Nowadays, conducting business online is becoming the rule rather than the exception. Statistics gathered by the software giant, Salesforce, show that 48% of B2B businesses already sell products online, and that figure is set to hit 88% within four years.
This article discusses the B2B eCommerce for manufacturers solutions that are currently available and how they can help manufacturers create an outstanding online presence.
Do I really need an online presence?
The short answer is, yes, you do! In common with B2C customers, B2B customers now demand the best online experience, and they are willing to pay a few quid more to ensure they get it.
This significant shift towards conducting business online means manufacturers without a solid internet presence built around a robust B2B eCommerce platform are struggling to compete with manufacturers that have already transitioned.
Mercifully, there are plenty of excellent B2B eCommerce platforms available that are suitable for manufacturing businesses. However, deciding on one that is right for your business can be a challenge. But don’t fret, as we will tell you everything you need to know to help you decide.
The main elements of a good B2B eCommerce platform for manufacturers
At the core of every successful eCommerce manufacturing business is a B2B eCommerce platform. Many B2B-specific platforms are available, with new ones appearing all the time. Choosing the right one for your business does require thought, especially regarding the features available with each.
A good platform will have features for you to:
- Automate tasks to streamline your business processes;
- Increase user (customer) engagement;
- Capture leads; and
- Drive sales.
As B2C eCommerce is such a massive thing now, there is a great choice of reasonably priced platforms available. But, unfortunately, those are unsuitable for B2B eCommerce applications since B2B customers have different, more complex needs than B2C customers.
Careful choice of platform is essential, as getting it wrong could lead to undesirable things like the inability to integrate with existing business processes, poor website performance, etc., all of which can cause significant damage to your business. Therefore, we strongly advise you to look for these features when searching for a B2B eCommerce platform for your manufacturing business:
Internal and external user management
What sets B2B apart from B2C is that many different types of users need to access the platform. These could be management team members or personnel from various departments such as purchasing, marketing, shipping, accounts, etc. To complicate matters further, these users may be in your organisation, your customer’s, or both.
It is, therefore, essential that your chosen system can grant different levels of access and permissions to the various individuals who will need to use it.
Every B2B eCommerce website should offer things like landing pages, marketing campaigns (example: social media campaign) and promotional content, all personalised to the user.
It is advantageous for the platform to allow the creation of different websites, each tailored to be relevant to specific verticals and geographical areas. This will enable you to spotlight your target audiences while offering them an excellent customer experience.
Every customer group has different purchasing habits. Therefore, whichever platform you opt for should give you the ability to create self-service portals personalised for each customer as well as customer service. These portals would include things like product information and price lists, all automatically tailored to the individual customer. This means you must think about how you intend setting up the ordering process, checkout sequences and shipping preferences to match each customer group’s specific needs.
Business automation functions
Your platform needs to be able to create custom workflows to automate the processing of orders, for example, centralised quotations, contract management and term negotiation.
Platforms with these kinds of features provide a better customer experience, reduce errors in data entry, and streamline your internal processes.
Pricing and ordering features
Unlike B2C customers, B2B buyers usually expect to negotiate orders. They are likely to have their own very specific requirements for pricing, ordering, invoicing and payments. It is essential that your platform can accommodate those requirements if major headaches are to be avoided.
Good B2B eCommerce platforms can cater for shopping carts, RFQ and also order negotiation workflows. The ability to configure things like minimum order quantity, custom prices and shipping rules is also highly recommended as it can make for a smooth purchasing process for both parties.
Ideally, the platform should have integral customisation options so you can easily tailor it to your specific needs. In addition, the software code should be accessible to developers so that deeper modifications can be made, for example, to integrate with your customer’s systems.
To easily manage customers, operations, and inventory, it would be ideal if the platform can integrate with systems such as ERP, CRM, PIM, 3PL, procurement, etc., with little or no modification. A robust API is also a great feature to have as it will help with future integrations.
The platform must offer suitable interfaces for all individuals who will use it, whether backend staff or customers. Also, given that people work from various devices such as desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones, the platform should be responsive to all device types.
Ability to scale with your business
As your business grows, your platform must be able to grow with it. Therefore, it needs to accommodate additional websites, more products, extra integrations, etc., as required. It must also be able to handle the demands of increasing web traffic.
Some final words
Ecommerce has been a massive thing in B2C for some time now, and it is rapidly picking up speed across all types of B2B, including manufacturing.
Industry experts are confidently predicting that B2B eCommerce will see considerable growth over the coming years. So if you haven’t already, now is the time to future proof your business by shifting to eCommerce. Plenty of great platforms are available to allow you to achieve that, and we hope this article has given you a good heads up on choosing the right one for your manufacturing company.