B2B eCommerce Websites: Key Considerations and Example Sites

By
Elizabeth Scolari
|
January 2, 2019

B2B eCommerce Websites: Key Considerations and Example Sites


In today’s digital selling landscape, a company is only as good as its website (from a customer’s perspective, at least). B2B eCommerce websites are no different.

When customers are browsing B2B eCommerce sites, they expect their experience to be an extension of the brands they’ve come to trust—especially since they’ll be placing orders through this channel. This has several implications, which we’ll get into in a second.

In my time as an Account Executive at Handshake, I’ve spoken to hundreds of manufacturers and distributors (some of which I’ll mention in this post). These companies all have one thing in common: they care an awful lot about offering the best experience possible to their buyers. And that experience begins with a great B2B eCommerce website.

If you’re in the same boat and are looking to implement a website that’s on par with the best B2B eCommerce websites in your industry, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are some common themes I’ve heard throughout the years, as well as real examples from suppliers like you that I’ve helped get started with B2B eCommerce websites of their own.

Creating Eye-Catching B2B eCommerce Sites

BRANDING AND DESIGN


Branding is about a lot more than making things pretty. Establishing and maintaining a consistent brand presence is really about building trust. When buyers end up on your B2B eCommerce website after browsing your main site, they’ll be much more comfortable pressing the Checkout button if they know it’s really you they’re paying.

Having your logo, brand colors, fonts and design styles consistent across your B2B eCommerce site builds this trust.

Amazingly, not all B2B eCommerce vendors allow for this type of customization. I hear from suppliers all of the time who are looking to re-platform their B2B eCommerce websites for this very reason.

Here’s an example of a B2B eCommerce site we helped Sugar Paper get off the ground.

B2B eCommerce website
We help Sugar Paper and other design-centric companies remain on brand, customizing the look and feel of the entire buying experience on their B2B eCommerce website.

Design-centric brands - such as those in the stationery, gift, and apparel industries - cannot compromise on the brand presence of their B2B eCommerce sites. The implication here is that a designer site = designer products. The opposite is assumed when your brand is not properly reflected. And, you don’t want that!

Branding and design customizations are meant to make your B2B eCommerce site stand out among the crowd. And, if you have someone on your team that is well versed in coding and graphic design, you should update the look of your portal frequently (while staying on brand, of course).

Updating the graphics and imagery on your B2B eCommerce website as the seasons and holidays change, will make sure it continues to pop.

HIGH-RESOLUTION IMAGERY


It’s also very important for B2B eCommerce sites to include high-res images as customers browse digital catalogs. This is part of the beauty of B2B eCommerce - customers can actually see what they’re getting before they buy. And on the flip side, if a customer can’t get the full grasp of the product you’re offering, they may not buy it.

Side note: You also want to make sure your B2B eCommerce site allows for product descriptions and other custom fields, such as ingredients (for food and beverage products), dimensions, etc.

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised to hear that not all B2B eCommerce providers offer this functionality. And those that do don’t always allow for more than one image.

Consider this example from our customer Skip Hop, a leading supplier in the kids, toys, and baby industry.

B2B eCommerce sites
Skip Hop loads up multiple high-res mages of each item on their B2B eCommerce site, including lifestyle imagery that helps their products shine.

Buyers in Skip Hop’s industry care very much about the quality of the products they purchase, because they know that their customers will only settle for the best for their little ones. So, one image of a stroller just won’t do.

Of course, high-res imagery is important for any industry. B2B eCommerce websites that do not allow for multiple bold images to accompany products will come shy of buyers’ expectations.

Imagine bidding on an eBay item without a photo - it wouldn’t be very enticing.

Controlling What Buyers See on B2B eCommerce Websites

PRODUCT DISCOVERY AND USER-EXPERIENCE


Branding and design are just a few pieces to the B2B eCommerce website puzzle. Perhaps even more important than a clean design is ensuring that your site is easy to navigate, so buyers can find relevant products that are actually available to them.

To ensure ease-of-use, suppliers are equipping their B2B eCommerce websites with various product catalogs that showcase seasonal product lines. This functionality is key for manufacturers and distributors in many industries, such as the outdoor and sporting goods space.

B2B eCommerce site
Buff uses our Catalogs & Collections features to showcase both their in-season and preseason catalogs on their B2B eCommerce website.

For Buff (another Handshake customer), separating product catalogs to display their preseason and in-stock orders is crucial to their ability to forecast demand and meet the immediate needs of their buyers.

Any wholesaler who accepts seasonal and at-once ordering needs multiple product catalogs on their B2B eCommerce site to clear up confusion for their buyers.

Once buyers land on the correct product catalog, however, they’ll look to drill down even further to the specific items they’re looking for. Great B2B eCommerce websites allow buyers to find products in at least these 3 ways:

  1. Search - In the age of Google, we tend to take searching capabilities for granted, but it’s actually very hard to accomplish! Make sure the search engine behind your B2B eCommerce site is robust, fast, and able to account for common misspellings and incomplete search queries.
  2. Categorization - Product categories should be broad and easy to understand. It’s common for suppliers to get out of hand with too many product categories, but this just makes things harder for buyers. Any category that’s too specific and shares traits across multiple types of products on your B2B eCommerce site, will work best as a filter.
  3. Filters - Filters are typically the last step to narrowing down choices for your buyers. By definition, filters take many of your products out of the running from ending up in a buyer’s shopping cart. So, it’s important to thoughtfully consider the filters you choose to make available to your buyers. A great use-case for filtering is in the eyewear industry - take our customer Modo for example:
B2B eCommerce catalog filtering
Modo users our Filter feature to allow buyers to easily filter products by material, size and color.

Long story short - a buyer’s journey through your B2B eCommerce site should be as intuitive as possible. The less time they need to think about how to navigate your site, the more time they’ll have to add products to their cart!

BUYER PERSONALIZATION AND INFORMATION SHARING


Beyond creating product catalogs and making your B2B eCommerce website easy to navigate, suppliers need to be able to offer custom experiences to individual buyers, as well as make sure that buyers see only what they’re supposed to see.

For instance, you can set custom messaging blocks and banners tailored to specific customer groups. This is a great way to share new products, promotions and important information with your buyers. In addition to being a targeted method to upsell, custom messaging will make your B2B eCommerce site users feel special and taken care of.

The most common need for personalization that I’ve seen across industries, however, is the ability to offer different prices to different customers. Many suppliers offer more than one price to various buyers through multiple pricing tiers. Some manufacturers and distributors have even more complex pricing than that!

For companies that sell via in-person sales reps in addition to B2B eCommerce, pricing has to be spot-on—if a buyer is quoted a different price by their rep than what’s listed on your customer portal, you may lose their trust and buyer adoption of your site will suffer.

It’s important that your B2B eCommerce website is powered by a vendor with extensive experience in B2B, because these types of pricing complexities are not nearly as common in the B2C world.

By the way—Handshake has been solely B2B focused from the very start (just sayin’).

While we’re on the topic of displaying correct pricing information, let’s take a moment to discuss something else you may or may not want your buyers to see—inventory. When it comes to displaying inventory information, the goal is to be transparent and manage your buyers’ expectations, while still encouraging them to buy from you (and not from your competitors).

This Handshake B2B eCommerce website from Chex Finer Foods is a perfect example of this:

B2B eCommerce inventory
Chex uses our Inventory feature to notify buyers of “Available-to-Ship” dates on items that are currently on backorder.

Of course, your sales reps will need to see your inventory on hand, but your buyers don’t necessarily need to know the exact inventory information for a particular product. Rather, they just need to know if an item’s available and, if not, when it will be.

You might also decide to enable backorder controls on your B2B eCommerce site to give buyers the ability to place orders for products that will be shipped separate from the rest of the products on their order, on a specified date. Your choice!

Make sure your B2B eCommerce provider enables an easy integration with your specific inventory management software—like Dear Systems, Fishbowl and Stitch Labs, for example.

In addition, you likely have ERP and other data you’d like your B2B eCommerce website to reference and display to buyers, such as payment and shipping information—the best B2B eCommerce vendors will find a way to make it happen.

B2B eCommerce Websites that Buyers Love to Use

If you care about giving your buyers the best possible user experience that’s tailored to your specific business needs, then you need a B2B eCommerce website that can keep up. There are several B2B eCommerce platform options for you to choose from, but ultimately you’ll need to choose a vendor that can handle your unique branding, user-experience, customization and integration requirements.

I’d love to chat with you about the Handshake platform. Put 10 minutes on my calendar and let’s talk through what your ideal B2B eCommerce website looks like.