B2B eCommerce - Giving your Customers the Confidence to Order Again, Again and Again
The truth is that in theory, it’s far simpler to run wholesale and reseller transactions through an eCommerce website ultimately saving you time and allowing you to sell more products. The reality is customers are reluctant to use B2B eCommerce platforms as they often don’t live up their expectations.
It has become completely every-day to shop online in our personal lives. We have access to order everything and anything digitally, whether that be the weekly grocery shopping, holidays, appliances, clothes, cosmetics, jewellery etc. The list is endless.
There are very few products or services we can’t buy online. We do this all the time and we do so with confidence. We have little time for websites that don’t offer a good experience.
It has become the norm in the B2C space to have this seamless experience. The same unfortunately cannot be said for the world of B2B and Wholesale.
The truth is that in theory, it’s far simpler to run wholesale and reseller transactions through an eCommerce website ultimately saving you time and allowing you to sell more products.
The reality is customers are reluctant to use B2B eCommerce platforms as they often don’t live up their expectations.
In an ideal world digital ordering should reduce order processing costs, including constant phone calls and emails between the office and sales reps and time consuming repetitive spreadsheet entry; increase revenues, higher customer retention and improve online presence.
Going digital can massively cut down on the resource-intensive task of keeping vast product catalogues up to date, and provide accurate communication of price lists and stock levels to customers in real-time and you won’t hear anyone complaining about that. Least of all your customers!
But not all eCommerce platforms are equipped to handle B2B transactions, so selecting the right eCommerce solution is fundamental to the success of your B2B online venture.
It can be somewhat difficult initially to move your customers to an online platform, but this is a hurdle easily overcome. The real problem is that once you get them there, if their experience falls short of their expectations, which we already know are quite high, they won’t return, rendering your eCommerce site, which you’ve likely invested heavily in, redundant.
Your own expectations of what you will get when you sign up for a custom or bespoke development of an online portal, eCommerce solution or app; will be equally high, but this road can be fraught with risk and complexity.
If you’ve gone down this road before and come out the other side you will understand the reasons these projects often go wrong.
Like many B2Bs your business is likely powered by a combination of complex back-office ERP software and accounting systems and fulfilment processes and tracking technology and account-tailored pricing models.
So often times B2B companies don’t even go down the eCommerce route as they are convinced the company’s own complexity would be a blocker, and more often than not when they do the developer’s lack of understanding of that complexity produces an unworkable solution.
So what exactly do your B2B customers want when they order online with you and how can it be achieved?
On top of the seamless shopping experience, your customers are used to on a B2C platform they also want to duplicate the personalised ordering they are used to when they order with you direct over the phone or by email or via a sales rep.
So how can you marry the two expectations and give your customers the confidence to order online again, again and again, so you can reap the rewards you keep being told you will get from going digital?
1. Customer Specific Pricing
B2B organisations can sell at different prices based on the customer type, group or even offer pricing on an individual level. B2C websites tend to offer all customers the same pricing on the same products.
Your B2B customer will want to see their own unique pricing when ordering from you.
All the information about your customers' pricing for specific products will already be attached to their account in your ERP or back end systems.
The ability to give customers access to this information on your B2B eCommerce website will make the difference between your clients completing their orders online or continuing to reach out via phone or email to get their orders fulfilled.
2. Customer Specific Products
Customers don’t want to see products that are not relevant to or even worse products they are not permitted to order.
Perhaps you have a vast catalogue of stock, but only sell certain items to certain customers. You don’t even want them to be aware of the other products.
You, therefore, need a B2B digital experience that reflects this. Again all this information will be already stored in your business-critical back end ERP systems.
Having your eCommerce site integrated in real-time with your ERP system so that customers can see both their unique pricing and products is essential.
3. Live Accurate Stock Levels
When B2B customers are placing orders with you direct you are able to check whether the particular items are in stock or not. This information is again stored on your ERP system so when they ring in or email you are able to check the stock levels via this system.
Having this information on your website when your customers are ordering is critical. Placing an order when items are out of stock will certainly not instil confidence in your customers to continue ordering digitally in the future.
Perhaps you want to allow customers to be able to back order certain items, or to show certain items as always in stock, or show specific stock levels, or to let them know stock levels are low.
Having an eCommerce solution that offers all this and that can provide this information to your customers accurately is vital.
4. Order History and Account Specific Details
Like most of us, your B2B customers are likely creatures of habit and order a lot of the same items again and again. They may want to repeat an exact order which may have been their last order or perhaps that order they placed two months ago.
Providing access to recent transactions, favourites, order history and a repeat order facility creates an online experience that will increase rather than hinder repeat ordering.
Giving access to account details, statements and other customer-specific details on a customer dashboard all aid in creating a positive user experience.
Customers can log on to get this information rather than wasting their time and yours ringing and emailing to get it
5. Restricted Access or Different Levels of Access
Giving your B2B customers a secure area to log-in is essential in helping them feel confident in assessing their information and completing that order.
But what if you have different customer types or want to offer different access levels, all while creating the right customer experience. Having an eCommerce provider who offers these different types and levels of access is vital.
You may have B2B only customers and don’t want anyone in the general public to see your products or you may offer very detailed customer-specific products. In this case, you won’t want your catalogue displayed for all to see on a traditional eCommerce style website but will simply need a gated log-in area for customers with accounts to log in.
Or you may want a customer-facing website displaying your catalogue with or without pricing, with a login/sign up area for customers.
Then how will you grant access to your site? Depending on what you sell and how you sell it you may offer online registration for an account once the email address provided matches that on your ERP system.
You may want to be more restrictive and only allow accounts by invite only or asking them to contact you direct should they want to set an account up.
Perhaps you sell to both the B2C and the B2B market and need to offer separate areas for both with a customer-facing website where your B2C available catalogue and general pricing is displayed with relevant stock levels and then a log-in area for account holders whether they be B2B customers who will see their specific pricing/products/account info etc. or B2C customers with general accounts.
Another likely scenario could be that the customer placing the order is part of a large multinational for example, and they must get head office approval before an order is fully placed.
Granting them a certain level of access where they can log in with their account details and compile their order and instead of a checkout function the order is then sent to the authorised person in their organisation for approval. Once approved the order is then placed back in your ERP system.
This is a very unique feature very few eCommerce providers provide, but one that is essential to these types of customers who would normally be placing very large orders and are often the types of customers who would be reluctant to order online as they’d likely still have manual processes to complete if such a system wasn’t in place on your site.
There are many possible scenarios within the B2B marketplace and having an eCommerce provider who offer multiple options in terms of access to suit your business set up is ideal.
6. Multiple and flexible payment options
In the B2B world, an existing relationship is in place with the client and not every business order can or should have the payment processed online.
You may have certain customers who must pay upfront, or on delivery and certain ones who can order on credit or with Purchase Order references.
If you also offer B2C ordering on the site you equally want to make sure you can process all relevant card types and offer easy payment options like PayPal.
For B2B customers the relevant payment options need to be reflected at the online checkout or customers won’t be able to order with confidence or frankly won’t order at all.
7. Ability to Order in Bulk
Your B2B customers likely order items in large quantities or a large number of items at any one time. They need the facility to do this or online ordering will be redundant.
Having facilities like bulk ordering and spreadsheet upload facilities will give customers wanting to order in this way the facility to do so.
All these features are essential to providing your business with a successful B2B digital ordering solution and to giving your customers the confidence to begin to order online and most importantly to keep ordering online again and again.
WebShop, the eCommerce solution, and SalesRep, the mobile ordering app for your field sales team, both from Aphix Software, can achieve all this by integrating the customer and product specific information stored in your ERP system to your customer's online account, as well as providing a truly scalable, secure and fully supported true cloud solution.
Our all-in-one Software as a Service (‘SaaS’) approach combines the best in technology and customer service with deep sectoral knowledge and a roadmap that responds quickly to our customer’s current and future needs.
We know what we are doing when it comes to B2B eCommerce and mobile ordering solutions because we’ve done it for over 150 customers across Ireland and the UK.
Our customer’s customers are ordering right now and continue to order again, again and again.