B2B eCommerce software is big business, and here’s why. According to the 2022 U.S. B2B eCommerce Market Report published by Digital Commerce 360, B2B eCommerce sales increased 17.8% to a whopping $1.63 trillion in 2020 alone. Moreover, experts predict that trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
So, if you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to invest in B2B eCommerce software to ensure your business grabs its share of the buoyant B2B eCommerce market.
The Importance of Good B2B eCommerce Software
Nowadays, B2B customers are changing how they purchase, adopting some of the habits of B2C customers. For example, traditional large bulk purchases are giving way to smaller, more frequent orders as the internet makes it easy to shop around. And as more B2B customers move to online transactions, like B2C customers, they expect nothing less than an impeccable purchasing experience.
Therefore, for your business to successfully compete online, strong emphasis must be placed on giving customers the great online experience they expect. Because the best foundation stone for that is robust B2B eCommerce software, choosing the right one from the outset is critical.
9 Key Features To Look For When Choosing B2B eCommerce Software
Make no mistake, selling B2B is a whole new ball game compared to selling B2C. That’s because B2B customers are entirely different animals from their B2C counterparts, with their own unique needs and purchasing habits. That means B2B and B2C eCommerce software are not interchangeable, which is unfortunate given B2C eCommerce software is generally cheaper and more abundant. So instead, you will need a solution specifically designed for B2B.
To help you choose the most appropriate solution for your business, we will now show you nine key features you should look for before investing in B2B eCommerce software.
Like B2C customers, B2B buyers now purchase ‘on the fly’ using their mobile phones and tablets. As such, whichever B2B eCommerce software you choose, ensure that at least the front (customer facing) end works on mobile, desktop, and laptop devices.
Custom Pricing for Each Customer
Online B2C transactions usually involve simple fixed prices. On the other hand, B2B pricing is much more complex, varying from customer to customer based on several factors such as order volume, credit terms, order history, shipping terms, etc. Therefore, your B2B eCommerce software must be able to provide customised pricing for each customer.
Nowadays, B2B customers don’t want to spend hours in meetings and on calls with your sales or technical teams. Instead, they prefer to get the answers they need immediately online. Therefore, your software needs robust self-service capabilities such as knowledge bases, chatbots, etc., to allow them to do that.
Flexible Payment and Shipping Options
Online B2C customers generally make spur-of-the-moment purchasing decisions and pay immediately via credit card or a payment gateway such as PayPal. B2B buyers, on the other hand, carefully consider each purchase before placing bulk orders. They also expect favourable credit terms and flexible payment options that suit the needs of their business.
Accordingly, your B2B eCommerce software should be able to accommodate different credit, shipping, and payment options for each customer. What’s more, as you are likely to be accepting online credit or debit card payments, ensure that the software has robust Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security features to safeguard customers’ card information
Ability to Scale
It is essential that your chosen B2B eCommerce software can expand with your business. For example, you may operate from a single warehouse right now, but what about in the future? There is no sense whatsoever in investing in a system that becomes redundant in a couple of years simply because it can no longer accommodate the needs of your growing business.
Out-of-the-Box or Open-Source Code?
Out-of-the-box software solutions are easy to install, usually requiring little to no expert knowledge in coding. However, you are limited to the customisation features included with the software, which can restrict things like matching your company’s branding or integrating with existing systems.
On the other hand, open-source software has accessible code, meaning it can be modified and customised by anyone with coding knowledge. That brings virtually unlimited customisation and integration options.
Another consideration when choosing between open-source and out-of-the-box software is maintenance. Any errors or bugs encountered with out-of-the-box software will likely be the developer’s responsibility to fix. Conversely, open-source software generally requires more input from your own IT team.
Your software can be hosted in the cloud on external servers (generally owned by others) or on-premises (where the software resides on your internal servers).
In the case of on-premises hosting, you will need to provide and maintain the host servers and software, which needs internal technical resources. However, the advantage of this method is you retain complete control of all data, reducing possible security issues.
Conversely, software hosted in the cloud is stored remotely on servers provided by an external hosting company. The key advantages here are the software will often be updated automatically, the servers are monitored 24/7 (meaning quick rectification of faults), and the server equipment will be regularly updated and maintained. The main downside is that stored data is not under your complete control, meaning there is a greater possibility of security breaches.
Whether you plan to host the software on your internal servers or contract it out to an external hosting company very much depends on the degree of control you need over the data and the technical resources you are willing to provide.
Having eCommerce software capable of integrating with your other business systems will help enormously in improving efficiency and removing human errors. Furthermore, it can benefit your customers by offering an enhanced experience, particularly if it can integrate with their systems.
Of course, the cost of the software is a significant factor as it wholly depends upon the available budget. However, the key here is to fully understand what the software will do for you and if it provides added value to your business.
Generally speaking, on-premises hosted solutions cost more as you must purchase the software licence and pay for things like customisation and development, maintenance, future upgrades of host servers, etc.
Conversely, fully hosted cloud-based software often works out cheaper, as typically, there is just one regular (usually monthly) fee that covers hosting, maintenance, updates, security, and support. The significant advantage here is that you will know upfront how much your software will cost, and you won’t get any unwelcome surprises if something goes wrong.
A Few Final Words…
Choosing the right B2B eCommerce software is one of the most important business decisions you will make. But unfortunately, it can be one of the most challenging as well.
Of course, the list of nine key features discussed in this article is by no means exhaustive. However, it should help you make the right choice, thereby setting you on the right track to hit the ground running when transitioning online.