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How to select the right B2B ECommerce Provider

How to make a choice the correct B2B ECommerce Supplier

When William Shakespeare wrote his soliloquy for Hamlet, ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’ he was comparing suicide to a little sleep; one of the most recognisable quotes of all time but few people read the play to the end in order to understand it’s meaning. A modern day cynic such as I would say ‘B2B or not to be – that is the question’… stick with me – if you are a manufacturer, distributor or wholesaler who’s B2B eCommerce provider is not providing a feature rich B2B ecommerce platform and a good digital strategy in place to deal with the next wave of change, you could unwittingly be writing your own suicide note.

Make the most of time…

Businesses that are still operating with the ‘hamster wheel effect’ where staff members are overstretched on a daily basis; manually keying orders from fax or email, calling customers to advise them of fulfilment and stocking issues, answering the calls from customers who have been waiting on the lines for over ten minutes just to place an order or worse still your accounts team issuing credit notes for items that couldn’t be shipped, processing payments over the phone or sending out duplicate statements and invoices – now is the time to wake up from that slumber and take action. The world has changed and it continues to change rapidly. People – you and I, purchase items everyday with the click of a button, ease and speed of purchasing and knowing when the goods are going to arrive sometimes being more important than the price. We prefer instant live chat instead of wasting unnecessary minutes queuing on the phone whilst listening to a ‘be assured your call is important to us’ mantra. Your customers now expect this same experience at work, for customers it’s all about time. Time – a very valuable commodity that they won’t get back.  For you, the biggest running cost in your business is likely to be your staff’s working hours and it is time you turned this into your greatest asset.

Make the right choice…

To make this happen and surpass your competitors you need a genuine B2B online platform and you needed it yesterday. It must do everything a member of your staff can do; sell products for the correct price, ensure you have the stock, let customers place the same order again, view their invoices, upload big orders, submit a quick order form, pay their invoices, ensure your customers’ staff do not exceed their spend limits, make sure each customer only buys the products their boss authorised, even pay off their account or request a return for a damaged item. I fully appreciate how daunting it can be for a wholesaler, manufacturer or distributor to make the investment and change the way they work. Quite often when demonstrating B2B software the most common questions businesses ask are:

  1. Our business is complicated, can an ecommerce solution handle our weird pricing structures?
  2. Can we afford the investment?

And who can blame you right? There are a growing number of software operators out there that say they offer B2B websites but when you check out their websites and look at their references they work with mainly B2C operators and they are really just B2C technology with a few basic additions such as customer specific price lists. I’ll let you into a little secret, if you are talking to the right B2B eCommerce provider they will offer you customer case studies relating to businesses you’ve never heard of – or if you have heard of them they shouldn’t be businesses you have bought from whilst sitting at home in your armchair – take that as a good sign because they will know everything about B2B and be able to tell you what you don’t know. In meetings you’ll hear words such as ‘open source’ ‘we can develop that’ ‘it’s in our roadmap’ – if you go down this route there is a fair chance you’ll invest in software that will eventually do what you require right now but give you nothing in relation to what you require in the future without you having to do the thinking, developing, testing and spending.

Make sure you see solutions to your problems….

There is a difference between B2C and B2B and you need to be shown that from the start in a thorough demonstration where your key requirements are covered there and then – challenge the sales person and make them take you through all of your complex trading scenarios and the processes your staff currently undertake. Of course, the good B2B ecommerce companies will have adopted the simplicity of the B2C user experience whilst the logic that sits behind the clean crisp design is complicated and handling the processes just like the hamster wheel that currently keeps the business flowing. With a robust B2B solution you will have a profitable and highly scalable sales channel that will provide a personalised customer experience for the smallest customer at the end of the high street through to the very biggest corporate client; 24 hours a day. Then you have the added benefit of the internal cost efficiencies where the sales team are free to compare prices against your competitors, work on customers’ accounts, expand the product range whilst the customer services team can measure satisfaction levels, review quality control, and listen to the positive feedback from your customers. By now you’ll understand the answer to the questions:

  1. Change your processes to fit with your customers’ requirements because currently you are not using your time wisely (N.B. the measure of intelligence is the ability to change)
  2. Can you afford not to invest?
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