The sudden disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic saw many B2B suppliers rush to implement a webstore in order to continue to serve their customers throughout lockdown. While this move was necessary as a temporary fix, the speed in which many businesses were forced to pivot made it challenging to make informed decisions on their software of choice that would cover their future needs. Now that we are beginning to find our footing in the new normal, what should you be considering when it comes to your webstore?
Creating the offline experience in an online environment
B2B buyers tend to have very different requirements to B2C, so although it may feel like B2C is streets ahead, keep in mind that you need to mirror the offline experience of your own buyers. This should play a fundamental role in the setup of your webstore. Only by considering these unique needs can you ensure a continued level of customer service.
One example of this is the incorporation of complex pricing structures for different customers and types of products. B2B buyers purchasing in high volumes will often have personal relationships with their suppliers. This includes bespoke deals and price points established on a one-to-one basis between the buyer and a salesperson. Because of this, you will need to consider whether your webstore has the functionality to incorporate these deals, so they are accessible to the correct buyer. At the same time, if you’re offering a better deal to one buyer, say because they have a long-standing relationship with your company or they make larger purchases, you don’t want newer buyers that don’t have that relationship to see these deals and complain. This challenge can be overcome with the inclusion of a login feature, gatekeeping the prices or discounts from other buyers, at the same time as honouring them for the buyer in question.
Another example of where B2B ecommerce may differ from B2C is the access to credit-based purchases. While not completely unheard of in B2C, it’s much more common for B2B buyers to depend on purchasing orders through credit schemes enabled by the supplier. It is important that your webstore integrates the correct software to enable these credit-based purchases.
Ensuring a seamless omni-channel experience
It was made clear during the pandemic that omnichannel is a necessity in B2B as it is in B2C. Companies were forced to move into digital channels to compensate for the lack of in-person interaction and now B2B customers have seen the efficiency that classic sales channels may not have been able to offer. Your customers expect a buying experience that caters to their needs – it needs to be convenient, streamlined and seamless. Most importantly, it needs to be omni-channel.
Your webstore should be playing a central part in your customers’ omnichannel experience. But it needs to be integrated with your other channels to do this. By integrating your webstore and ERP system, you can unify all of your sales channels – bringing together your inventory and sales data into one central hub to drive the omnichannel experiences without it impacting your bottom line. The magic part of this is that it automates your operations, giving your buyers real time insight into product availability and pricing. This is particularly helpful if you have a large product portfolio, as is the case for many B2B suppliers.
Preparing for scaling during periods of high-volume sales
The ability to scale will play a vital role for B2B suppliers during their busy periods. Sometimes there is a need to scale out quite quickly. In B2C this tends to be during huge sales campaigns or special days like Black Friday or certain holidays. However, in B2B we often see these kinds of trends slightly before those dates are coming up because the companies are anticipating the increase in demand and need to be prepared accordingly. This makes it crucial to be in the cloud because it enables businesses to scale easily and with just a couple of clicks the environment can be made bigger, allowing it to handle all the extra usage, and scale down when demand is decreasing again.
When buying on-premise solutions, you tend to buy bigger because of the expectation of growth and reasons of planning and funding security, although it’s probably not necessary right from the start. But with the cloud you can adapt to your current situation and enable flexible solutions with a couple of clicks.
Ensuring a protected future
Moving to the cloud will also help to protect your data. You often hear or read about hackers taking data hostage. The chance of this happening in the cloud is significantly lower than if the data was stored in your basement. This is because it is harder to protect on-premise solutions that also need constant maintenance. Both problems are addressed by hyperscalers – the likes of Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Amazon that provide cloud, networking and internet services at scale by offering organisations access to infrastructure via an IaaS model – with public clouds in their service.
When you compare data centres from different hyperscalers to on-premise solutions, even the larger companies aren’t able to reach the same level of security in their protocols, mechanisms, and fallbacks. For example, Microsoft invest so many resources and efforts into their cyber security to protect their customers and their environments. They use a combination of skills that simply cannot be copied in local storage.
While implementing a webstore may have been the first step in your ecommerce journey, it shouldn’t be the last. It’s all about anticipating the needs of your customers and creating an experience that invokes trust, accessibility and ease of use. Your webstore shouldn’t simply be acting as a solution to a problem, it should be future proofing your business and elevating your brand above your competition for years to come.