The potential for B2B eCommerce is huge. By 2020, the B2B eCommerce market is expected to be worth nearly $6.6 Trillion Dollars. It is indeed a lucrative market, and it would be foolish for any B2B business not to enter.
But why should you expand your wholesale business online? Many benefits come when you sell with B2B eCommerce:
- Time savings and reduction in order entry errors by automating the order management process.
- Enjoy better customer retention from an enhanced overall customer experience and access to customer analytics.
- Receive and track payment online to get paid faster.
- Empower customers through self-service order management and an easy ordering process.
- And more…
Many B2B businesses have already formulated and launched their eCommerce strategy. However, there are many companies who do not know what steps to take to launch a B2B eCommerce initiative. Thus, we have provided a list of steps that your business needs to take before bringing your wholesale business online.
Learn how to start your own B2B eCommerce business with our eBook:
B2B eCommerce: Your Ultimate Guide To Getting Started
1. Confirm The Opportunity With Your Customers
Before you start the process of creating your B2B eCommerce portal, you should ensure that launching a B2B eCommerce initiative will serve your existing customers better and/or reach new customers. A customer-centric approach is important as a B2B eCommerce portal is only useful if your customers are willing to accept and use it. You need to provide your B2B buyers with a better purchasing experience for them to move away from their traditional ordering methods to B2B eCommerce.
You can start by engaging with a few of your customers whom you feel will be willing to move online to purchase wholesale from you. Through this interaction, you can get feedback on:
- Features your customers would like to use
- Frequency your customers are likely to use your portal
- Concerns your customers might have on using such a portal
After gathering your customers' feedback, you are ready to start planning for your new B2B eCommerce portal. You would need to prepare for:
- Products that need to be listed
- Type of discounts to set up for your customers
- Key features you plan your site to have
2. Create Your Product Catalog
The next step would be to select the products for your B2B eCommerce catalog. Your online product catalog needs to have aesthetically attractive photos and an easy-to-navigate hierarchy to make things easy for customers. This is important as it is the first point of interaction with your customers when they log onto your B2B eCommerce site. First impressions matter as proven with research by Neilson Norman that shows only 16% of readers read word to word compared to 79% who would skim for highlights when browsing the web.
Based on the type of customers you plan to target with your B2B eCommerce portal, create a list of your finished good products your business wishes to sell. Remember to include all variations (color, sizes, etc.) in the list as well.
Once that is completed, shoot high-quality photos of your products you plan to upload onto your B2B eCommerce platform.
Do not forget to include product descriptions that contain key details about your product features. Your product description must be able to address any potential queries your customers might have.
3. Sort Out Your Customer’s Pricing
For the products you will be including in your B2B eCommerce site and the customers you’re planning on including, you will need to sort out any negotiated rates and wholesale prices. You would not want to cause any confusion or conflicts with your customers over the prices they view online.
One useful tip is to classify your customers into various groups based on different factors such as geographical locations, sale taxes and customer types (wholesaler, retailer, distributor). Doing so will help you to have an easier time managing your pricing list and billing information.
4. Organize Your Customer’s Contact Information
Next, create an updated list of all your customers’ contact information (name, company, billing information) you plan to upload onto your B2B eCommerce platform.
Once you have your B2B eCommerce platform set up, it can serve as a centralized platform for all your customers’ information. It is a more accurate method to manage your customers’ details compared to spreadsheets. Also, it will ensure you are able to successfully fulfill orders, and, just as importantly, charge accurate shipping and tax rates.
One important piece of information that your list needs to contain is your customers' email address. Having your customers email address in one place makes it easier for your business to send a mass invitation to access your online portal instead of sending it one by one.
5. Map Your Order Fulfillment Process & Workflow For B2B eCommerce
You then need to map out how to integrate your new B2B eCommerce sales channel into your current workflow. Understanding where your B2B eCommerce portal can help to streamline your workflow can help to make this process easier, as well as get buy-in from your colleagues in other departments who may be impacted. Here are some fundamental questions to answer:
- What is your current workflow for wholesale orders?
- What applications are involved in that workflow? Typically these would be an accounting application, shipping application, and inventory application, if applicable.
- How would you integrate your existing back-office applications with your B2B eCommerce Portal?
- Which manual tasks can be automated and eliminated using your B2B eCommerce Portal?
Once you have addressed these questions, you can map out your workflow to enable automation of certain manual tasks with the help of your B2B eCommerce portal.
6. Finding the Right Tool For Your Business.
Lastly, your business needs to find the right tool to set up your B2B eCommerce portal. Here are some of the ways you can start selling with B2B eCommerce:
- Dedicated B2B eCommerce Portal from a hosted company
- B2C eCommerce Website Configured for B2B
- B2B Marketplace Listing
- Develop your own B2B eCommerce portal from scratch
For a more detailed analysis of the benefits of each platform, you can read our blog post: B2B eCommerce Solutions: How A B2B eCommerce Portal Can Help Your Business.
If you are serious about taking your B2B business online, a dedicated B2B eCommerce portal from a hosted company is usually your best bet. A dedicated B2B eCommerce portal has inbuilt features that are specifically designed for B2B purchasing needs. It offers a lower total cost of ownership, faster time to market and more flexibility to manage your operations compared to the other alternatives.
But what about the rest of the options?
- For a B2C eCommerce website configured for B2B sales, it often lacks features that are needed when selling wholesale such as multiple pricing levels and order rules.
- A B2B Marketplace listing is better suited if you are looking for new customers. However, customization to your platform is limited as you have to work within the boundaries of the marketplace and cannot offer features such a customizable catalog and pricing lists which are essential when selling to your current B2B customers.
- Developing your own B2B eCommerce portal from scratch can be both time-consuming and costly. The average time to build a custom B2B portal for each separate customer takes between 6 months to a year. Your business might not have the time to wait that long to build up your own eCommerce portal.
If you are trying to find out a dedicated B2b eCommerce portal for your business, we can help. Sweet’s B2B eCommerce portal can offer your customers a modern wholesale experience and helps you to manage your wholesale orders more efficiently. The best part, the process to set it up is quick and easy. No coding ability is required to use and manage the portal.
If you are interested to find out if Sweet’s B2B eCommerce Portal is the right fit for your wholesale business, request a free demo with us today!