4 July 2023 10min.
B2B platform – Do you really need It?
The B2B market is undergoing a true transformation. The field that once relied on phones and meticulously crafted Excel spreadsheets is evolving. The pandemic, which began in 2020 and continues in some form to this day, has forced many businesses to make changes. Trading companies, as well as others, had to enter the realm of the Internet to survive. The B2B sector was not spared either.
An increasing number of companies are utilizing B2B stores in their operations. It may seem that this rather entrenched branch of business, which is largely based on relationships, would have difficulty expanding its commercial activities to the online sphere. And to some extent, that is true.
There are many B2B companies that successfully leverage their e-commerce platforms to increase their sales. Unfortunately, there are also those businesses that still fear this digital transformation. However, it cannot be denied that the B2B sector shows a growing trend in the use of sales platforms.
The B2B Sector is Changing
Digital needs of customers, including those in the B2B market, are growing, and trust in the online format is also increasing. It’s not surprising, considering that already 73% of purchasing decisions are made by millennials – a generation that practically has a mobile phone permanently attached to their hands. The B2B sector is not exempt from this global trend. The growing percentage of Gen Y can also be observed in this industry.
If this hasn’t convinced you yet to start thinking about a B2B platform, I have a few significant numbers for you:
89% of B2B researchers use the internet when searching for products and services for their business.2
38% of B2B customers consider the ability to place orders through a B2B platform as an important selection criterion for suppliers.3
41% of companies operate a B2B platform.4
35% of companies that don’t have e-commerce solutions yet plan to implement them.5
You’re probably wondering, “Okay, more and more people want to place business orders online, more and more companies are implementing solutions to meet those needs, but what is it exactly and how do I approach it?” And that’s precisely what you will read about in the further part of this article.
Is a B2B platform the recipe for success?
More and more companies in the sector are investing in creating a B2B platform – regardless of their quality, their percentage is increasing. But what does that mean for you? Why do you need such a solution? Does your business really need a B2B system?
Let’s go through the 4 most important reasons why companies in the B2B sector are entering e-commerce
- I want to acquire new customers
Who wouldn’t want that? More customers mean more profit, and that’s what business is all about. However, acquiring new customers can be not only difficult but also expensive. Sending a salesperson for a meeting on the other side of the country is a significant expense, and if the discussions go well, it’s unlikely to end with just one meeting. Your own B2B platform can not only be a reason why potential customers choose your offer but also a tool to present your company’s offerings and guide them through the onboarding process entirely remotely.
- I want to increase my market share
There are several layers to this reason. How much easier is it to reach customers abroad with a B2B platform? Much easier and… cheaper. You no longer have to send your salespeople on international delegations; it’s enough to provide your platform to potential customers and guide them through the implementation process. How much could your customer base grow if you help them with an intuitive, user-friendly B2B platform where they can place their orders in just a few minutes?
- I want to meet new customer demands
It’s undeniable that each new generation is more digitized and expects increasingly technologically advanced solutions. The B2B sector is not exempt from this. The percentage of millennials in this industry is growing, bringing with it new demands on companies in this market segment. Consequently, a functioning B2B platform is increasingly becoming a prerequisite for establishing cooperation..
- I want to increase my sales
A B2B platform is also an excellent solution for increasing your company’s revenue. With it, your customers can quickly order the products they need without having to schedule meetings with salespeople. The faster they complete their orders, the sooner they can resell the product or use it in their business operations. This leads to more orders. Thus, a B2B platform can relatively quickly increase your profits.
When your business grows, there comes a point when salespeople are no longer able to effectively handle all your customers, and hiring another person for the sales team may exceed the cost-effectiveness of such an investment. This is where a B2B platform can be a great solution, as it takes some transaction-related responsibilities off the salespeople. This doesn’t mean that salespeople become unnecessary! However, it simplifies their work, frees up some capacity, and makes your business operate faster and more efficiently
B2B customers are not just about larger orders
It’s obvious that B2B customers differ from those in the B2C sector. Everyone knows that.
But do they really?
From our experience, many companies still struggle to differentiate between these target groups. While everyone agrees on the division of “individual buyers vs. purchasing committees,” unfortunately, business owners often overlook other important characteristics of B2B consumers.
A business customer is a demanding customer who places orders in large quantities, often in a repetitive manner. Factors such as product availability, discounts, credit limits, additional services (such as installation, delivery) and well-described products are essential to them. And these are just a few aspects that differentiate them from B2C consumers.
But there is also another side to the coin, and that is the issue of user experience (UX). It is important to remember that on the other side of the B2B online store screen, there is still a human being who, in their free time, shops on platforms like Allegro, Zalando, or other modern online stores. They get accustomed to usability – a clear and user-friendly purchasing process, convenient payment methods, and delivery options.
This creates pressure for expectations (whether consciously or not) that the B2B platform should not lag behind the “everyday” B2C shopping places.
B2B platform – implementation challenges
Just like with the implementation of large IT projects, difficulties arise during the creation of a B2B platform. And these challenges are not only of a technological nature. I would even dare to say that most of them are related to soft issues, including organizational culture, communication, and company strategy.
Rebellious (?) salespeople
A major challenge when introducing a B2B platform in a company lies with the salespeople and their attitude towards this change. However, this should not come as a surprise. Until now, their work was based on customer relationships, on which their purchasing volume often depended, and subsequently, their performance bonuses. Now, as the company they work for enters the era of digitization and introduces a new B2B platform, they feel threatened. They are not only concerned about lower bonuses but also about job security. They fear that the new B2B purchasing platform will replace them.
Which platform to implement the project on?
We recommend two solutions – Magento B2B and Shopware.
It is not surprising that salespeople resist and do not want to recommend this solution to their clients. However, this is not a problem caused by defiant salespeople. On the contrary, the responsibility for such an approach lies unfortunately with the employer. They should properly prepare their organization, create procedures that allow salespeople to benefit from the new B2B store, rather than negate its relevance. The B2B sales platform should not be a cannibalistic entity towards salespeople but a tool enabling the company’s profit growth.
Poor pricing policy
Another challenge in implementing the system is an inadequate or complete lack of a pricing policy. What does this mean? Well, B2B companies largely rely on individually assigned discounts by the salesperson. Each customer has their own price list, so to speak. There is nothing wrong with that if we properly transfer it to our new system. However, if the pricing system has not been documented or established anywhere, it creates a problem. We cannot implement a pricing system into the platform if we don’t know what it is.
Amateur e-Commerce manager
A very important figure during project implementation is the e-Commerce manager. They are the ones who oversee the entire operation and are responsible for its success. However, if the person in this position does not have the necessary skills, the enterprise digitization project may fail. And we certainly do not want that. Therefore, it is crucial that from the very beginning of the project, during the planning stage, we hire a competent e-Commerce manager. Finding the right person for this role may not be easy.
Quite often, we encounter a situation where a company comes to Satisfly to implement a simple B2B platform… and that’s when issues arise. The lack of prior research or internal needs analysis by the organization leads to the emergence of new features that need to be implemented during the project. This causes project delays and increased costs. How can we overcome this?
The solution is simple. Thoroughly prepare and analyze the needs of all key elements of the organization. The implementation company does not know your organization as well as you do. It is your responsibility to provide them with all the necessary information to create a B2B platform that meets your needs.
B2B platform – what it should include?
B2B commerce operates on different principles than B2C e-Commerce, which means it has different needs in terms of sales platform functionality. It is not enough to create a simple store and secure it with a password so that only your customers have access. Your e-Commerce platform must meet the needs of demanding business customers. Therefore, it is crucial to have well-described products, include offers and discounts, enable the creation of multiple shopping carts, and add credit limits to payment methods. There are quite a few must-have elements for every B2B store.
B2B platform is an investment in your success
Let’s be honest, a B2B platform involves costs, often significant ones. Regardless of whether you implement the purchasing platform internally or outsource it to an implementation agency, proper design and development of the store will require time and the effort of a group of programmers. However, it does come at a cost. However, keep in mind that the increase in IT costs or the need to hire experts such as an e-Commerce manager are investment costs. It is important to consider them when planning the implementation of B2B software to avoid surprises later on.
Prepare for an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones
A B2B platform can bring many benefits to your business. You just need to prepare well for this endeavor, both in terms of competence and organization within your company. Implementing e-Commerce will not be an easy task. As is often the case with large technological projects, it will be a challenging journey with many obstacles to overcome along the way. However, it will be worth it.