1 April 2022 15min.
B2B E-Commerce – dispelling your concerns
Implementing B2B e-commerce can raise many uncertainties. It’s not surprising, as it’s a project that requires business owners to remodel their operations and enter an entirely new space. That’s why many B2B trading companies hesitate to start selling online; they don’t want to bite off more than they can chew. After all, their current business is performing satisfactorily. So why take the risk?
- My products are not suitable for online sales
- My business is based on customer relationships…
- I don’t know how to approach starting online sales
- My clients won’t want to use an online platform
- My employees will resist the new sales model
- Implementation is expensive
- My clients won’t know how to use the sales platform
- My company is not ready for entering e-commerce
- I don’t have the expertise to implement an e-commerce system
- The products I sell require individual customization to meet customer needs
- Connecting the store with other systems will be difficult
- I don’t know exactly what features my B2B e-commerce should have
- My clients have individual price lists and discounts
- My business will become vulnerable to technological errors and hacker attacks
- My clients settle payments with me through trade credit
- I have thousands of products in my offering
- I don’t know how to define system requirements
- I’m not sure if investing in an online store will be profitable.
However, we live in the 21st century, and for most of us, online shopping has become a part of our daily lives, at least when it comes to personal purchases. So why should it be any different when buying goods for business purposes? After all, a whopping 73% of all B2B purchasing decisions are currently made by Millennials, the generation that grew up with the internet. For them, the key criteria when choosing a new B2B supplier are: no need to wait for contact with a sales representative (52%), the ability to track orders online (39%), and making purchases through an online platform (38%).
Implementing a B2B online store poses significant challenges for companies, especially those with a long-standing tradition of offline commerce, operating in specialized industries without a technological infrastructure. It’s no wonder that such an investment still raises many concerns.
Here are the most common doubts we hear during discussions with B2B sector companies:
My products are not suitable for online sales
Sure, there are certain items that cannot be sold online, such as tissues, artifacts, or tobacco. Some products, like alcohol and medication, are only allowed to be sold to entities with special permits. Firearms are also not sold on the internet, although the online trade of such items is not legally prohibited, in practice, verifying permission to possess firearms online would be very risky.
However, if you sell other products that are not legally restricted or completely prohibited, there’s a 99% chance you can also trade them through an online store. A case in point is SIG, one of the largest B2B e-commerce companies, which successfully sells specialized construction materials online. Another example is TIM, the largest distributor of electrical materials in Poland. Both industries may seem challenging to transfer to the online sphere, but each of these companies increases its online sales revenue year after year.
You too can develop an online sales model that allows you to successfully trade your products using an online platform.
My business is based on customer relationships…
It’s also not the case that online sales completely eliminate the realm of business relationships. By providing your business partners with a proper experience within the sales platform, you will streamline your collaboration process and improve their satisfaction with customer service in your company. This, in turn, will strengthen the relationship between you and your contractors and increase their loyalty to your company.
Well-designed e-commerce business logic allows you to reduce customer service costs while maintaining good relationships and, above all, customer loyalty.
I don’t know how to approach starting online sales
That’s quite normal. After all, you’re planning to enter a completely new business space. If you don’t have knowledge and skills in online sales, we encourage you to educate yourself in this area. However, let’s not beat around the bush. You won’t become an e-commerce expert overnight. Therefore, at the beginning of your e-commerce journey, it’s worth seeking advice from someone more experienced. You can seek the services of an external e-commerce consultant or talk to someone who has already gone through this process. However, we recommend collaborating with an experienced consultant. Such a person has already completed several implementations and will be able to comprehensively support you in the digital transformation process of your business, from preparing your organization to implementing your e-commerce international expansion strategy.
My clients won’t want to use an online platform
Of course, there is a chance that at the beginning, your clients may resist the change. It’s quite normal. However, if your sales platform is well thought out, and the process of introducing your partners to the new sales system is properly designed, customers will quickly see the benefits of using your B2B platform.
If your online store meets the needs of your clients, they will be happy to use it. So don’t create a platform that is merely a visually appealing Excel sheet. You would only be wasting money that way. Create a user-friendly store that includes all the necessary features for efficient B2B purchasing.
If you’re unsure about what your clients expect from e-commerce, ask them. You can conduct a survey among your partners or have your sales representatives gather information. By basing your implementation on data, you increase your chances of creating a useful store that sells effectively. And that’s exactly the goal.
My employees will resist the new sales model
This is a common problem that arises during B2B implementations. In the standard business-to-business sales model, the sales representative’s task is to sell as much as possible, doing everything they can to acquire new customers and increase the value of existing orders. After all, their bonus depends on it. In the case of e-commerce, this task is taken over by the sales platform. It’s not surprising, then, that your sales representatives are concerned about this change. In their view, the B2B sales platform takes away their work.
However, it’s not necessary to immediately lay off all your sales representatives after implementing an online store. The platform is designed to reduce the company’s costs and make the work of salespeople easier. They don’t automatically become redundant; their role simply changes. Of course, how you manage your staffing strategy after implementing an online store is entirely up to you. However, if you create an e-commerce platform to reduce employment, you can’t expect your employees to accept this idea without protest.
Even if you’re implementing an online store without any hidden motives and simply want your business to earn more, you may encounter resistance from your salespeople. That’s quite normal. Your task, however, is to manage this change in a way that dispels any doubts among your employees. Involve them in the digital transformation process, show them why you’re doing it, and prove that it’s worth it. If you communicate effectively with your salespeople, your new B2B sales platform will be successful.
Implementation is expensive
It depends. If you compare the creation of a B2B platform to a simple B2C store, then yes, the cost of the former will be significantly higher. However, if you look at it from the perspective of the profits that online sales can bring you, the situation may look very different.
We won’t beat around the bush. Implementing B2B comes with a cost, and it can be quite substantial. Of course, the final cost will depend on various factors, such as the nature of your products, the features you implement, and the e-commerce platform you choose. The cost of a Magento store with advanced configuration options, a module for oversized shipments, and the ability to create multiple carts will be different from that of a Shopify platform with simple products and a unified pricing structure.
Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with a specific amount that you will have to pay. The platform is tailored to your business. Without a brief, in-depth pre-implementation analysis, and workshops with an agency, it cannot be determined.
However, you should be prepared for the fact that your B2B online store can cost anywhere from tens of thousands to even millions of złotys. It all depends on how much time is needed to implement your e-commerce solution.
My clients won’t know how to use the sales platform
There is a possibility. However, using a sales platform is not rocket science; anyone can learn how to make purchases efficiently in your online store. It’s just a matter of explaining it well to them.
There are many ways to familiarize your clients with the new B2B platform. You can create tutorials in the form of pop-ups, arrange demo presentations, send informational materials, or even have your sales representative train your partners on how to use your store effectively.
Whether or not your clients can fully utilize the capabilities of your e-commerce platform depends on you. Design an effective onboarding process for your business partners, and you won’t have to worry about your store being unused.
My company is not ready for entering e-commerce
It’s good that you’re aware of that. Unfortunately, many B2B companies venture into online sales without proper preparation. They set up a store because they think “it will work.” However, it’s not that simple. Not every e-commerce venture is successful.
Starting a new sales channel like an online store requires the preparation of appropriate infrastructure, including the necessary budget, human resources, technology, and logistics. Skipping this step can result in your business being unable to handle the processes required for e-commerce operations, and that can cost you a lot.
Start by analyzing the current state of your business, all the processes involved, and the resources you have at your disposal. Analyze your competition and target audience as well.
If you’re unsure where to start, consider finding an e-commerce consultant who can help you assess the profitability of this investment and create a specific action plan.
I don’t have the expertise to implement an e-commerce system
Implementing an online store is a complex process that requires both technological and business expertise. Of course, you can invest time and learn everything you need to manage the implementation and maintenance of an online store. However, it will take a significant amount of time. Therefore, it’s worth considering hiring an experienced e-commerce manager who can take on the responsibilities of creating and managing your B2B online store.
An e-commerce manager is someone who can handle tasks such as:
- collaborating with implementation agencies,
- setting goals and directions for your store’s development,
- developing pricing policies,
- optimizing the custome journey,
- increasing the conversion rate in your e-commerce,
- exploring new markets.
If you lack the necessary expertise to lead the implementation process of your B2B sales platform and its subsequent development, hire someone who can do it for you.
The products I sell require individual customization to meet customer needs
In most cases, this can also be accomplished in an online store. All you need to do is create a suitable configurator that allows for the customization of your offered products.
Some e-commerce platforms, such as Magento 2 or Shopware, offer the possibility of implementing advanced solutions without compromising the performance of your online store.
However, not every e-commerce platform offers complex configurators. Keep this in mind when choosing an engine for your online store.
Connecting the store with other systems will be difficult
Proper integration of e-commerce with external systems such as ERP or WMS can be cumbersome and time-consuming, especially if it requires writing code from scratch. However, many software providers create dedicated plugins for integrating their system with popular e-commerce engines. This allows for quick and seamless integration of your PIM system with your online store.
If your ERP or WMS provider doesn’t offer a dedicated plugin for your e-commerce engine, the developers working on your store can create a custom integration. This will take some time and, of course, incur costs. But it is entirely possible. If you have skilled experts in your team, you shouldn’t have any problems with such a solution.
Even at the engine selection stage, it’s worth considering integration capabilities with external systems. This way, you can avoid surprises and save on developing custom solutions.
I don’t know exactly what features my B2B e-commerce should have
All the features that enable effective sales. If you thoroughly analyze your offerings, target audience, and competition before starting the implementation, you should have all the necessary information. If you have any doubts, a reputable implementation agency or an experienced e-commerce consultant can also assist you in this matter.
However, keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your initial online store doesn’t have to have all the sophisticated functionalities right from the start. Initially, it’s enough for it to be capable of selling. Therefore, starting with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version of your e-commerce, which presents the minimum value required to showcase to your target audience, is worthwhile.
Creating an MVP version of your store allows real customers to test it and provide feedback. This way, you can develop your platform according to the needs of your customers.
My clients have individual price lists and discounts
That’s not a problem. Advanced e-commerce engines allow for the establishment of pricing rules tailored to individual customers. So, if each of your business partners has different negotiated terms with you, you can easily establish the appropriate variables in the admin panel and accurately calculate prices.
However, note that we’re referring to advanced engines here. Not every e-commerce platform offers such capabilities. Therefore, if you personalize price lists for individual customers, pay attention to whether the engine you choose has that option.
My business will become vulnerable to technological errors and hacker attacks
Yes, that is possible. Just as there is a chance that a thief could break into your warehouse and steal part of your inventory. These things can happen. However, there are ways to minimize the risk.
Firstly, choose a secure e-commerce platform. Take the time to verify the security measures provided by the engine you choose. If you’re using a SaaS platform, the responsibility for ensuring the security of your online store is delegated to the system’s provider. However, an open-source platform doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the high level of security for your store. An engine like Magento 2 is secure if you keep it updated regularly.
Secondly, implement appropriate data security procedures for your store. Ensure that your admin panel has a unique URL address, establish an offline backup plan, enable two-factor authentication, and implement other security measures to make your store secure.
My clients settle payments with me through trade credit
Implementing deferred payments is a relatively straightforward feature. Of course, you can integrate multiple payment gateways into your store, such as PayPal or Blik, but if your clients have always paid for their orders based on a 30-day invoice payment term, it will be challenging to change their habits immediately. Make sure that your online store offers payment options that your customers want while still maintaining your financial liquidity.
I have thousands of products in my offering
All the more reason for e-commerce. Not every e-commerce platform can handle such a large product catalog. However, if you choose to implement Magento, you won’t have any problems efficiently managing your store.
A large product offering, especially if distributed through various channels, can require a lot of work. However, there are tools that can help you manage product information effectively. You can consider implementing Akeneo PIM or another similar system to streamline the sales of thousands of products.
I don’t know how to define system requirements
It’s not an easy task at all. The way you define your requirements will determine the proposed implementation cost by the agency. If you don’t consider everything upfront, it’s highly likely that during the development process, numerous additional features will come up that you’ll want to incorporate. Unfortunately, this will involve additional costs that you didn’t include in your budget.
That’s why it’s essential to prepare a detailed brief for your online store. If it includes all the information about your business, its environment, and target audience, it will be easier for you to formulate specific requirements.
However, if you’re still having trouble preparing guidelines for your store, you can seek the services of an experienced e-commerce consultant. They will undoubtedly assist you in defining precise requirements, ensuring smooth implementation and keeping the budget under control.
I’m not sure if investing in an online store will be profitable.
We also cannot promise you that. Apart from the implementation itself, the success of B2B e-commerce depends on many other factors. These include the product offering, pricing, customer service, order fulfillment, delivery methods, payments, and many more. Therefore, you need to take care of all these aspects to ensure that your store generates satisfactory profits.
Before starting the implementation, it’s worth calculating the potential profits of your e-commerce. This way, you can keep track of your business’s performance and address any deviations promptly. You can also seek the opinion of an e-commerce consultant. If they have experience with previous projects, they will be able to predict whether your online business will be successful based on their expertise.
Creating a B2B online store is a massive project that requires a significant amount of time, money, and the energy of everyone involved. It’s no wonder that it raises many concerns. However, based on our experience, in most cases, such an investment pays off. We hope that this article has addressed at least some of your doubts.