How to choose a B2B platform?

03.09.2019 Angelika Siczek

The basis for running an online warehouse, in addition to an attractive range, is the e-commerce platform. Without proper selection, it is difficult to effectively sell goods and manage business. How to choose a B2B system that will meet all your needs? Get to know 10 questions that are worth knowing before answering the final selection.

What do you expect from your e-commerce platform?

Have you ever wondered what benefits you want to achieve using B2B? This is the basic question you should ask yourself before starting your search. It is best to make a list so that no important point escapes your attention. Apparently it is easier to remember what you write yourself. Therefore, if you have a desire, you can use the classic paper-pencil method.

First of all, think about your business goals and adjust the requirements for the sales platform to them. It is important that they are as specific as possible. Then it will be easier for you to set priorities. What should be considered?

  1. Think about whether your goal is to increase sales and attract new customers.
  2. Determine if the platform’s goal is to improve the work of the sales and customer service department.
  3. Consider whether you want to encourage existing customers to place orders over the internet to be able to reduce your sales costs.
  4. Think about whether you want to simplify shopping on mobile devices.
  5. Analyse this, whether you want to change the current way of communication with your clients.

In what sales sector do you operate?

In sales trends, both sectors, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, derive from each other. However, when choosing a B2B platform, keep in mind that they are constructed differently. Therefore, before you consider individual options, make sure that they offer solutions just for your field of activity.

Why is this so important? Platforms designed to serve retail customers are much simpler than those serving business customers. First of all, they are equipped with product catalogs and a shopping basket. However, they do not have complicated solutions needed during the order acceptance process or price negotiations important in trade between companies.

It is also important to pay attention to the service provider itself, i.e. the entity responsible for operating the e-commerce system. It should be knowledgeable of the B2B sector and have appropriate technical knowledge to help you at every stage of the implementation and use of the system. In addition, your technology partner should understand the specifics of your industry to be able to provide you with the right support.

Can the platform be adapted to your business?

This is one of the most important questions, because thanks to it you will exclude all systems that will not be suitable for your business. This is not just about your business sector – B2C or B2B. You need to consider the type of industry. If you offer unique products or services, and your purchasing stage is carried out in a non-standard way, you must pay special attention to the flexibility of the platform and the possibility of its modification. Specialists involved in the implementation and maintenance of platforms will help you with this.

Which platform features are the most important to you? Does the selected B2B system offer them?

After reading this question, you get the impression that you have no idea what functionalities you need. Only a few of them occurred to you? This is a completely normal process. Most of the options you need come out only when using the platform. Then you learn what you don’t use and what you need. Therefore, when deciding on a specific platform, it is worth betting on the one that has the ability to modify it later. Thanks to this solution, while using the platform, you will be able to make the desired changes and additional functions.

Despite this approach, it is good to be prepared in advance. When choosing a function, use the hints below to identify the most important platform features for your business. Pay attention to such issues as:

  • Is it possible to assign common attributes to certain customer groups in the platform under consideration, e.g. show them selected products, assign a minimum order value or specify their preferences?
  • Does the platform offer personalisation of prices or setting different levels for individual customers?
  • Can you specify a minimum order value for all customers?
  • Is the platform easy to use and will facilitate the work of you and your employees?
  • Does the platform support a multi-stage process of ordering products? Together with the acceptance of the order and the possibility of sharing shopping lists with other users. Invite more people to edit the shopping list or post comments.
  • Does the B2B platform allow you to conduct online negotiations with your contractors?
  • Does the system have a convenient product search engine? This is especially important if you have a specialised and wide range.
  • Is it possible to sell customised products in addition to those available in the main catalog? E.g. those that require individual valuation.
  • Is it possible to re-submit the same order as before? Without having to repeat the whole process.
  • Does the platform work well on mobile devices?
  • What payment methods does it offer and do they suit your customers?
  • Is it simple and intuitive to use so that the customer can easily make purchases, returns and complaints?

What do you want to integrate your eCommerce platform with?

For online sales to work properly, there must be consistency between its areas. These types of areas include all systems necessary in the company. Their integration ensures proper information request and fast data flow. Business processes, which must operate in a logical way, have a huge impact on their proper functioning. That is why your new B2B platform must function well not only with CRM, ERP system, payment methods or other systems ensuring optimal functioning of the office. It should also include other goals and strategies to improve business processes.

Will the B2B system allow you to manage product information and the catalog of available products?

To run a smooth and satisfying sale, you need well-functioning facilities. Translate to both offline and online activities. Without efficient management of information about your products, you can not speak of good administration of the assortment.

In online sales, product information can come from a variety of sources – e.g., ERP and marketing materials. It is important to gather them in one place, quickly access them and be able to distribute them to different places where they are necessary. Including e-commerce platform, mobile application, POS, pdf files, etc. Thanks to this solution, you will quickly introduce new products to your offer. You will provide current information about your product, guaranteeing high quality customer service. Such organisation requires a PIM (Product Information Management) system, which can be part of the sales platform.

Which platform licensing should you choose?

An inseparable element of using an e-commerce platform is of course its price. This is the main factor that determines the costs incurred and the way you will influence the shape and implementation of changes in the system.

What type of license can you use?

  • Closed license – ready software.
  • Open license – ready software.
  • Closed license – ready subscription software.
  • Software-as-a-Service
  • Software created for individual orders without access to the source code.
  • Software created on an individual order with access to the source code. Without any further distribution rights.
  • Software created on request with access to the source code. The possibility of further distribution in an unchanged version of the resulting and source form.
  • Custom-modified software. It is based on ready-made software. You have access to the source code and the possibility of further distribution of the source and modified versions.

Is the eCommerce platform designed for UX and CX?

User Experience, i.e. a positive user experience, is an essential element when designing any online store. If your client does not feel good, looking at your offer, without much thought, he will go to the competition page. For this reason, it is important that the platform you choose is designed to meet the requirements of contractors. The two most important aspects are the speed of loading the page – both on stationary and mobile devices, as well as the ability to easily search for products.

Similarly, in the case of Customer Experience, which generally translates into experience in customer contact with your brand. From the first contact, through all contact points, to the finalisation of the transaction. To create a positive impression, you need to carefully analyze what is happening in your store from the customer’s perspective. It’s important to consider the speed of response to his needs and queries. Build trust through honesty and efficient service. Offer shopping that is pleasant, simple and personalized. And also from time to time “getting into the shoes of the customer” to meet his new expectations appearing along with the changing market.

Are you going to conquer the international market?

It all depends on the success of the business. However, if you already know that your home country is not the only market you intend to enter, pay attention to the platform’s capabilities in handling international trade. In the case of B2B, this is of great importance, because in this sector it is much easier to stand out in other countries or even on other continents.

A B2B platform with the option of implementing the options needed for international trade allows you to start business faster and reduce costs than if you were building separate platforms for each market. With this approach, you bypass the need to create a new company infrastructure, hiring new people and starting sales from the beginning. You can run your business from your home country, using your existing human resources and warehouse resources. In addition, thanks to the platform enabling international expansion, you provide unified experience to clients who are served in the same way in all countries.

Is your current B2B system working properly?

If you’re already running your e-commerce business, look at your current one before switching to a new platform. With this analysis you will draw important conclusions. How to check its quality and identify any deficiencies?

Start by analysing the purchasing process. Count its stages, the need to click on individual subpages and check the time it takes. If it turns out that the user needs to go through complex commands, which consumes a huge amount of time, you will get a valuable hint on what to work on.

On the other hand, if you’re successful offline but your customers are reluctant to shop online, then take a closer look at this issue. It may turn out that your group of customers does not use electronic devices or does so little. It is also possible that despite the fact that you have a well-functioning shopping platform, there are a huge number of people working on it that reduce your direct profit. Another option is that your online sales system is outdated and non-intuitive. Despite its availability, customers prefer telephone or personal contact to complete the transaction.

If it turns out that the platform is working quite correctly, you can only try to change its appearance and small details (front). Without interfering with the deeper layers of the system. The PWA (Progressive Web App) solution helps to unify the appearance of your store on every device used by the customer. It will also offer an interesting layout, adapted in accordance with UX rules. Thanks to this solution, it may turn out that you do not need a completely new shopping platform and you only need to polish what you already have.

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