Choosing B2B eCommerce Software: 5 Key Questions

By
Monica Orrigo
February 18, 2016

If you’re a manufacturer or distributor and you haven’t already adopted B2B eCommerce, you have a lot of catching up to do. According to a recent Accenture report, 86% of survey respondents (B2B organizations with at least $500 million in annual revenue) currently have an online B2B portal where customers can place orders online. That statistic alone should be impetus enough for you to look into B2B eCommerce for your business, whether you’re at the enterprise, mid-market, or SMB level. When businesses first begin considering possible B2B eCommerce software solutions, however, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Some companies use platforms originally designed for B2C eCommerce and attempt to “Frankenstein” them for B2B. Others invest in costly on-premise solutions, while some choose more flexible Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. To determine what B2B eCommerce software is right for your business, you should be asking yourself a few key questions.

Choosing B2B eCommerce Software: 5 Questions to Ask

1. What does your business need to get out of a B2B eCommerce platform?

Having a clear handle on the goals of your B2B eCommerce implementation will guide you through the vetting process, helping you figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a B2B eCommerce software solution. If, for example, your priority is to make your B2B customers’ ordering experience as intuitive and familiar as a B2C eCommerce experience, you can be sure to concentrate on the user interface. If you want customers to be able to place orders from within the aisle of their store and stay in regular contact with them on new product additions, promotions, etc. you may be looking for a B2B eCommerce software vendor that also offers a mobile component. It’s also important to think about all the B2B-specific functions that you want on this platform. Was the solution designed for B2B transactions? Can you offer customer-specific discounts and pricing? Will the checkout process include the ability to add ship dates and seller review? While you might have been considering a B2C eCommerce platform for your B2B channel, you may discover that it is unable to accommodate the needs of your B2B business.

2. What IT resources do you want to dedicate to the maintenance of your B2B eCommerce site?

There are different software delivery models available to businesses today, which may require more or fewer resources during the implementation phase, as well as differing levels of ongoing maintenance. Some companies with extensive IT resources choose to develop and host their own solution, while others license software and host it internally. Others work with SaaS vendors that take care of all hosting, maintenance, etc. For SMB and mid-market companies with fewer IT resources, the SaaS approach minimizes startup costs and risk while maintaining flexibility. As defined in this previous article, “SaaS is defined simply as a software distribution model that involves software that’s hosted and maintained by a vendor, run in the cloud, and essentially ‘rented’ to the user.” Even larger enterprise-level companies are considering SaaS vendors to free up internal resources and streamline business processes. If your goal is to have your IT staff make modifications and upgrades to the software themselves, an on-premise software delivery model may be what you’re looking for.

3. What are your integration needs?

Integration will be important to the success of your B2B eCommerce platform. Think about how eCommerce orders will get to your back office for processing. Will you need to integrate your platform with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or accounting system? How can you consolidate your eCommerce and field sales channels to provide as much visibility as possible into your customers’ ordering activity? Understanding your current technical environment, and how you envision B2B eCommerce fitting into that environment is key.

4. How does the vendor’s pricing structure work?

When considering a software vendor’s pricing, be sure to look at the fine print. According to Forrester Research, online retailers and web sellers can spend almost 5x their initial eCommerce investment on continued maintenance and other services. The same can go for B2B. Some vendors focus on value-based pricing models, charging as a percentage of sales or by number of orders. Others charge a plethora of extra fees for servers/bandwidth, certain features, etc.

5. What is the vendor’s vision for the future?

It is important to know where a vendor’s technical trajectory is headed, not only so that you can determine whether or not certain features will be available down the line, but also to determine if your vendor’s vision for the future aligns with your own. Looking for a B2B eCommerce software vendor? What does your business need in a solution? Let us know in the comments!