At 121eCommerce, we’re experts in the Magento Commerce platform, and we believe it has the potential to be a powerful asset to B2B companies.
But before you decide to launch an online eCommerce storefront or add B2B eCommerce, it’s essential to lay the groundwork for a successful implementation.
What does that involve? Find out now – and make sure your B2B eCommerce implementation project goes smoothly.
Know When It’s Time to Expand to a B2B eCommerce Website
First, it’s important to know when it’s worthwhile to invest in a new B2B eCommerce website with Magento Commerce. B2B eCommerce is growing in importance, but it’s still not extremely common.
Building a B2B eCommerce store is a big investment of time and money, so you should look for a few major readiness signals that may indicate that it’s time to build a B2B store with Magento Commerce. These include:
- Competitive pressure, such as a local or global competitor that is offering B2B eCommerce and may begin winning away your customers
- Customer demand. If customers are frequently asking for new ways to order products, such as a B2B eCommerce storefront instead of an ERP, this may be a sign that it’s time to start planning your project.
- A desire to expand your company, reach internal goals and grow your reach in your industry. B2B eCommerce can be leveraged to help you reach clients who may not use an ERP or may not order products using other traditional B2B purchasing methods.
- An existing – but aging – eCommerce website. If you already have a B2B eCommerce website but it offers a poor shopping experience, is buggy, is outdated, or is running on legacy hardware and software, replacing it is a good idea. A poor B2B eCommerce shopping experience could negatively tarnish your brand.
If you recognize one or more of these readiness signals, you may be ready to start planning your B2B eCommerce implementation with Magento Commerce.
Identify Your Customers & Their Needs
Overall, the basic needs of your customers will be quite similar, but there can be some variation between different industries. Typically, if a B2B customer wants to use an eCommerce website to place an order, they are expecting to be able to do the following:
- Request quotes and place orders
- Shop using custom catalogs and pricing
- Buy on credit and terms
- Set up users and permissions
- Use requisition lists
- Check order status and a history of past orders
- Receive relevant recommendations
- Be notified of changes in orders
- Review billing information and pay bills
- Track orders
- Manage warranty requests
The best way to find out what your customers want is to ask them! It may be a good idea to do a few surveys of your current customers and to ask them what features they would like to see in a B2B eCommerce store – this ensures that you tailor your project to the needs of current and future B2B customers in your industry.
Make Sure It’s Easy for Customers to Search for Products
The core of any B2B eCommerce store should be your “search” feature. While your B2B site may look similar to a B2C site, the purpose is completely different.
In a B2C website, you often want customers to view a lot of different items, spend plenty of time at your store, and up-sell them on lots of different products to maximize your profits. You’re fine with a customer taking their time to browse what you have to offer.
In B2B, this is not usually the case. A B2B buyer comes to your website because they have a specific need. Rarely do B2B buyers go “window shopping.” And the success of your website implementation relies on them finding the products they need ASAP.
This is why Magento Commerce is a great choice for B2B implementations.
It offers ElasticSearch, one of the most powerful, customizable search engines in the eCommerce space. With ElasticSearch, you can allow customers to search for products in a lot of different ways, including:
- Product name
- Full & short descriptions
Using these search terms and more, B2B buyers will quickly be able to narrow down results, find what they need, and place purchase orders.
Be Prepared to Integrate Your ERP Into Your B2B eCommerce Website
In most cases, your ERP will still need to be the “system of record” when it comes to selling your eCommerce products. In other words, your Magento eCommerce website will be just another way for customers to shop the products you have in stock – which will likely still be managed by your ERP.
This means you need to tightly integrate your ERP with your Magento B2B installation, and this may take up a lot of development time.
However, this is very important. You want to be able to maintain consistency across all ordering channels – from phone orders to ERP orders, mail orders, emailed orders, eCommerce, you name it.
And to do that, you need a single, integrated, reliable system of record. This helps you avoid stockouts and other difficult situations that may occur if your eCommerce storefront is not completely integrated with your other ordering systems.
Don’t Sacrifice Usability Over Design
A key concept in B2B eCommerce websites is “irreducible complexity.” You can’t expect to make a B2B store quite as simple, usable, and beautiful as a B2C website – because your customers have a higher baseline requirement for system complexity.
For example, while B2C websites may have a checkout process that only includes credit card payments and PayPal, a B2B storefront may need to support purchase orders with Net 30 terms, wire transfers, ACH payments, and eChecks – to name just a few.
Naturally, the checkout process for the B2B website will be a little bit more complex, and it may not be as easy to make it look pretty or to make it intuitive. However, this is less of a concern in the B2B space.
Your customers would rather have a usable, functional website with all of the features they need than a simplified eCommerce portal that looks great – but doesn’t provide them with a fast, reliable, and simple way to order the goods they need from your company.
This is not to say that design doesn’t matter –- but don’t lose the forest for the trees. The needs of your customers always come first.
Choose the Right Development Partner
It’s important to take the time to find a certified, expert Magento Commerce development partner who understands the unique challenges of building B2B eCommerce websites.
As mentioned, building a B2B website is distinct from creating a B2C website in a number of different ways – and if you choose a development partner who has little-to-no experience in the B2B space, you may be in for some nasty surprises and long delays later in your B2B implementation with Magento Commerce.
When reviewing potential partners for your Magento Commerce B2B website, choose a development partner with plenty of eCommerce experience, and make sure to look at their portfolio of past projects, ask for referrals to past clients, and to do your research – choosing the right Magento partner can make or break your implementation.
Give Yourself Enough Time for Your Project
At a minimum, it will take 4-6 months to build a Magento Commerce B2B website, but this may take even longer if you need custom functionality, multiple third-party integrations, and other complex additions to your project. Remember the old adage – measure twice, cut once. It’s worth it to take the time to build a great B2B eCommerce website that will offer a great shopping experience to your clients.
On the other hand, if you cut corners, you may end up with an unreliable, glitchy, slow, and hard-to-use website. It won’t help you bring in new customers, and your current B2B customers will likely just ignore it and continue ordering your products using alternative methods. Either way, you’re just throwing away money.
In a Rush? Explore our Magento Rapid Launch Packages
If you have a fairly straightforward setup and need to get online ASAP, our fixed-cost, quick-launch Magento Rapid Launch packages might be a perfect fit.
Our quick-launch packages can get your site live on the world’s most popular eCommerce platform in weeks, not months. All for a price that won’t break the bank.
Follow This Advice to Make the Most of Magento During Your B2B Implementation
Choosing to expand into B2B eCommerce is a big decision, and it shouldn’t be made lightly. But it’s well worth it. B2B eCommerce sales jumped 18% in 2019 – which was higher than the increase in consumer spending.
By choosing to implement a B2B website with Magento Commerce, you can prepare for the future growth of B2B eCommerce, and ensure you continue to meet – and exceed – customer expectations.
So don’t wait. Take your first steps toward a B2B eCommerce implementation with Magento today. Not sure how to get started? Contact 121eCommerce! As Magento Commerce experts, we can provide you with the information and strategies you need for a successful project.