The biggest challenge is not to find the right answers, but to ask the right questions.Peter Drucker
If you are considering using an eCommerce platform for your B2B business, you are probably overwhelmed with questions. In this blog post, we will be addressing some FAQs about B2B eCommerce platforms, so the process of adopting an eCommerce platform does not feel like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands: slippery, frustrating, and more difficult than it seems.
Why sell on a B2B eCommerce platform?
This is an easy one: A B2B ecommerce platform can open many doors leading to many good places. It could get you new business opportunities, expand your market reach, lower your overall costs and help you make better sales. In other words, more chances, more time and more money.
A B2B platform will make your products more discoverable, and that will enable you to attract more potential clients to your multiple sales channels. A good one will offer a better customer experience, and that will encourage customers to buy, and to return. It will also help optimize your sales processes, allowing buyers to place orders round the clock and allowing your team to forget about repetitive manual tasks involving orders and invoices and quotes.
The icing on the cake is that it gives you more knowledge, that is, more power, because its more effective analytics can allow you to identify what works and what doesn’t. Definitely worth considering.
Should a retail company go wholesale?
Ah, to wholesale or not to wholesale. Great question, but difficult answer: It depends.
Selling wholesale can have its perks, especially when it comes to brand awareness, which can spread like wildfire, though not in a catastrophic act of God kind of way. Why? Because your new wholesale clients can help you tap into new markets and audiences you hadn’t even considered. It could also unlock new business opportunities like dropshipping and get you loyal, long time customers. That can’t hurt.
What might hurt is that you might dilute your brand identity, especially if you’re a retailer selling DTC (Direct-to-consumer), because although your products remain yours, customers might associate them with your retailers, and not you. Not necessarily a downside, but certainly something worth considering. The other possible drawback is that you may lose touch with consumers, as they will be engaging with your retail customer and not with you. This can limit your ability to get direct feedback on your products.
Do wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers need different functionalities?
Most certainly yes.
Distributors will need customized pricing, account login, and net terms for almost all their customers, because they are the connection between manufacturers and wholesalers. The same will apply to some manufacturers who need to hide B2B pricing for their consumer products, making it visible only through account login.
Although wholesalers who sell directly to retailers will need these features too, they also need to offer one-off purchases, so they will need features like volume pricing and guest checkout too. Some manufacturers may need businesses to submit files to get the right product, and several options per product, not just a SKU.
The ideal B2B platform should be able to give to each their own, and it shouldn’t be a nightmare.
Is a SaaS solution better than open source software?
A SaaS solution implies all the technical aspects of running a B2B ecommerce site, including hosting, security, and maintenance are taken care of. You won’t have to worry about breaches, bugs, or downtime. New versions are released often, so your platform is constantly improving and you don’t have to do a thing, except focus on growing your business.
The beauty of Open source is that you get complete control and flexibility, but that comes at a price, and it may be quite high, both in terms of actual cost and technical resources required.
But there’s a middle (or should we say higher) ground: Open SaaS platforms combine the hosting, security and upkeep features of SaaS solutions with the freedom to customize offered by Open Source platforms.
How can you ensure your B2B ecommerce platform is secure?
A key question. Security is a seriously serious issue. A B2B eCommerce platform is a revolving door for sensitive information like credit card and personal data, so you and your customers must be able to trust that information is protected at all times. Some vital features of a secure B2B eCommerce platform include PCI compliance, ISO/IEC certification, SSL certificates, and DDoS protection. You can implement measures like firewalls, IP restrictions, DMZ, TLS, and data redundancy to ensure your platform is safe, and sound.
How do I choose the right B2B ecommerce platform?
We love this question, and we’ve answered it in greater depth here. Ultimately, the best B2B ecommerce platform for your business is the one that caters best to the particular needs of your company, so the first step is to consider the kind of business you have, and the one you want to build. This includes your team and their technical expertise, and your budget.
That’s about you. When it comes to the platform itself, key aspects to consider include B2B functionalities like RFQs and payment options, integrations with business software, ease of use, and, of course, security. You should also look into customization options, UI/UX, and scalability. An ideal platform should leave you room to grow, and make that easier for you as well.
Another thing to look at is cost. We’re covering that in our next question.
How much does it cost to implement a B2B eCommerce solution?
We’ve saved the trickiest for last. The pricing range for eCommerce platforms varies greatly. Currently, it could be anywhere between $0 to $50.000. You may think it’s a no-brainer: if there are any free (or very cheap) options available, why bother paying (more)? Well, you see, some platforms claim to be free because they are free to download or don’t charge licensing fees. Others may have very low monthly fees. However, if you try them, you will soon realize expenses begin to pile up - development, maintenance, hosting, security, transaction fees, support, and the list goes on.
There are aspects more worthy of consideration than pricing when it comes to cost. One is TCO (Total cost of ownership), which refers to the combined cost of the initial purchase plus operational costs, which may include implementation, hosting, license, third party-integration, and the cost of making changes.
Ultimately, the answer to this question will depend on the relation between acronyms: TCO vs ROI/ROTI (return of investment and return of time invested, respectively). In other words, the relation between what it costs, and what you get.
If you have other questions we haven't covered, or would like to share your thoughts with us, just get in touch.