Using the right business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce platform can do wonders for your company’s success. It’s where your buyers can learn more about your brand and services and where the bulk of your interactions can happen. A solid B2B eCommerce platform also facilitates your efforts to successfully market your services to other companies.
While there’s no shortage of such platforms in the market, finding one that can help you achieve your business goals isn’t always easy.
The good news is, we’ll offer practical, tried, and tested tips in this guide to help you find the ideal B2B eCommerce platform for your business.
Understanding the role of a B2B eCommerce platform
B2B eCommerce platforms are software-based solutions that facilitate self-service, online transactions between businesses. Essentially, it’s a digital space or online store where a business can market and sell services to other businesses.
The best B2B eCommerce platforms share common characteristics, including:
- Reliability. Popular B2B eCommerce platforms include critical features to keep transactions and customer information safe. The features include Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance and user data protection.
- Flexibility. Ecommerce solutions provide customization features to help business owners deliver personalized shopping experiences to B2B buyers.
- Scalability. Most B2B eCommerce platforms can scale with companies seamlessly.
- Ease of use. Modern B2B eCommerce solutions are often easy to adapt and deploy.
You can read this resource to learn more about the features that differentiate B2B eCommerce platforms.
Types of B2B eCommerce platforms
While many B2B eCommerce platforms provide similar functionalities, it’s crucial to assess the type that can best fit your business model.
Consider which solution to choose from the following types.
- Hosted or on-premise. Hosted solutions are installed at the platform’s data center, and merchants connect to them remotely via the internet. The software vendors take care of maintaining the servers housing the eCommerce engine, and merchants pay a subscription fee for access. This can be a great choice if you don’t have the skills and resources to maintain your server.
- Cloud-based. Providers host and maintain cloud-based B2B eCommerce platforms. Because the hosting is cloud-based, they also handle security, networking functions, and the data center. You can access and store a cloud-based platform’s apps, programs, and data through the internet.
- Out-of-the-box. With out-of-the-box B2B eCommerce, you get templates and ready-to-use functionalities to help build and customize your website easily. It’s an excellent option if you don’t have an in-house web development or IT team, or the budget to hire professional engineers and designers.
- Open-source. You can self-host and have access to modify an open-source eCommerce platform’s code. You get the creative freedom to design and configure your B2B website however you want. An open-source platform is a great choice if you have in-house app developers to streamline your web development process.
Essential factors to consider when looking for the right platform
Several factors can influence your choice of a B2B eCommerce platform. Here are some of the most important ones.
1. Cost of acquisition
The type of B2B eCommerce platform you choose can significantly impact the budget you’ll need. For instance, hosted B2B eCommerce platforms generally cost more, since these include the server hosting maintenance costs, software license fees, and development expenses.
On the other hand, cloud-based, fully-hosted Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) includes monthly security, support, maintenance, and hosting fees. It can lower your overall operating costs to some extent.
Determine your needs and resources to find the platform that can meet those requirements.
2. Website maintenance
Maintaining your website can eat up a chunk of your time and resources. It also requires the right skills and expertise. Assess whether you have the capacity and in-house expertise to maintain your website, or if you’re better off not maintaining your website yourself.
For example, opting for on-premise or hosted platforms means managing and paying for servers, handling broken codes, and fixing site issues yourself. However, choosing cloud-based platforms means the provider will set up and host your eCommerce website for you. The provider also handles automatic software updating, including fixing errors and crashes and monitoring your site for issues.
Factor in website management aspects when choosing a B2B eCommerce platform for your business.
3. Requirements associated with accepting orders
Identify your B2B eCommerce website’s purchase-related requirements. Doing so helps ensure you have the necessary features to allow seamless and secure buying experiences, especially for bulk orders.
These features can be broken down based on three categories of the customer journey: Pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.
- Pre-purchase. Assess whether a B2B eCommerce platform lets you create a parent account, customer groups, advanced search functionality, sales literature, and multiple price levels. These features facilitate the pre-purchase stage, helping buyers research and find products they need before buying.
- Purchase. Check if the platform provides the features to ensure a seamless buying experience. For B2B situations, the purchasing features should include minimum order size, product configuration options, a quotation process, order approval process, and payment terms.
- Post-purchase. Your client relationships don’t end after closing a sale, so choose a B2B eCommerce platform with post-purchase features. The essential functionalities should include a sales portal-like feature, repeat order tools, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) integrations, to improve order fulfillment efficiency.
4. PCI security
PCI compliance is a non-negotiable factor when selecting a reliable B2B eCommerce platform since it ensures all payment card information is secure. Some eCommerce platforms offer built-in PCI compliance, while others require third parties to verify compliance.
Generally, cloud-based platforms provide and manage PCI compliance for end-users because the credit card and payment data run through on their servers. If you choose a self-hosted solution, you’re in charge of satisfying the PCI compliance requirements. You also need to ensure your payment gateway meets the industry standards and regulations.
Key B2B eCommerce solution features
Below are a few essential B2B eCommerce platform features and functionalities to look into when choosing a solution for your business.
- Responsive design. Modern B2B buyers want to hop across multiple methods to buy your products — from smartphones to desktops. Accommodate this by choosing an eCommerce platform with responsive design functionalities. Doing so ensures your web content renders properly and consistently across devices.
- Integration with other systems. Determine whether the platform can work seamlessly with your other systems, such as your Point of Sale (POS). Not all platforms allow easy integrations and might require complex configurations. Research and reach out to providers directly before investing in a platform to ensure it can integrate easily with your existing and even future systems and other apps.
- Flexible payment options. Simplify and streamline the often complex B2B transactions by choosing a platform with flexible payment options. The flexibility allows you to provide seamless buying experiences for customers.
Find your best match B2B eCommerce platform
B2B eCommerce is growing rapidly and evolving dramatically. While there might not be a perfect B2B eCommerce platform, you can find a solution that best fits your company’s needs.
Leverage the tips in this guide to make an informed decision and help you choose a B2B eCommerce platform worth your investment.