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How agencies can leverage B2B E-commerce Sites

2021-05-12 | Written by Felipe Jaramillo Fonnegra CEO

If you're a B2B digital agency, stop trying to force B2C e-commerce solutions to work for you. It's a misstep we see often, but know this: You'll never create a seamless B2B digital sales experience that actually moves your sales process forward on the back of a platform like Shopify. 

While B2C solutions aren't ideal for B2B applications, you don't need to throw away the baby with the bathwater. In fact, you can still follow B2C's lead when it comes to adopting e-commerce tech. You just have to be deliberate about it.

Besides, B2C orgs are facing new challenges with existing sales platforms, like how to tailor their tech for multiple payment forms and varying price levels. Both B2C and B2B companies are looking for robust e-commerce solutions customized and suited to their needs. 

Good news: Custom B2B e-commerce solutions are nothing new to us. 

Building and operating the app solutions your B2B organization needs to make things easier for your clients and to grow your business requires a tailored approach. Aplyca addresses these challenges with years of experience running massive and complex e-commerce sites —  or even building them from the ground up.

Why B2C E-commerce Solutions Aren’t Enough for Your Complex B2B Business

For a number of reasons, including digitalization in general and COVID’s effect on consumer behavior, B2B organizations are becoming more interested in powering their sales processes through their websites.

This provides a great opportunity for B2B organizations to expand and refine their sales processes. But relying on your legacy website for the bulk of your sales is not as simple as jumping onto existing B2C e-commerce platforms. 

Why? Because many companies who take the e-commerce platform approach don't go far enough. Too often, they are working with websites better suited for conveying information than they are for sales. Combine this with a traditional (if not outdated) sale process and your e-commerce platform is never going to give you the results you're expecting.

You need a website that does more than inform. Your informational sites need to be your marketing and digital sales sites, too. And they need to be powerful and insightful enough to match the complex needs of B2B products, sales, and reporting. The level of technology and expertise this requires is beyond the scope of your typical B2C e-commerce platform. 

Let’s use a packaging machinery manufacturer as an example of a B2B organization moving into e-commerce. What might you require from an e-commerce platform that goes beyond the offerings of a traditional B2B website?

  • Product and service complexity beyond what’s seen in B2C e-commerce. As a packaging machinery manufacturer, you sell numerous types of equipment, and the equipment any given customer needs will depend on a number of different factors such as the types of products being packaged, their size, business scale, etc.
  • Sales process complexity. Selling a more complex product or service results in a more complex sales process. You need a digital sales solution that can connect with inventory from one area, to coding processes from another place, to calculators that will determine the size of the order, and more. 
  • Heavier integration needs. Managing a more complex sales process means heavily integrating your B2B digital sales site with various enterprise systems. If you’re just buying a new pair of headphones or a t-shirt, the storefront is the source of truth. The inventory is a simple matter. That’s not the case with our packaging machinery example, with its high level of sales process complexity that demands extensive digital tools.

In B2B E-commerce, Content Is a Key Selling Factor

You don’t need a lot of related content to sell a new pair of sunglasses. However, in the B2B realm, supporting and informative content is a must-have to land your sales. You’re typically looking at sizable investments in this sector, and your customers need to know for certain that what you’re selling is a good fit for what they’re trying to do or the problems they’re trying to solve. 

Strong sales are content-heavy sales. 

To succeed in B2B digital sales, you’ll need various types of product-associated content, including:

  • White papers
  • Data sheets
  • Case studies
  • Customer testimonials

A more traditional marketing or informational website may have these elements in some form. However, they won’t be able to provide customers with a seamless user experience if those users have to go to another section of the site — or even offsite — to view inventory, check product coding, and reach the cart. 

Users have come to expect a seamless experience beyond informational copy in the B2C space — they’ll demand it from your B2B clients, too. 

At the same time, don’t make a compelling sales pitch through rich content on your website only to have your prospect fill out a form and wait to hear back from you. That’s an outdated approach in a digital sales experience. With a true B2B ecommerce solution, you’ll make the case for your product or service on the same website that features the client portal, product calculators, order entry systems, CRM, and other key front-end elements. 

Here’s the bottom line: The right B2B ecommerce solution is a single, integrated space where all steps of the digital sales process are managed. This makes things far more convenient for your customers, and inspires their confidence in working with you.

Track Digital Sales System Performance with Powerful Reporting

Once you’ve made the jump to true B2B e-commerce, you need to keep track of what’s going on in this part of your business. That means accessing and analyzing the right data. 

To that end, integrating the right reporting solutions into your e-commerce solution is an absolute necessity. From form submissions to business intelligence that allow you to generate bespoke reports, you need to understand how your customers are interacting with your sales platform.

And again, the scope of B2B digital sales reporting goes far beyond what’s necessary, typical, or even possible in B2C platforms. At the B2B ecommerce level, you need to move outside of predefined reports. You need raw data from which to generate unique reports, identifying the data that tells a story that was not immediately evident. Powerful reporting engines like AWS’s Quicksight offer a level of scrutiny and scalability that you won’t get out of the box with any available CMS.

Meet Operational Requirements to Keep Your B2B E-commerce Site Running

Now that you have a business-critical solution integrated with the heart of your company, actually meeting operational requirements is paramount. It requires a level of management above where you've already been.

We understand these considerations and the solutions required to address these new ops concerns, including:

  • Deploying code carefully through CI/CD pipelines
  • Supporting multiple checkpoints and QA reviews through development workflows
  • Automating transactional use cases to cover all scenarios without sacrificing fast-paced development

To put it simply, it’s not enough to monitor for site outages. A site with complex functionality requires more hands-on maintenance. Our team takes on this monitoring and maintenance to ensure critical functionality is uninterrupted.

Take the Next Step Toward a B2B Digital Sales Solution

Trying to force fit your B2B site onto an e-commerce platform is no longer an option. 

B2C may have started the trend, and it still works well with this focus, but B2Bs need to adapt to meet the expectations of today’s digital-first environment. In turn, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start from the ground up. 

If you are looking toward the future and thinking about adopting a DXP (digital experience platform), that platform will serve as the foundation for all of this. However, if you’re happy with your existing site or you’re not ready to jump on a DXP just yet, you can still push your B2B digital sales experience forward. 

Aplyca can help you plug in e-commerce power in a number of different ways, even if you’re sticking with your current marketing website. We leverage modern software development architectures, including microservices, APIs, and the power of the cloud to provide that functionality. The result is a sales process with more automation, improved efficiency, and greater potential for scalability. 

Reach out today to see what’s possible. Create the digital sales experience B2B clients are growing to expect.