Forrester reported that US B2B eCommerce sales reached $1.7 trillion in 2021 and expects this volume to exceed $2 trillion in 2023 and $3 trillion by 2027.
While many B2B companies have invested in B2B eCommerce websites, it’s no longer enough to simply have a transactional site. B2B companies need to think beyond the cart and check out and consider how to deliver an exceptional end-to-end customer experience, including advanced search capabilities, account management tools, and more. Whether you’re replacing a homegrown commerce platform or launching an ecommerce website for the first time, this checklist will help you find a commerce-centric platform built for B2B.
Key B2B Ecommerce Platform Features That Will Simplify the Complexities of B2B Selling
B2B ecommerce platforms are designed specifically to meet the needs of B2B companies. Most B2B organizations have additional requirements compared to B2C or more complex fulfillment requirements. This means they will need added features such as custom pricing, bulk ordering, and advanced inventory management that are essential for B2B transactions.
We’ve outlined the top B2B ecommerce platform features, functions, and architecture capabilities to look for when evaluating vendors. Depending on your company’s digital maturity, you may not need all of these features and functions immediately. However, it’s beneficial to find a platform that has these capabilities, or the ability to easily add them, to future-proof your ecommerce business.
Features and Functions
Complex Pricing & Discounts: Easily set up and manage pricing and discounts by customer/business unit.
Product Catalog & Site Search: Manages detailed product information, such as specifications, pricing, and availability, and supports other functions, such as site search, to improve product discovery. You can use site search to help buyers find products, technical specifications, and other information with faceted filtering capabilities and autocorrect type mistakes and errors in searches for better conversion.
Quick Order: If you know your product code or name, leverage quick order to rapidly find and add new products or multiple SKUs to your cart to expedite the purchase process.
Account Management Tools: Allows you to set permissions to view, edit or approve customer account data, create orders and allocate inventory, and enable sales reps to handle replacements, offer substitutions, and give appeasements.
Customer Account Hierarchy: Configure account settings and rules for organizations that may have individual buyers with different approvers.
Quotes: Allows buyers and sellers to create, request, and negotiate quotes based on roles and permissions, even multiple quotes at the same time.
Pre-Packaged Headless Frontend: Implementing a pre-built frontend will reduce development time and costs and integrate with your chosen content management system.
Muti-Site Management: Manage multiple websites or online stores (including B2C and DTC) from a centralized location and streamline operations by sharing resources and reducing duplication efforts across sites.
Candy maker Jelly Belly migrated from a home-grown system to Kibo’s solution. It now manages offerings across more than 45 sites for both B2B and B2C audiences through a single interface. As a result, it achieved a 21% increase in web traffic overall and a 300% jump in mobile sales.
Secure Payments: Integrating functions such as PO processing, credit authorization, and stored card information enables B2B buyers to complete purchases seamlessly and comply with their own internal purchasing rules and PCI regulations.
24/7 Self-Service: Offering 24/7 self-service enables B2B buyers to buy whenever is most convenient and efficient for their schedules.
Promotion Management: With a robust promotions management tool, you can manage thousands of active promotions and use them for specific segments or accounts.
Bulk Order and Quick Order: Allows B2B buyers to quickly add multiple items to their cart and checkout in a fraction of the time it would take to individually select each item.
Real-Time Shipment Information: Seek out a B2B ecommerce platform that integrates seamlessly and in real-time with inventory management systems and carrier network status to deliver accurate cost estimates and delivery timeframes.
Inventory Visibility: Allows you to allocate, segment, track, view, update, and balance inventory by product location, status, and more to manage real-time demand and place orders.
Intelligent Order Sourcing and Orchestration: Sources and routes inventory from any supply chain location based on pre-defined business logic or custom extend attributes.
Order Fulfillment: Helps you improve fulfillment with pick-lists, wave-picking, and custom fulfillment flows, such as handling perishable or fragile stock.
Subscriptions: Streamline your recurring orders with a subscriptions management platform that gives you full control of the recurring order experience while giving buyers flexibility in payment options and plans.
Composability: A composable B2B ecommerce platform treats each component of the commerce framework (sometimes called modules) as a self-contained unit that has its own data layer, talks to other components via API, and can be deployed, updated, extended or replaced without disrupting the other components.
Flexibility: A flexible platform allows businesses to add or remove individual components versus ripping and replacing the entire solution. You can start with a vendor’s basic catalog capabilities and eventually replace them with a 3rd party best of breed PIM if needed in the future.
SaaS vs. On-premise: A SaaS ecommerce platform is hosted by a vendor and can easily upscale or downscale based on the company’s needs. On-premise platforms are managed internally by a company and require an external hosting fee.
Extensibility: A solution that comes with rich out-of-the-box functionality and 100% API coverage allows you to extend the platform’s attributes without significant development costs.
Pre-packaged storefront: This enables headless architecture by decoupling the backend systems with the frontend experience without significant investment or development resources.
Integrations: Determine if the ecommerce platform can easily integrate with a variety of other systems, such as an ERP, warehouse management, last-mile delivery solutions, and PIM, to streamline operations, unify data, and improve efficiency. Beware of vendors who list a broad technology ecosystem but only offer point-to-point connections rather than fully built-out orchestrations.
One user interface with shared data: A single UI with a unified data model provides a single source of truth for all functions while streamlining the day-to-day commerce operations.
Finding a Commerce-Centric Platform for B2B
Launching a frictionless B2B ecommerce website requires a commerce-centric platform that can simplify the complexities of B2B purchases. By investing in a platform that comes with commerce-centric functionality out-of-the-box and scalable, flexible architecture, you can future-proof your ecommerce business and ensure long-term growth. As you’re evaluating platforms, investigate the vendor’s implementation partners and integrations ecosystem and validation from reliable third parties, such as Gartner and Forrester.
With the right B2B ecommerce platform, businesses can emulate offline B2B relationships and handle the complexities of corporate purchasing while delivering relevant experiences at scale.