As you prepare to launch your B2B eCommerce strategy, a key question that you will inevitably ask is "What kind of features does my B2B eCommerce solution need?"
It is not as simple as merely adopting features from a B2C online store. B2B eCommerce operates very differently from B2C eCommerce. B2B and B2C customers have different needs, and each poses their own unique set of challenges. For example, while B2C customers tend to pay for their orders upfront, B2B customers can pay with a variety of wholesale payment terms such as extended payments or a line of credit.
Thus, having a B2B online store is more than just replicating a B2C experience. It has to provide the right features which solve the unique challenges faced when selling to B2B customers.
To help you out, we have created a list of 10 features your website needs to have to be successful when selling through B2B eCommerce.
Feature 1: Personalized, Customer-Specific Product Catalogs And Pricing
In the wholesale industry, businesses often sell their products at different prices based on negotiated contracts or different customer types they are targeting. Your customer list might include a wide range of customer types, from small mom-and-pop retail stores to large distributors like Wal-Mart. As a result, your B2B eCommerce site needs to be able to handle these different types of customers.
Your B2B eCommerce site also needs to have the ability to customize your product offerings and pricing lists on an individual customer level. You may have customers who are ordering a unique set of products that are not available to other customers. For these B2B clients, your site needs to be able to create a pricing list and product catalog that can only be seen by them.
The ability to set up custom catalogs for different customers is fundamental to the success of a B2B eCommerce portal. This can make the difference between your customers using your online store or return to their old ways of purchasing from you through offline ordering methods like phone calls.
Some examples of how your B2B eCommerce portal can achieve this:
- Showing or hiding different products based on different customer types (i.e. wholesaler, retailer,)
- Create unique customer discounts based on different scenarios
- Discounts on an individual customer level
- Discounts based on customer type
- Discounts based on specific unique products or a sub-product level
- Discounts for products in a particular category
- Free shipping discounts for orders that exceed a certain order value
Through this, you can tailor a personalized customer experience for each of your wholesale customers, helping them to shop with ease and efficiency.
Feature 2: Order Management Rules
Order management rules are critical to wholesale trade. Your B2B eCommerce platform must support a variety of order rules to be effective for your business. We'll discuss some of these critical order rules below.
A) Minimum Order Quantities
In wholesale sales, it is often required of customers to meet a certain minimum order quantity (MOQ) for them to qualify for wholesale pricing. Thus, your B2B eCommerce platform needs to have the ability to allow you to set minimum order quantities for each product. If your customers cannot reach the MOQ requirement, they cannot order that specific product.
This rule needs to be clear if it applies to certain product categories or a single product. For example, if you are a tea company, you can state that your customers must order twelve boxes of tea, but you can set the rule to either apply to any flavors of tea or that they need to order 12 boxes of a single flavor of tea.
B) Order In Multiples Of X
This rule is useful if you sell some of your products in multiples like pack sizes, case, etc. For example, if you sell small components of a particular product and they are stored in boxes of 12, you can set your rule so that your customers can only order in multiples of 12 through your site.
C) Minimum Order Amount For Each Order
This rule requires your customers to meet a certain amount of their total order value before they can make a purchase. Using this ordering rule, you can ensure your business maintain a specific minimum value on all your customers' regular orders. This rule is helpful especially if you sell lots of low-cost items that might not be profitable for your business to sell it one at a time. Thus, your B2B eCommerce portal needs to ensure that customers who do not purchase above the minimum order amount cannot order from the site.
D) Order Cut-Off Time
As wholesale orders are usually quite large, your business usually needs time to prepare them. Other times, your company might only be able to deliver on certain days depending on your delivery schedules. Thus, your site needs to allow you to set different cut-off times for your products depending on your business requirements.
E) Products On Backorder
Depending on how your business functions, you might allow your customers to order specific products even though they are out of stock. This is called having products on backorder and allows your customers to purchase and reserve products, even when they are out of stock.
In this instance, when your customers order products which are on backorder, your site should notify you that your product is out of stock. You can then proceed to take the required action to stock up on inventory.
By enabling your products to be on backorder, your company can always continue to receive orders from your customers and increase sales as long as you can restock your goods quickly enough to meet customer demands.
Feature 3: Multiple Payment Methods and Terms
Having a smooth payment process for your B2B buyers needs to be one of your top priority. 52% of B2B buyers stated that their top priority is convenient payment processes, the second highest priority identified, just behind mobile access to a seller’s B2B eCommerce platform.
With 47% of B2B buyers reporting that flexible payment options such as PayPal, credit card or debit are one of the top B2B eCommerce features that appeal to them the most, your B2B eCommerce platform needs to provide your customers with multiple payment methods. Some customers might be restricted to paying with certain payment methods. If your business cannot give them a way to make payment for your goods, they would look for elsewhere for their purchasing needs.
In addition, your site also needs to accommodate the different wholesale payment terms that are unique to wholesale sales.
Some examples of payment methods and terms that your site needs to support:
- ACH Payments
- Credit Line Payments
- Credit Card on File
- Net 30
Feature 4: Account Balance And Past Payments View
Your B2B eCommerce portal should help your customers track their balance and make payments. Customers tend to have a difficult time monitoring their payments. Paying bills is often not your customer’s top priority. They probably do not pay on-time unless you chase or pressure them to make their payments. And even then, if they run into any difficulties in the payment process, your payments could get further delayed.
Using a B2B eCommerce solution makes it simple for your customers to manage their account balance, view their payment history, and make payments on time. By providing your customers that benefit, you capture the benefit of being able to collect payments from your customers faster.
Feature 5: Order History Tracking
You can make it easier for your customers to manage their orders by allowing them to track their order history with your B2B eCommerce portal. They should be able to find out quickly their order history as well as any incoming products they expect to receive.
With this feature, you can prevent duplication of orders and confusion over any orders your customer might have. Furthermore, you can save your business valuable time answering business calls or email queries from customers checking on their past orders or order status.
Feature 6: eCommerce Platform Customization
Your B2B eCommerce solution needs to showcase your business’s branding and identity. You should be able to customize the look and feel of your site according to your business’s brand design guidelines. For example, your portal should allow you to customize your logo, create different color schemes and insert placement of vital company information to stay consistent with your brand’s aesthetics. In addition, your ideal B2B solution should provide you the ability to create additional pages such as a contact us page or a special discount page to provide more information to your customers.
Furthermore, you should be able to use a custom domain for your B2B eCommerce site. Typically, business would place their wholesale portal as a sub-domain of the current domain (e.g. wholesale.your-business.com). This URL name will help your customers to recognize your company easily. Customers need to know that they can trust your online platform is your web property.
With these eCommerce platform customizations in place, your customers will have a seamless transition from your website to your B2B eCommerce platform.
Feature 7: Personalized Customer Invitation
When bringing your customers onboard to your B2B eCommerce site for the first time, it is easier to convert them if you provide them with a personalized onboarding experience. This can be done in the form of a personalized email invitation or a phone call.
For a smoother onboarding process, your invitation needs to contain information on how to start using your platform and how to navigate around it.
The onboarding process needs to be intuitive and easy to follow to reduce the barriers of entry of moving your existing customers from using offline ordering methods to using your B2B eCommerce portal.
Feature 8: Detailed Product Page
Your online product catalog needs to have the ability to showcase your product photos as well as display key information. Your product pages should allow your customers to get all the information they need, every single major and minor detail. Here is a list of product information your online catalog needs to have.
- Product Quantities
- Product Description
- Product Variants
- Product’s Weight
- Product’s Dimension
Your customers will appreciate if all information required for selling your products is available, even downloadable pdfs of specific product information, for example:
- Product Sheet (contain product variants information and description)
- Imprint Template (show products actual measurement and size)
Feature 9: Integrations With Accounting, Shipping, And CRM Applications
To help your business to run more efficiently, you need to be able to integrate your B2B eCommerce site with your existing work applications, like your accounting and shipping platforms. By syncing your B2B eCommerce portal to other systems you use, you streamline your workflow, reduce manual entry, and prevent duplicate entries from appearing in your workflow.
Here are some examples of how your business can benefit from integrating your B2B eCommerce platform to your work applications.
A) Keep your business finances in order with integration to accounting applications like QuickBooks Online.
Your business can benefit from:
- Centralizing of accounting data with seamless invoice sending, payment, and customers information from your eCommerce portal to your accounting system
- Gaining visibility with automatic syncing of order and inventory data in real-time, giving you an accurate overview of all your stock movements and business finances.
- Streamlining account receivables by syncing customers payments from your B2B eCommerce portal to your accounting platform, saving you time and increasing accuracy.
B) Automate your order fulfillment process with integration to shipping applications like Shipstation.
Your business can benefit from:
- Automating your fulfillment process by avoiding duplicate data entry with automated order data syncing from your B2B eCommerce platform to you shipping application.
- Sending out real-time updates to your B2B customers by keeping them updated with their shipment status and tracking numbers from your shipping application.
- Streamlining your back-office operations with your eCommerce portal handling your customer orders and your shipping application handling your shipping and fulfillment.
Feature 10: Gated Access To Wholesale Product Catalog And Pricing
For most wholesalers, you would only want to show your B2B eCommerce platform to approved wholesale buyers only. This is achieved by requiring customers to register first before getting approval to access the content of your website.
This is an important feature for wholesalers as this prevents competitors from spying and learning about your wholesale pricing strategy or inventory stock levels. It can also prevent unwanted purchases from unverified visitors.
Furthermore, for wholesale sales, you would want to personally engage with your potential customers to create a personalized experience for them. Your business will gain more by showing customers why they should choose you. Having a clear product catalog and pricing catalog is more effective than showing your customers your entire product catalog.
Now you know what features to look for in a B2B eCommerce solution. While not all of these are deal-breakers if a particular solution is missing some, all are important.
You need to determine what is most important for your business to decide on what is non-essential. For example, if you sell hardware components like screws and nails wholesale, branding and high-quality images may not be as important as integration with your operations workflow.
To start your own B2B eCommerce site, you can either build your whole website from scratch, customize a B2C site, or take advantage of a dedicated B2B eCommerce portal.
Building a B2B eCommerce site from scratch typically requires a high upfront investment along with time-consuming recurring upkeep. On average, customers who try to develop their own B2B eCommerce website for their customers take six months to twenty-four months to build it.
B2C sites are not traditionally geared for the more complex rules of B2B and can again require a significant amount of investment.
In comparison, you can get your B2B eCommerce business up and running in less than a week by using a dedicated B2B eCommerce portal from a hosted company. Here at Sweet, we can help you achieve that goal with our B2B eCommerce portal. With Sweet’s B2B eCommerce portal, you can display your entire product catalog online, create customized price lists and allow your customers to order from you, at a click of a button. It only takes a few minutes to set it all up, and you can start selling to your B2B customers in no time. Click here to sign up for a 14-day free trial today and experience how Sweet can help you to scale your business profitability.