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List of practical solutions that can be used in the eCommerce B2B sector

According to the Statista, in 2023 the B2B market will reach a staggering amount of 1.8 trillion dollars, of which as much as 17 % will be in digital form.

The growth of sales platforms is powered mainly by the constantly changing preferences of individual customers. It focuses on speed and user convenience, by using numerous integrations or technologies such as Cloud, RWD (Responsive Web Design), or PWA (Progressive Web Application).

However, it is personalization that is the most important feature in the area of influence on CX and conversion optimization. At least when it comes to servicing individual customers.

Often, while observing B2B solutions available on the market, one can get the impression that this area is far behind the consumer eCommerce. In B2B, there are other processes in which entire purchasing teams participate, guided by rules specific to their organization. That is true. However, each member of such a team goes shopping after work hours and has comfortable and friendly interfaces to which they are used to. If you think that these habits and expectations will not bring any benefits to your B2B business, you are wrong.

In this publication, we discuss topics focusing on the above mentioned aspects. Our list includes examples of functionalities regarding improvements, e.g.:

  • managing the B2B purchasing policy,
  • efficient search of the product database (SKU search engine),
  • digital development of the product card,
  • implementation of electronic workflows in the B2B platform,
  • other functions directly related to the process of sales.

 

Support of the B2B purchasing policy

In addition to administrative settings, it is worth providing our contractors with the possibility of defining individual systems for submitting and managing the flow of orders. The purchasing process may differ not only in terms of the roles and permissions of users but also the purchasing policy itself. We should be open to offering facilities, such as:

  • Switching between enterprises from the panel of administrator
  • Possibility to modify the contractor's data in the CRM database (e.g. company representative, addresses for each of the company branches, adding new enterprise)
  • Defining the roles in the system: Administrator, Enterprise, Person who authorizes orders or invoices, Person Responsible for the Purchasing Department, Sales Representative, Persons receiving orders, etc.
  • Adding, removing and modifying entitlements and roles of employees
  • Blocking users who do not respect the company's purchasing policy
  • Temporary introduction of entitlements to specific users to accept orders (e.g. in the case of replacing)
  • Access, or its lack, to all placed orders, also those in the past, with the possibility of displaying a specific person or group
  • Possibility of changing parts of the order or withdrawing acceptance
  • 2FA login settings for people who has been given more privileges
  • Inability to change the data on the invoice after the status was selected by the company
  • Preview of the workflow and approval for orders and for all of the related processes,
  • Receiving an e-mail or SMS notification about a new order or exceeding the order time limit,
  • Defining the settlement manner with a new contractor (e.g. mandatory payment in advance) or for trusted partners (trade credit limit for X days in the amount of Y, one-time or total limit, etc.)
  • The ability for one to preview all orders and payments (including proforma invoices),
  • A system for controlling not fulfilled payments, taking into account automatic communication about arrears, blocking the submission of new orders, or the fulfilment of the orders placed.

Easy-to-use SKU search engine

Nothing discourages buyers as much as ineffective or not intuitive process of searching for products, services, or documents related to them. Regardless of the size of the repository in the system, both we and our clients should be able to find specific information with just a few "clicks".


 

An important element here is a well-designed full-text search engine that efficiently responds to user activities.

The results may appear only after clicking "search" or immediately during the process of entering the searched phrase. Often the results appear on the side menu, which makes it easier to read the list of selected products without the need to "leave" the search results. Search engines are becoming more and more intuitive. What is more, they can also take into account linguistic errors, by presenting autocomplete list while entering a phrase.

Depending on the search engine and software, each search engine can provide autocomplete list, e.g. of the collection, category, and the most frequently purchased products from a given phrase.

When we talk about search filters, aside from basic product attributes, it is worth mentioning the ones that are most popular for B2B sales:

Master data for products (attributes):

  • Colour, model, SKU number, material, composition
  • Manufacturer, country of origin
  • Weight, dimensions, number of pieces in a package, number of packages on a pallet,
  • Net unit sales price (e.g. per piece, packaging)
  • Shipping methods, approximate delivery time that takes into account the selected shipping method
  • Approximate order fulfilment/shipping time
  • Product availability level,
  • Order type (e.g.: ETO - custom design products, MTO - ready-made products).

Depending on the branch of industry and the types of products offered, the attributes will differ in terms of details. Sometimes a dimension is not enough for the customer to make a purchase decision. Therefore, beside the product, there are often its variations, such as:

  • Documents: technical specifications, certificates, catalogue cards, regulations and forms of returns and complaints, offers in PDF files
  • Multimedia files: videos, photos, diagrams, digital prints, 3D models, or CAD files.

The voice search function is also more and more popular on B2B platforms. Searching for products using barcodes, QR codes, or on the basis of product photos (e.g. in the fashion or home & garden branch of industry) is also gaining popularity.
 

Digital development of the sales offer

As B2B sellers, we must make sure that our offer is transparent to buyers. It concerns not only the presentation of products or services, technical data but also documents related to the offer. So, what elements should be included in our sales offer, and which of them are useful from the customer’s perspective?


B2B platform and PIM implementation fo Air-Com Pneumatics - Check out the implementation description.


Depending on the type of product or service, we can introduce various digital resources in the catalogue card. These are such elements as:

  • Basic data (model, manufacturer, country of origin, weight, dimensions, colour)
  • Product photos and multimedia materials
  • PDF printouts of the full sale offer
  • Product variations
  • Specifications, technical data and diagrams
  • PN-EN ISO/IEC 17067 certificates
  • GTIN numbers of products or services in the GTIN standard

It is important that the B2B platform enables us to personalize the offer for selected groups of Clients and for a single contractor. In the personalized information we can find, for example:

  • General and customized price lists
  • Discount policy:
  • Loyalty programs designed to meet the needs of customers
  • Product recommendations based on previous purchases

Regardless of what we offer our clients at this very moment, their requirements are constantly arising. This may be due to changes in the company's purchasing policy, the introduction of a new system and process optimization, or even the actions undertaken by the competitors.
 

B2B Craving For Digital Experiences

In the case of B2B sales, the most effective methods that work well in running a far-reaching business is the use of electronic information and document workflows for processes and activities. We distinguish:

  • Electronic Document Workflow
  • Electronic Invoice Workflow
  • Electronic Order Workflow
  • Electronic Complaints and Returns Workflow

Very often, advanced systems are implemented in a way that combine and efficiently merge the above mentioned areas, creating one unique workflow mechanism. That is why, it is so important to consult an expert during the process designing.

Enterprises expect digital and automated solutions that will keep their business running smoothly. In this case, not only our needs should be taken into account, but also those of our contractors.


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As far as it is technologically possible, we should provide the possibility to configure our own process/workflow on our platform.

In order to facilitate the sales process there are such functions as:

  • Access to reliable information and finding a product in the catalogue: detailed information about the offer (product, service), terms of purchase, warranty, additional services (paid or not), advanced search engine
     
  • Quick ordering: built-in contractor's purchasing policy throughout the entire purchasing process. View on the sales process from the buyer's point of view, service of several carts or import a shopping list in an .xls file directly into the shopping cart
     
  • Possibility to configure a product or service or create a project using web configurators/creators: Designing tips without or with the tutorial. What is more, if this type of service is already in offer, it is worth extending its functionality and using it in the context of creating ready-made offers by sales representatives
     
  • Instant access to the contractor's card, documents and services related to orders, e.g. automatic PDF printouts from the system, loyalty program with a transparent view on the number of points gathered, methods of calculating points, list of tasks to be performed in order to obtain a discount, current list of discounts available, transaction history
     
  • Possibility to choose payment methods often used by B2B: e.g. deferred payment, split payment, pro-forma invoices, lump sum or barter invoice. The deadlines for payment for orders should also be adapted to the customer and it is good when the discount is immediately visible when adding goods to the basket, next to the net and gross prices
     
  • Receiving feedback: about the stage and status of the order, shipment, payment (e.g. in the form of e-mail or SMS notifications, tracking links, Helpdesk, chat or chatbot, registration history)
     
  • Quick processing of complaints, returns and other inconveniences: e.g. assigning numbers for complaints, feedback on the status of implementation, return orders, report history
     
  • Choice of alternative shipping methods: e.g. delivery on the day of the order or free delivery for orders below or above a given amount of money
     

Unlimited B2B potential

The implementation of the above-mentioned functions is just the beginning. When looking at B2C sales leaders, you can find many functions that will also prove useful in the specificity of B2B.

Competition follows your every move and, most likely, is also working to improve the CX of their platforms. In this context, the saying "first come, first served" is true. Activities performed on the digital level will not only bring sales results, but will also strengthen the cooperation with business partners.

Facilitating and accelerating the sales process for B2B buyers is also an opportunity to build a positive image among this group of recipients, expand your contractor base, and even appear on previously unattainable markets.

Let us remember that this is a long-term investment in a competitive advantage for the coming years.

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