B2B eCommerce Has Its Challenges: Learn the Secrets to a Successful Self-Service Portal Experience

Build customer loyalty and beat the competition with a B2B eCommerce portal that supports self-service and SAP

Key Takeaways:

  • Online is where 80% of your customers are — if you don’t offer an eCommerce site, and one that gives them what they want, they’ll just move to a competitor
  • With B2B eCommerce sales predicted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023, the lack of an eCommerce site means lost revenue
  • The challenges to an eCommerce site are opportunities to give distributors and direct customers what they want: To buy and reorder online, quickly and easily, with personalized service
  • Many challenges to B2B self-service eCommerce are due to poor SAP integration that makes real-time eCommerce difficult, but this can be solved quickly with today’s integration tools
  • Your eCommerce site will help realize your business objectives by providing the data you need to increase current market share
  • By choosing a vendor with pre-built solutions that intimately understands the manufacturing sector, your B2B eCommerce site can be up and running in a matter of weeks

There’s no question that manufacturers should be focused on eCommerce – that’s where their buyers are. The move to online B2B purchasing shows no signs of abating, and 80% of buyers want to either interact remotely with salespeople or purchase entirely within a self-service portal.

While B2B manufacturing and its complexity present some technological challenges for eCommerce, modern eCommerce solution vendors not only have a deep understanding of the required technology but can get you up and running quicker than you imagined. These fully integrated, digitally transformed systems do what you’ve been doing – but more efficiently and automatically, without human intervention – to deliver full-service solutions that save money, increase revenue, and provide a superior customer experience.

It’s predicted that B2B eCommerce will not only reach $1.8 trillion by 2023 but also account for 17% of all B2B sales. The most recent E-Stats report from the U.S. census bureau found that e-commerce represented 67.8% of all manufacturing shipments. That’s a lot of revenue you’re giving up to your competitors that have made the move to the right eCommerce platform. It isn’t all about money, though. It’s time to toss out old ways of thinking – “my customers don’t want this” and “I don’t want to upset my distributors” – and worries about the cost to find out what your competition already likely knows: Self-service B2B eCommerce is the way to go.

Let’s knock down some of the barriers, discuss the business case, and show how you can quickly have a money-generating site that moves at the speed of business today.

The perceived barriers to B2B eCommerce

We use the word “perceived” because the barriers to digital transformation and a unified eCommerce solution are not obstacles. They are opportunities.

  • Your distributor channel will likely welcome the change: You may be worried about upsetting your distributor channel — many manufacturers are. But here’s the news: You don’t have to upset them. Involve them in the eCommerce process, offer them the benefits of your eCommerce site and watch them smile. Through your site, they will learn more about their current customers, get the valuable data they need to gain new customers, and their own ordering process will be streamlined with self-service reordering.
  • Your customers are clamoring for an eCommerce site: And if you think your customers don’t want this, think again. Most (62%) B2B customers want to place re-orders digitally, and 75% prefer digital self-service when buying. It’s important to note that 59% of B2B buyers are millennials who grew up with computers and they prefer to purchase online. Whether you are dealing with distributors or making direct sales, your customers want a robust eCommerce site that gives them the personalized experience they have come to expect from their own consumer shopping.
  • Proper SAP integration solves complexity worries: Manufacturing businesses are complicated, and a lot of data you need for an effective eCommerce platform is locked in SAP. In order to enable self-service B2B eCommerce, you need to be able to serve current business rules as well as inventory, customer, and order data to the front-end portal in real-time. This is a challenge for many manufacturers with SAP, but the right eCommerce and integration partners will have no problems handling that complexity. Once you do the necessary integration of your front-end and SAP, all of that complex business logic will be immediately available in your CRM and eCommerce portal. This provides the tools you need to enable accurate eCommerce self-service that your customers can count on.
  • Pre-built components mean your site is up and running fast: You might be looking at all of your products, pricing, customizations, and customers with the thought that it’s going to take forever to get you up and running, but that’s not the case. Today’s pre-built components for integration and eCommerce can get your site up in a matter of weeks, so there’s no need for expensive custom builds that take a year (sometimes close to two), or error-prone middleware solutions and clunky site builds.

Now that you know what your customers want, how you can keep things good with distributors, and laid aside your time and money worries, it’s time to take a look at the business case for your eCommerce digital transformation.

The case for B2B ecommerce

It’s not just about small-ticket or parts that move quickly. B2B buyers are becoming more and more comfortable purchasing online. In the McKinsey study linked above, 70% said they would make purchases over $50,000 completely remotely or by using self-service, and 27% of those decision-makers would make eCommerce purchases over $500,000. But the business benefits go beyond capturing online buyers.

  • Learn more about your customers: The importance of the customer experience can’t be stressed too much. To give them what they expect, you have to learn as much about them as possible. In turn, that tells you what they need and want, provides opportunities for upsells and down-sells, and provides valuable information for product information and enhancement.
  • Meet your business objectives: With an eCommerce site, you can expand market share, get new customers, find new opportunities with current customers, engender customer retention and loyalty, and improve customer service. In addition, your site will drive operational efficiencies and the self-service features will reduce customer service costs.
  • Capture long-tail customers: Without an eCommerce platform, longtail customers are expensive to service from a margin perspective and the strategy doesn’t scale – there is no way to use salespeople and CSRs in an effective way to serve longtail customers in a scalable way. Plus, eCommerce offers the opportunity to collect the data and insights you can use to sell these buyers even more.

Meeting your business objectives means choosing the right technology: One that gets up and running fast and gives you the customer understanding you need to provide them with an experience that generates sales. What this takes is data.

Right now, all of your essential data is sitting in the back end – SAP ERP – and never gets to the front end. You’re switching back and forth between systems, providing what is likely inaccurate information because the two systems aren’t talking to each other in real-time and each one is providing different information. Where is the single source of truth?

It begins with integration and ends with the right eCommerce platform

The right Salesforce-SAP integration solution needs the ability to virtualize data and allow for bidirectional updates of the data both in the SAP ERP and the Salesforce CRM. This allows changes in SAP to be reflected in real-time in the Salesforce CRM.

The solution you choose should also be able to be modified to meet your unique integration needs. It should also allow for a rapid, low-risk implementation process that is up and running in days with no risk of any downtime, business disruption, or coding/testing on your part.

Once integration is complete, it’s time to implement your eCommerce platform. Look for a vendor with custom modules that can have you up and running in weeks. This type of solution costs about 33% less than others.

You’ve waited long enough to start your digital transformation. Increased revenue, efficiency, happy customers, and distributors await!

The right implementation choices turn B2B eCommerce challenges into opportunities

Whether it’s a direct customer or a distributor, your success is going to be defined by the customer experience. To give them what they want, you need data. Real-time data that serves as a single source of truth in a single interface.

This means integrating your SAP business logic — which contains your custom pricing, configurations, and other essential information — into your front end. The enosix solution can do this within days to provide the critical data you need for the experience your customers want – schedule a demo today.

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