A sales-driven B2B e-commerce site goes beyond technology

15.7.2017 -

When implementing a B2B e-commerce solution, businesses need to take many factors into consideration. Often elements in the territory between technology and business are overlooked. Without them, the implementation project can itself seem to be a success, but future sales targets suffer. To ensure your online store succeeds, ensure you attend to these matters in a timely manner.

1. Think about how you measure sales success

Very often the purpose of a B2B online store is to digitally receive orders instead of using traditional channels, thereby reducing manual labour and costs.

This is a solid and easily measurable goal. However, it might result in limiting the online store to a passive order channel not used for selling at all – essentially becoming a virtual fax machine. An online product catalogue is not enough: customers must also find products.

You should also set goals to ensure the organisation, the online store and its integrations are designed to enable the entire ecosystem to react better than before. How quickly can a new customer place an order? How quickly can new products be added and found by Google using relevant search terms?

2. Focus on more than just technology

In an e-commerce project, technology implementation and development are relatively easy. What is not as easy is organisational reform. Processes must change and people must do things they had not done before. Changes made to accommodate technology easily result in downtime and higher costs.

One common problem is that the organisation lacks the capability to produce quality information to support sales. In addition to technology, you also need resources whose mission is to create data, monitor its quality and improve data production processes.

There tends to be a misconception that working with data generates additional costs. This is not true. The quality of data has a direct impact on sales; any shortcomings are visible to the online store customers. If customer data is inaccurate, the customer will not be able to log in or place an order. If product information is inadequate, the customer cannot find products or remains uncertain of product features. According to a study by Forrester, reliable product information is the most critical reason why B2B buyers choose a certain online store.

3. Be prepared for change

The requirements of an online store should be defined with the people who know the needs of the business and its customers. However, those same people should not have the final say on the required functionalities and features of the user interface. It creates a risk that the solution will be too complex, and user experience will not be uniform.

First, determine how the products or services are sold. A simple product and purchasing process is easy to transfer to an e-commerce solution. However, it is more difficult to transfer complex products with a convoluted purchasing process as well as costly products rarely purchased.

It is important to listen to and support sales staff in figuring out how to streamline product selling and purchasing processes. For example, the product can be sold via modules and buying can be simplified for the customer by automating manual steps. This paves the way for successful self-service purchasing in an online store customers will be pleased to use.

It is vitally important to understand that an e-commerce project cannot be seen as separate from other business functions. In the international arena, the letter “e” is already being dropped from the term e-commerce, because it is, after all, just about commerce. In the consumer market, online stores are already an integral part of business and it will also be the same for B2B commerce.

Jari Mäkelä

Jari Mäkelä

I am a digital commerce consultant with Solteq. As a result of industrial digitalisation, I became an IT professional during my 10 years in the mechanical engineering sector. I am used to resolving B2B e-commerce challenges.

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