(This is a guest post from our friends over at OroCommerce, the first purposefully built from the ground up open source B2B eCommerce platform.)
The eCommerce software market is full of excellent solutions which can make it difficult to decide on the right tool for your business. If you’re selling to manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and resellers, you may start your search with a purpose-built B2B eCommerce solution. However, there are many resources suggesting that, with enough B2B plugins and integrations, you can quickly make a typical eCommerce system B2B-capable.
In this post we will analyze if there is a grain of truth in these suggestions.
Native B2B eCommerce Features vs Add-on’s
Business software is built for a specific market in mind and more often than not is designed to help businesses address specific business challenges. With eCommerce being a relatively young market (Amazon sold its first book back in 1995), many eCommerce platforms grew from primarily offering their solutions to businesses selling to consumers. Some of the most popular ones include Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce.
Many of such platforms have a variety of applications and extensions that can tailor an eCommerce site for any conceivable need, including B2B selling. At first glance, the only drawback to that would be high development cost and increased website complexity.
But that’s not the entire picture.
Business customers require shopping experiences that accommodate them at the company level, with corporate account structures allowing different permissions for different roles. Since B2B catalogs are usually large and complex, businesses customers prefer personalized catalogs and quick-order forms with pre-negotiated or quoted prices. Payment preferences for B2Bs vary widely, with some businesses being constrained by budget limits, others preferring contract pricing, and others still preferring to negotiate their terms.
B2B customers want B2C-like, not B2C experiences when shopping.”Yoav Kutner, Founder and CEO of OroCommerce
That is, a B2B eCommerce platform is not just a shopping cart, it’s a lot more”, continues Kutner. “It’s designed to help business customers purchase quickly and easily on personalized self-service portals with checkout workflows and payment options they require. B2B eCommerce systems help sales teams be more efficient, whether they’re on mobile devices, using the CMS or the built-in CRM system.”
In order to make the right decision and avoid pitfalls, you need to understand what awaits you with a B2B-modified B2C eCommerce platform vs. a purpose-built B2B eCommerce platform.
7 Benefits of Purpose-built B2B eCommerce Software
See the top benefits of native B2B eCommerce platforms:
1. Flexibility and Customization
When you sell to the public, aside from an odd discount or loyalty program, there aren’t that many things to worry about. Customers add their items to cart, go to checkout, and you thank them for their order.
- There is no need to display different prices to different customers.
- There is no need to offer unique checkout workflows for every customer.
- There are no minimum order sizes or order quantity limits to deal with.
- There are no complex payment methods like ACH or procurement punchout to worry about.
- There is no need to deal with quotation and order approval processes from parent/child business accounts.
A B2B eCommerce platform needs to accommodate everyone from resellers, brokers, businesses, and their stakeholders. Even with extensive B2B add-ons, B2C platforms are not optimized for long-term business relationships maintained through unique customer experiences. They’re not designed to ensure businesses are well-informed and their requirements are met before a purchase takes place.
2. Future-proof your Store
While your B2C eCommerce platform may work great today, your requirements can change in the future. This can cost you valuable time in searching and developing workarounds, extensions, or in extreme cases, replatforming.
With an out-of-the-box B2B eCommerces solution, you don’t stay in an endless cycle of scrambling for extensions. Even if your needs change over time, you won’t have to worry if changes to one plugin might impact another one. For example, OroCommerce offers not only B2B-specific features but a CMS, built-in CRM, and SEO optimization tools crucial to any B2C eCommerce platform.
3. Improve Performance
Since B2C eCommerce platforms are not designed for the demanding needs of B2B, you’ll be constantly adding B2B extensions, which can negatively impact performance. And, as you add more of them, you can expect to spend more time configuring or fixing compatibility issues or bugs within your system.
If you opt for a SaaS solution such as Shopify or BigCommerce, not only will you encounter a limited B2B feature set, you’ll also be locked into a SaaS vendor that doesn’t allow you to individually optimize your pages. All these factors can have a detrimental effect on the overall performance of your eCommerce store.
Many popular B2C eCommerce platforms offer a long list of integrations, some of which are B2B and enterprise-focused. Many, however, do not have a powerful API that can share B2B-specific data or accommodate complex integrations.
While a B2C eCommerce system might integrate with a CRM, ERP, PIM, or a procurement punchout system, it won’t fully communicate with complex B2B processes that have also been added on. And, since B2B eCommerce platforms offer B2B features out of the box, data can be accurately synced and transferred between a variety of business systems you already use.
Investing in a platform you won’t use to its full potential is never a good idea. To access B2B tools on a B2C solution, you must first invest in a B2C solution (a poor fit at its core) to potentially make use of their B2B offering.
For online B2C retailers who are exploring new markets, a B2B add-on may be just what the doctor ordered. However, as your business grows, you may be stuck in a position where you always have to tailor your solution to your requirements. Secondly, developers are expensive, whether you’re hiring in-house, working with a freelancer, or an agency, and that’s also something to keep in mind.
6. Roles and access options
Unlike B2C businesses, B2Bs must be able to appeal to many different business structures with different divisions, departments, managers, and employees. Thus, eCommerce systems must accommodate various scenarios ranging from allowing pre-registered customers to order online, to preventing lower-level employees from making purchases. For example, you may be only selling through a network of approved vendors who require access to areas of your store. You may also want businesses to create a primary account with child accounts, and provide them with different access and workflow permissions.
7. Go-to Market Time
Adding endless B2B plugins and extensions on your B2C eCommerce platform is not only hard on your wallet, but takes time, too. In order to present you with the right solution, developers must become familiar with your system and gain an understanding of what you want to accomplish – all which slows down your time to market. All in all, a B2B eCommerce platform saves you time that would otherwise be spent on outlining, developing, and implementing all sorts of B2B customizations.
How to Choose Right Solution for Your Business
The eCommerce industry is experiencing tremendous growth, and most of that growth is observed in B2B eCommerce. It’s no surprise that many B2C eCommerce vendors are positioning themselves as all-inclusive B2B eCommerce solutions. Most of them, however, do not have the necessary capabilities to address the specific needs of B2B sellers and their customers.
Therefore, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you start your B2B eCommerce platform search by exploring B2B add-ons for a B2C platform. Once you spend time going over what your customers really want, you’ll find that a purpose-built B2B eCommerce platform comes with all the features you need, and then some.