisles are organized in a grocery store) and think through the various search keywords and filters you can include to make it even easier for buyers to find what they’re looking for fast.
- Invest in professional photography.
If you don’t already have high-resolution images of your products, prioritize hiring a freelance photographer to take photos for you. One of the greatest benefits of a B2B e Commerce platform is the ability for customers to discover new products—the better your product imagery is, the easier it will be to drive this product discoverability and increase average order value.
- Make sure your brand is reflected.
Once you have the basics covered, above, it’s time to ensure your business’ brand shines through your B2B e Commerce software. Work with your vendor to get your custom colors, logos and fonts built into your B2B solution. Keeping your brand consistent across channels will help you maintain buyer trust as they navigate through this new platform.
For more pro tips on setting up your B2B website, check out this recent blog post from my colleague Natalie Petruch.
Follow this advice and you’ll be well on your way to a successful B2B e Commerce software launch!
B2B e Commerce Software Checklist #4: Ensuring buyers are using your portal
Once you’ve taken advantage of the opportunity of B2B e Commerce software and worked with a provider to get your portal up and running, it’s time to get buyers actually using it.
- Start with a small group of customers.
Before flipping the switch and giving all buyers access to your ordering website and app, run a beta test. Identify a small group of loyal customers and give them exclusive access, first. This will help your team uncover any overlooked issues, allowing you to iron out the kinks before your B2B e Commerce software becomes the primary ordering method for your buyers.
- Tell your customers about it!
After testing out your portal, let your buyers know about the exciting news. Work with your communications team to target marketing campaigns on email, social media, and your website, inviting new and existing customers to register for online ordering. Use multi-channel messaging tactics to help drive the benefits of online ordering for your buyers on a consistent basis.
- Leverage your sales reps’ networks.
If you’re using sales reps in the field, incentivize them to get accounts started with their first online order. Ensure sales reps understand the benefits of B2B e Commerce software and how online ordering will help them be more efficient and drive larger orders. Also important: don’t forget to commission your reps on all online orders placed by their accounts.
- Ask buyers for feedback.
As you go along, ask your buyers for feedback on their B2B e Commerce experience. What do they like best? What could be improved upon? Share this valuable information with your B2B e Commerce software provider and see what can be done to make the experience even better for your B2B customers. Ultimately, the more say your buyers have in the ordering process, the more likely they’ll be to adopt your new portal.
- Continually refine and optimize your efforts.
Crunch the numbers and see how your B2B e Commerce portal is performing. Implement the feedback you receive from buyers and make subtle changes as you go on. As buyer expectations continue to evolve, your B2B e Commerce software should be able to keep pace.
Let these 4 B2B e Commerce software checklists guide you as you seek to implement the best online ordering experience for your buyers.
All in all, your best shot at offering a robust B2B online and mobile ordering experience is to work with a software vendor that truly understands your needs, has expertise in your industry, and is willing to work with you hand-in-hand to get you past the finish line.
If you’re interested in learning about our B2B e Commerce software at Handshake, let’s talk! Sign up for demo with one of our team members to find out if we’re the right vendor to help you check all the boxes.