B2B Portal Set-Up: 5 Steps to a Successful Rollout

By
Mandy Movahhed
November 20, 2015

Encouraged by the growing revenue share of eCommerce transactions and a new desire among B2B buyers for the on-demand convenience reflected in their personal shopping habits, there has been a massive increase in the adoption of B2B eCommerce among manufacturers and distributors. Implementing B2B portals, however, can be daunting. From deciding who will own the implementation process internally, to changing commission structures and measuring success, developing a thoughtful, strategic plan is critical. The right up-front preparation will lead to a smooth transition and minimal continued maintenance. Here’s how to set up your B2B portal for success.

Step 1: Identify the Project Team

Arguably a step best done before you decide to make an investment in B2B eCommerce at all, you must first choose the right internal team to guide the implementation process. While many SaaS B2B eCommerce solutions are fairly plug-and-play, having the right project team in place is critical to ensuring the success of the project. There are four main members of a high functioning B2B eCommerce project team:

  1. The Project Leader. The Project Leader is the dedicated point of contact for your B2B eCommerce provider. Traditionally from sales, IT, or marketing, this person will coordinate the moving pieces of the project, and is ultimately responsible for seeing the project through to success.
  2. The Data Specialist. This person is most frequently a member of the Operations or IT team. The Data Specialist is responsible for the original upload and subsequent regular maintenance of your customer, product, pricing and inventory data. They will also coordinate and define the process for how inbound orders from the portal will be managed.
  3. The Customer Adoption Owner. This person is held accountable for ensuring customer awareness, user registration and initial usage of your new B2B eCommerce portal. We suggest this person be from sales, or more specifically, a sales leader who has the ability to incentivize your rep team to encourage adoption of your B2B eCommerce portal.
  4. The Branding & Messaging Maven. Typically from marketing, this person is responsible for the visual design of your B2B portal, including your logo, product images, and branded colors. They will also craft your customer-targeted messaging in both your portal and related email marketing campaigns.

Step 2: Upload & Maintain Your Data

In the world of manufacturing and distribution, the B2B buying experience is often highly personalized. Your customers are buying at specific prices, may only have access to specific products in your line, and have particular shipping and payment preferences that must be accommodated. The ability of your B2B eCommerce portal to drive return business, therefore, is dependent on the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the data in your portal, as well as your ability to provide the same tailored experience your customers receive offline. The following data should be uploaded and maintained in your B2B eCommerce portal.

The Must-Haves

The following are required for your B2B eCommerce portal rollout:

  1. Customer data: Your customer list must be uploaded to your portal before you start to accept online orders. Each customer login will directly affect which pricing, products, and terms they are shown during the order placing experience.
  2. Catalog data: At a minimum, your catalog includes your product list, descriptions and pricing. Most catalogs also include product images to enable easy product identification when reordering and to provide a helpful visual reference when exploring new products.

The Nice-to-Haves

The following will often enhance your customer experience but are not required for your rollout:

  1. Inventory data. Many brands find it useful to provide customers with inventory levels within the order interface.
  2. Order history. Giving your customer the ability to view their order history is helpful in multiple ways. Not only does it give your customers context on past orders, including the items they order most frequently, it also allows them to quickly duplicate past orders and use these as a base for fast, convenient reordering.

If your portal is up to date and accurate at all times across all these data types, it becomes a source of truth for your customer, leading to decreased customer service calls and emails and more frequent re-ordering.

Step 3: Drive Retailer Adoption of Your B2B Portal

Once your portal is up and running, you need to drive your customers to place orders online. Follow these recommendations to maximize customer registration and initial adoption.

Driving Awareness

  • Send email marketing drip campaigns.
  • Provide clear navigation to your portal from your website.
  • Reference your portal in all customer-facing communications.
  • Include a mailer in product shipments.
  • Have your reps notify your retailers in person.

Driving Usage

  • Incentivize your customers to use the portal by running promotions.
  • Have your reps and customer service team ready to train customers.

Step 4: Maximize Your B2B Portal’s Marketing Potential

Now that your portal is up and running with the correct customer and catalog data and you have a captive audience placing orders, it’s time to turn up the dial on your marketing efforts. You will be able to realize the full potential of your portal if if you:

  1. Use your B2B eCommerce portal as an email marketing landing page.
  2. Load up your portal with helpful marketing guides, assets, and images.
  3. Run targeted messaging at specific customer segments.

Step 5: Measure Performance

After your B2B portal is up and running, it's time to measure the performance of the portal and gauge what's working and what isn't. Key KPIs to look at include:

  • Total Sales
  • Adoption rates
  • Growth
  • Average Order Value
  • Order Frequency

Concluding Thoughts

To maximize ROI on their B2B portals, brands must take a strategic and calculated approach to the implementation process. Supporting the project with the right internal stakeholders, prioritizing awareness and adoption, and creating the right incentive structure to keep sales teams aligned with online sales strategies are key to ensuring B2B eCommerce has a lasting impact on your profits, operational efficiency, and overall customer engagement.