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Have you done everything possible to make it easy for customers to do business with you?

53% of US households are Amazon Prime members. This means that the majority of your customers are Prime members who are used to 1-click checkout.

  • How many clicks does it take to place an order with you?
  • Could a customer place an order on their mobile device?
  • Can they track their orders and self-service online?

If you’re in manufacturing or distribution, it may be time to take a hard look at your own customer experience.

Online selling in B2B (business-to-business) is a little different than B2C (selling to consumers): Your customers know what they’re looking for, and their pricing. B2B eCommerce is about making it incredibly easy to place an order and to self-service.

It is entirely possible and frankly, expected to give your B2B customers an Amazon-like purchasing experience.

The process to extend touchless transaction processing requires thought and planning, but an eCommerce extension to your back-end order processing should not be lengthy nor expensive. The immediate returns are two-fold: Massive gains in operational efficiency AND customer experience. The long-term returns are always sustainable revenue growth and increased profitability. There are many ways to customize your B2B customer experience for your unique business. This guide will help you frame your thinking and your B2B eCommerce project.

Section 1

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce Is Customer Self-Service

Customers want self-service. It’s both immediate and convenient. They want to have access to all and any information they need without calling customer service. Customers want to self-service with minimal effort and minimal clicks. Today this is equally true for consumers and for business-to-business customers, distributors and wholesalers.

eCommerce doesn’t replace trusted relationships. It shifts the activities upon which a relationship is built. Trust is built with every thoughtful step in delivering a seamless — and delightful — experience for your customer.

Always remember that Amazon is setting the tone for your customer. You may need to catch up with Amazon’s service delivery, and then continue to accelerate.

Section 2

Customer Expectations
for eCommerce

Your customers want to be able to log in, create their purchase list, save those lists, and re-order when they need. Your customers also expect to have access to their price, terms, account balance, documents (invoices, proof of delivery, certificates) etc.

They further expect to view your available inventory and transparency in product information, delivery time and cost, return rules and terms. 

They want to see their order history. They may want to place a blanket order, and do call-offs throughout the year.

How efficiently your customers can find the products they buy is now table-stakes, and a platform for customer communication, customer engagement — and growing what else a customer might buy.

Learn more about the Magento & Leanswift eConnect B2B Solution

New Customers vs. Existing Customers

New Customer

New customers get an instant boost of trust in your company through their first-time account creation experience. Map your standard process and guide them — almost invisibly — so that they become invested in your company. Keep in mind that the initial onboarding need to be quick and effortless.

Depending on your business model this might include:

Place and order as a guest and then convert the guest to an account

Validate the user and company using information only the customer has access to (this could be the amount of a previous invoice)

Apply to become a customer, perhaps with a register/approval cycle

New customer incentives

Enable credit checks, setting terms

Automatic enrollment in your loyalty program

Enable instant address validation to make sure the account is created correctly

When it comes to new customer enrollment, we see a wide range in functionality depending on your business model and go to market strategy. If you have insides sales or field sales reps, make sure they are incentivized to help enroll customers and simplify the onboarding process.

Existing Customers

How can you make customer self-service easier for your existing customers?

Put yourself in their shoes and consider an example: You buy a car and log in to your customer portal, where you see tires and other accessories specific for your car. Your car dealer knows what kind of car you have and is making it easy for you to find all products applicable to your car, model and year. Some parts will only be bought once and others should be replaced on a regular basis. You will be recommended to schedule a service based on recommended interval.

Take it further: You don’t buy oil in 6 months. This triggers an alert for a marketing communication or product promotion that re-engages you and makes you feel cared for.

You’re busy, and forget the oil change promotion. A non-action launches an alert to your account manager to give you a call to check in and softly make sure you’re not going elsewhere for service.

Any business could develop these pretty standard workflows:

Present personalized information and remember that this is not only about pushing products. Provide easy access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS), Certificate of Analysis (COA) for products that a customer has purchased

Use your order history and knowledge about the customer to provide personalized but automated customer communication

Engage your sales and marketing team based with workflows based on customer behaviour and customer preferences

New Customers vs. Existing Customers

New Customer

Existing Customers

New customers get an instant boost of trust in your company through their first-time account creation experience. Map your standard process and guide them — almost invisibly — so that they become invested in your company. Keep in mind that the initial onboarding need to be quick and effortless.

Depending on your business model this might include:

Place and order as a guest and then convert the guest to an account

Validate the user and company using information only the customer has access to (this could be the amount of a previous invoice)

Apply to become a customer, perhaps with a register/approval cycle

New customer incentives

Enable credit checks, setting terms

Automatic enrollment in your loyalty program

Enable instant address validation to make sure the account is created correctly

When it comes to new customer enrollment, we see a wide range in functionality depending on your business model and go to market strategy. If you have insides sales or field sales reps, make sure they are incentivized to help enroll customers and simplify the onboarding process.

How can you make customer self-service easier for your existing customers?

Put yourself in their shoes and consider an example: You buy a car and log in to your customer portal, where you see tires and other accessories specific for your car. Your car dealer knows what kind of car you have and is making it easy for you to find all products applicable to your car, model and year. Some parts will only be bought once and others should be replaced on a regular basis. You will be recommended to schedule a service based on recommended interval.

Take it further: You don’t buy oil in 6 months. This triggers an alert for a marketing communication or product promotion that re-engages you and makes you feel cared for.

You’re busy, and forget the oil change promotion. A non-action launches an alert to your account manager to give you a call to check in and softly make sure you’re not going elsewhere for service.

Any business could develop these pretty standard workflows:

Present personalized information and remember that this is not only about pushing products. Provide easy access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS), Certificate of Analysis (COA) for products that a customer has purchased

Use your order history and knowledge about the customer to provide personalized but automated customer communication

Engage your sales and marketing team based with workflows based on customer behaviour and customer preferences

Section 3

Types of eCommerce

There are many business models and different business requirements for B2B eCommerce. In this section we’ll highlight some of the business requirements that you might consider.

Limited Product Assortment or Limited Product Catalog

You may want to — or have to — limit the assortments that customers can buy. There could be many reasons for this. You may only be allowed to sell a product in some geographical areas. Your customer might have an agreement that only includes a limited assortment and they don’t want their purchasing team to be able to buy every product in your assortment.

Budget Limitations and Approvals

Above a certain order size, a customer may need approval & authorized spending.

Then, you can streamline the request to purchase routing to their manager, and make the approval process easy. Do you offer your customers to add and delete users and set spending limits themselves?

Blanket Orders and Call-Offs

If your customer has a blanket order or an agreement with volume/amount commitment, show them the agreed commitment with timeline and how much they still need to call-off. This will make it easier for your customer to plan and execute their purchases.

A friendly reminder if they not are on track to meet their commitment may help both your customers and your sales.

Preferred Pricing

There are many ways to reflect customer-specific pricing:

  • negotiated pricing
  • tiered pricing
  • pricing based on location and shipping

Wholesale Customer-Facing Portal (B2B & B2C)

This descriptor might sound confusing so let us explain how you can help your customers drive sales — if your customers are retailers and buy products from you at wholesale price that they want to present to their customers.

There are really 3 options:

  • they can build and maintain their own retail site, or
  • you can build and maintain a site for your customers (including their logo and presenting retail prices), or
  • you can make it possible for your customers to present your B2B site to their customers - presenting retail prices

For example, a tire shop might want to show the end-consumer your tires presented on your B2B site. Before they turn the site to the customer, you give them the possibility to login and decide their price markup on your products. With one site that then will serve both as the B2B site for your customers and the B2C site for their customers - this is a win/win with minimal maintenance.

See real life Wholesale Customer-Facing Portal examples from NorSea Group and Propper.

Order Forms and Quick Order Entry

For B2B customers, remember that simplicity is king. Do you give your customers

  • The option to enter orders with item number and quantity, without browsing a catalog?
  • The option to upload orders using a CSV file?
  • The option to fill out an online order sheet with different packaging options (pallet/bag/tote/super sack) without browsing a catalog?

There are many business models and different business requirements for B2B eCommerce. In this section we’ll highlight some of the business requirements that you might consider.

Section 4

Impact of eCommerce

Calculate Your Potential

When you’re early in your eCommerce journey, the technical considerations may weigh as heavily as the organizational considerations. Many manufacturing and distribution organizations have grown on the backs and hard work of veteran field agent, account managers with long and deep customer relationships.

eCommerce does not replace your field team. Think of it as opening new ability to scale your customer base, and interact in a more meaningful way with customers.

For example: Augusta Sportswear have digitized their processes to lower cost and create scalability. Through its eCommerce solution, the company has realized
  • Average admin savings of $15 per order
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Larger order volumes
  • Increased order frequency
  • Increased brand recognition
  • Multi-channel sales including Amazon and Wal-Mart

And, as Augusta Sportswear grows with acquisitions, its many brands and channels adopt the same eCommerce solution, ensuring back-end operational alignment and customer-facing integrity for each unique brand.

The best business case should be adapted for your own sales and customer service organization. Experiment with our eCommerce Calculator to evaluate the potential for your organization.

Section 5

Challenges of eCommerce

Anticipate What Could Go Wrong

Anticipating all potential issues up-front will make it 10,000 times easier to mitigate the risks. Have an open conversation with your eCommerce team — that includes sales, IT, marketing, finance and customer service.

Organizational change management

  • How does this affect your sales team?
  • Will this be a tool or a competitor for your sales team?
  • Will your sales team increase their sales and commission?

Customer onboarding

  • How will you onboard your current customers?
  • How many people from each customer will have access?
  • Which customers/segments would be good pilots in a pre-launch?

Support and management

  • Who will support the technical architecture post go-live?
  • Who is the owner and manager of customer information?
  • Who is the owner and manager of the product catalog?
  • Who is the owner and manager of CMS (non-product related data)?
  • Will support be managed in house or via managed services?

Anticipate What Could Go Wrong

Anticipating all potential issues up-front will make it 10,000 times easier to mitigate the risks. Have an open conversation with your eCommerce team — that includes sales, IT, marketing, finance and customer service.

Section 6

Planning Your eCommerce

Project Planning: eCommerce for B2B is really not very different than eCommerce for B2C

The work that goes into creating an eCommerce ecosystem is the same whether your customers are consumers, purchasing departments, wholesalers or distributors. The key is to segment your customers and build the right workflows for each segment.

You choose what information you want to make available to your customers. For example:

Step 1: Product presentations

Build out your product detail pages & determine options for showing inventory availability, customer specific pricing (B2B), leadtimes (if not in stock), related documents (Certificate of analysis, Safety Data sheets) etc.

Step 2: Account creation

Options vary for customer segments

Consumer

create an account on the fly

Wholesale

apply for an account and walk through terms vs. credit card, log-in for pricing

Step 3: Payment processing

Ability to use a credit card, or offer other payment options

Consumer

Ability to use a credit card, or offer other payment options

Wholesale

Ability to use a credit card, or offer other payment options

Step 4: Shipping & Logistics

Options vary for customer segments

Consumer

serve up shipping information

Wholesale

serve up shipping information, calculations & logistics transparency

Step 5: Order History

How a customer can search

Consumer

order history

Wholesale

order history, invoice history, search by various filters - PO, order amount, invoice number

The goal is to make it easy for customers to make a transaction and to maximize touchless order processing — whether your customer is ordering directly from your website, or through the Amazon marketplace.

*Pro tip: What if you’re selling through both direct and through 3rd party channels like the Amazon marketplace? Make sure you’re maintaining pricing consistency across all channels!

Project Planning: eCommerce for B2B is really not very different than eCommerce for B2C

The work that goes into creating an eCommerce ecosystem is the same whether your customers are consumers, purchasing departments, wholesalers or distributors. The key is to segment your customers and build the right workflows for each segment.

You choose what information you want to make available to your customers. For example:

The goal is to make it easy for customers to make a transaction and to maximize touchless order processing — whether your customer is ordering directly from your website, or through the Amazon marketplace.

*Pro tip: What if you’re selling through both direct and through 3rd party channels like the Amazon marketplace? Make sure you’re maintaining pricing consistency across all channels!

Section 7

A Great eCommerce Ecosystem

Where Information Lives in Your eCommerce Ecosystem

A seamless online customer experience requires real-time integration with many enterprise systems. See how we did it in real time in our Master Halco Infor M3 Implementation Case Study.

Section 8

eCommerce Success Metrics

How To Measure eCommerce Success

There are many ways of measuring the performance of your eCommerce ecosystem. Once you’ve launched and established a baseline — the work turns to continuous improvement.

We suggest you start out by measuring the following essential metrics:

Average Order Value
Customer Retention Rate
Shopping Cart Abandonment
EDI Dropship
Touchless Order processing
1.

Average Order Value

The amount of money every customer spends per transaction on your ecommerce store.

How to calculate:

Total Revenue/Total Orders placed

Average order value benchmarks by Industry ( in GBP)

2.

Customer Retention Rate

The percentage of customers the company has retained over a given time period. Retention rate is a reverse side of churn rate, which shows the percentage of customers a company has lost over a specific period.

How to calculate:

x existing customers at the end of the period ( - ) x newly acquired customers during that period ( / ) x existing customers at the beginning of the period (*) 100

What is your primary bussiness?

Indicate your merchant category

3.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

This is when a potential customer starts a check out process for an online order but drops out of the process before completing the purchase.

How to calculate

Divide the total number of completed purchases by the number of shopping carts created. Subtract the result from one and then multiply by 100 for the abandonment rate.

The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 75.6%

4.

EDI Dropship

is a fulfillment method where a merchant does not carry any inventory on hand. Instead they sell products to consumers via an online store (eCommerce), send the customers’ orders to the manufacturer and have the manufacturer ship the goods directly to the customer.

5.

Touchless Order processing

Is an automated function that will streamline the entire ecommerce process from capturing an order to approving it, converting a sales order into a purchase order for distributor and then sending an invoice post shipment.

How To Measure eCommerce Success

There are many ways of measuring the performance of your eCommerce ecosystem. Once you’ve launched and established a baseline — the work turns to continuous improvement.

We suggest you start out by measuring the following essential metrics:

Average Order Value
1.

Average Order Value

The amount of money every customer spends per transaction on your ecommerce store.

How to calculate:

Total Revenue/Total Orders placed

Average order value benchmarks by Industry ( in GBP)

Customer Retention Rate
2.

Customer Retention Rate

The percentage of customers the company has retained over a given time period. Retention rate is a reverse side of churn rate, which shows the percentage of customers a company has lost over a specific period.

How to calculate:

x existing customers at the end of the period ( - ) x newly acquired customers during that period ( / ) x existing customers at the beginning of the period (*) 100

What is your primary bussiness?

Indicate your merchant category

Shopping Cart Abandonment
3.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

This is when a potential customer starts a check out process for an online order but drops out of the process before completing the purchase.

How to calculate

Divide the total number of completed purchases by the number of shopping carts created. Subtract the result from one and then multiply by 100 for the abandonment rate.

The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 75.6%

EDI Dropship
4.

EDI Dropship

is a fulfillment method where a merchant does not carry any inventory on hand. Instead they sell products to consumers via an online store (eCommerce), send the customers’ orders to the manufacturer and have the manufacturer ship the goods directly to the customer.

Touchless Order processing
5.

Touchless Order processing

Is an automated function that will streamline the entire ecommerce process from capturing an order to approving it, converting a sales order into a purchase order for distributor and then sending an invoice post shipment.

Section 9

The Future of eCommerce

The Future of eCommerce

One prediction is absolutely certain: It is expected of you to provide customer self-service. In our personal lives as well as our business lives, nobody wants to wait for customer service. Nobody wants to click through phone prompts.

Any type of transaction a customer can do should be mobile-enabled, whether it be something simple like paying an invoice, or something more complicated like signing up as a reseller.

The new expectations of eCommerce include:

Mobile-first development

Conversational customer service with chat

Global nuances, languages & legal requirements

Ability to get a quote & convert an order

Rich and real-time account history, like viewing accumulated purchases & discounts, or tracking toward agreements

Business relationship documentation like W9s

Product lifecycle information

Training & certifications

The Future of eCommerce

One prediction is absolutely certain: It is expected of you to provide customer self-service. In our personal lives as well as our business lives, nobody wants to wait for customer service. Nobody wants to click through phone prompts.

Any type of transaction a customer can do should be mobile-enabled, whether it be something simple like paying an invoice, or something more complicated like signing up as a reseller.

The new expectations of eCommerce include:

Mobile-first development

Conversational customer service with chat

Global nuances, languages & legal requirements

Ability to get a quote & convert an order

Rich and real-time account history, like viewing accumulated purchases & discounts, or tracking toward agreements

Business relationship documentation like W9s

Product lifecycle information

Training & certifications

Section 10

What to Expect & How to Prepare

When you’re ready to tackle an eCommerce project you may want help to get the most successful launch. Look for:

Experienced Integrators

While we work most extensively in the Infor M3 platform and Magento eCommerce, you’ll want to look for consultants or integrators experienced in your enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite. Ask about tested and proven integration tools as well as eCommerce experience. Afterall, this may be new to you, so you want a confident partner.

Clear and thoughtful project framework to mitigate the risk of change

Look for your partner to bring a proactive, systematic discovery structure to understand every aspect of how your company works. They should also bring a framework to identify and solve the potential roadblocks and areas of unexpected strife that may come up in an eCommerce deployment.

Guidance to deliver the right user experience

The user interface is the most critical customer-facing aspect of any eCommerce deployment, and something of a proof-point of success and customer satisfaction. Look for experienced-based recommendations for design and functional elements of the user experience.

Want straight advice about your eCommerce goals?

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