Why You Need a Complete B2B Platform for Wholesale Ordering

By
Max Bailey
|
February 11, 2019

Any supplier that’s been in the wholesale distribution game for a while knows that B2B ordering is unique (to say the least). Selling thousands of product variants through a mixture of in-person, online and various manual methods, while tailoring specific products, pricing and promotions for separate accounts can be a lot to manage.

Attempting to keep up with all these variables without a proper B2B platform in place is unsustainable for any growing wholesale brand. Fortunately, today’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology providers are offering robust B2B eCommerce solutions that make wholesale ordering easier than ever for both suppliers and buyers, alike.

If you’re a manufacturer or distributor looking to bring your sales and customer ordering processes online, you need to make sure the solution you choose is a complete B2B platform for your business. There are a lot of B2B eCommerce options in the SaaS landscape, but you need a solution that will get you all the way to where you want to be.

Why You Need a Complete B2B Platform for Wholesale Ordering


Anything short of a complete B2B platform—one that is specific to B2B processes, fully functional on mobile devices, and optimizes the performance of your sales reps with technology—will ultimately fall short of your expectations, and the expectations of your buyers.

Your B2B platform must be ready-made to handle B2B workflows.

At this point in your search for the right B2B platform, you’ve likely come across a handful of SaaS B2B platform providers, each with their various nuances. As you explore the options, you’ll notice that many providers are specialists in B2C online transactions, first and foremost. The truth behind most of these platforms is that their B2B offerings were originally built for B2C companies and simply include slight modifications and extensions to make wholesale ordering work.

But you don’t want a platform that just works. You need a purpose-built B2B platform.

Trying to make a B2C solution work for B2B processes is something we like to call frankensteining—taking something that’s meant for one thing and using it for something else, like jamming the wrong puzzle piece into place. While your B2B platform should strive to replicate the sleek user-experience of a consumer portal, there are many wholesale eCommerce features that you can’t do without, like:

  • Advanced wholesale pricing
  • Customer-specific catalogs
  • Simple reordering workflows
  • Review, modification and confirmation of orders


Perhaps most importantly, however, is the accessibility of your B2B platform. While any and all consumers are welcome to purchase through B2C channels, you need to be able to control who can order from your wholesale portal.

Given the desire of many suppliers to vet potential customers before doing business with them, wholesale customers ideally should request access, or accept an invitation, to use your B2B platform. So, if you sell direct-to-consumer and wholesale in tandem, you’ll need two eCommerce platforms: a public B2C platform and a private, password-protected B2B platform. Suppliers that attempt to combine these two technologies into one solution will be left with a wholesale ordering experience that is confusing and, at it’s best, subpar.

And, if you don’t sell B2C whatsoever, then you definitely shouldn’t settle for a frankensteined eCommerce portal. Get a purely B2B solution from the start!

Your B2B platform should be available to use anywhere, as a mobile app.

Your search for a B2B platform solution should not only consider bringing orders online, but bringing them on-the-go as well.

Think about it. When’s the last time you met someone that didn’t own a smartphone? In 2019, virtually everyone has access to the internet in their pockets and at their fingertips. The key to driving B2B eCommerce adoption with your buyers is to make the ordering process as easy and convenient as possible. Therefore, the ability to order through a smartphone or tablet is a no brainer.

There is an important distinction that must be made, however, between offering a native mobile app vs. a mobile-optimized website. Many B2B platform providers boast that their eCommerce portals work on mobile devices, but again, simply working will not cut it. Since mobile apps are installed directly to your buyers’ devices, they are inherently faster and easier to use than a mobile-optimized site could ever be. Apps are often able to be used offline and, let’s face it, people use mobile apps more than they browse the internet on their smartphones anyway.

How many times have you checked Facebook and Instagram today...

Millennial buyers, especially, are looking for mobile ordering apps from their suppliers. You cannot wait around for these buyers to come to you, so you must meet them where they’re at—on their smartphones. For the buyer, mobile ordering is convenient, but it is also more efficient because they do not have to carve time out from their day to order from you. Instead, they can quickly access your B2B platform’s mobile app, scan products and draft orders as they walk around the sales floor, throughout the day.

At the end of a long day, your buyers won’t have to sit down at their desk (assuming they have a desk) to write an order. Since they’ve been adding items to their cart all day on your mobile app, all they have to do is connect to WiFi and submit!

Personal side story: I put myself through college working for a large grocery chain in the Northeast U.S. When it came time for me to place orders each week, I needed to reserve 3-4 hours of my day to do so. The process of manually writing order quantities with pen and paper, waiting for a computer to open in up in the shared office space, and physically entering each SKU into our ordering system, was a brutal waste of time. This is why your buyers want a mobile app!

Your B2B platform must be easy to use, or it won’t be used at all. The efficiency gains that your buyers experience when you give them a native mobile app to order from will ensure that they continue to choose you over your competitors.

Your B2B platform needs to enhance the jobs of your sales reps.

Don’t forget about your in-person sales channel! If you’re like most manufacturers and distributors, you have a team of sales reps and merchandisers out in the field interfacing with buyers, opening up new accounts and getting your products onto store shelves. Of course, when you introduce B2B eCommerce into the mix, your sales reps will have to adapt their tactics.

Implementing a complete B2B platform that keeps your sales reps at the center of customer interactions is the key to bridging this gap.

Just like your customers, sales reps need a mobile solution to optimize their efficiency in the field. When your reps are onsite with customers, they should be able to draft orders, browse products, and check inventory information with ease, all on a mobile device. Since each wholesale customer is unique, your reps will need to be able to navigate between customers in the app to view the products, pricing and promotions that are meant specifically for them.

While some B2B platform providers may offer a sales rep portal that is mobile-optimized, your in-person sales experience will be lacking without a truly native mobile app. The same rules apply here—a slow and clunky mobile solution will only serve to frustrate your sales reps.

Your B2B platform should also optimize the sales interactions between your reps and customers. For instance, sales reps should be able to draft an order, complete with new products and upsells, to send to customers, who will then modify and approve the order on their end. Inversely, a customer could request a quote from their sales rep on a particularly large order that they drafted themselves. A fully functional B2B platform will allow reps to then review these orders and submit a personalized quote back to the customer for approval.

The point is...your B2B platform should not leave your sales reps in the dust. By involving your reps in the customer ordering process through robust SaaS technology and commissioning them on all orders placed by their accounts, you will enable them to better serve customers and focus on more value-added activities, such as upselling, cross-selling and opening up new accounts. Not to mention, you’ll also turn them into B2B eCommerce champions that will happily sing the praises of your B2B platform to the masses.

IN CONCLUSION


Don’t settle for less than a complete B2B platform. A solution that only gets you ⅓ or ⅔ of the way there is not a solution at all.

If it’s important to you that your solution is a perfect fit for B2B workflows, can capture orders from your buyers no matter where they are or what they’re doing, and that your sales reps are as efficient and happy as can be, then you deserve a B2B platform that matches your expectations.

Handshake has been solely committed to the complexities of B2B since our inception. Our B2B platform includes a fully functional customer ordering app, as well as an app for your sales reps to capture orders in the field. Buyers can also place orders on a desktop or laptop computer, and your sales reps and back office staff will be able to manage customer, product and order data in Handshake’s order management backend.

Handshake is a complete B2B platform.

To learn more about Handshake, all you have to do is raise your hand—request a demo of our software from one of our B2B eCommerce experts and we’ll show you what a complete B2B platform could could look like for your business.