The makings of a best-of-breed B2B site

February 19, 2015 Written by NetSphere Category: B2B
The makings of a best-of-breed B2B site

Last October, Internet Retailer published its 2015 Guide to B2B eCommerce. In it, the editors heralded that U.S. B2B eCommerce companies would generate $1 trillion in sales in 2014, significantly surpassing B2C eCommerce sales. With so many sales opportunities on the line, it’s not surprising to hear that B2B businesses are upping the ante when it comes to marketing their companies. 

Although there can be some overlap in regard to how both B2B and B2C businesses go to market, there are a few specific methods for B2B businesses to leverage that can drastically improve the way customers interact with their digital assets.

The following are best-of-breed features and functionality that need to be on a must-have list when business leaders look to re-platform or enhance their online B2B business. By employing these features and functionality, B2B businesses can make it easier for their buyers to conduct business with their organizations.

Automated contract pricing and purchasing

When you automate contract pricing and purchases with your customers, clients and business partner community, it’s easier to internally manage relationships, roles, entitlements and workflow approvals based on predefined rules and contract terms. It also is a major perk for the individuals that do business with you. When tactical tasks can be automated, more time can be spent on strategy.

Self-help services

By providing self-help services to your buyers, it enables them to submit their own orders and review their order history on their own timeframe. When you can allow buyers to manage more of their own sales orders, it frees up time for your own sales force to spend more time hunting for new buyers versus managing current ones. After all, almost all things in life have been automated and digitized. So shouldn’t that be the case for B2B transactions, as well?

Centralized control

Centrally managing all your selling channels – B2B, B2C, call centers, kiosks, microsites and mobile – from a single access point or multisite hub reduces operational and duplication costs while sharing digital assets commonly shared between sites to amortize operational costs. Centralized control also streamlines the process of ensuring brand and product integrity as well as sales execution of site-specific campaigns and promotions.

The benefit of consolidating web sprawl into a multisite installation is the seller's ability to manage a single set of assets, which are shared among the many sites, as cost effectively as possible. Digital assets that can be shared are the catalog, presentation logic (HTML/CSS – look and feel of the site), marketing campaigns/promotions, business policies (same payment/shipment policies) and pricing.

Master catalogs

A master catalog can leverage filters to allow buyers to view and manage only those products of the master catalog they have the ability to purchase and resell; entitle buyers to access a subset of your master catalog. A master catalog can also leverage pricing rules to re-price products based on the price list offer minus a mark-down percentage.

Responsive design

More than 50 percent of eCommerce traffic today is through mobile devices, proving that responsive design isn’t just for B2C sites. Therefore, if you want to give your B2B customers the same experience that B2C consumers enjoy, responsive design is a must. Busy B2B professionals are looking for digital support through their smart phones and tablet devices, not just for purchases, but for browsing, as well. With responsive design, a web page automatically adjusts to fit the screen resolution or device size – providing a consistent user experience no matter the touch point.

Tools with business users in mind

In today’s fast-paced world, workloads are growing in size – especially for the IT team. When a business leverages tools that come bundled with eCommerce solutions, like a page layout tool designed with business users in mind, marketers can compose their own web pages without having to rely on the IT department. When these tasks can be offloaded to business users, digital initiatives can launch according to the marketing department’s timeline as opposed to IT’s. This also allows the IT team to focus on their ever-growing list of technical to-dos.  

Robust search

If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for, they may be compelled to look and then buy elsewhere. A robust search solution, however, can allow buyers to find products faster. This can include search features like faceted search, search-based merchandising and product recommendations, all supported by business user tools that enable product attribute-level control.

Multi-faceted search allows buyers to specify one or more product attributes to drill down and return a short list of products versus returning a large amount of data based on general search terms for the buyer to filter through – a time consuming and unproductive effort; extend search to include not only the product catalog but the entire B2B website, as well.

It’s also recommended that buyers be given the ability to sort by rules defined and managed by the marketing team to return search results prioritized on high/low inventory levels, most/least expensive product categories, brands and product ratings, just to name a few. Type-ahead prediction and autocomplete functionality for search terms are also essential for providing a buyer with a time-efficient way to find products. For example, when a user starts typing in search terms, autocomplete can dynamically return predictions in the form of a dropdown pick list.

In the end, automation can always serve as an effective method to streamline operations so that businesses can focus on strategic initiatives as opposed to dealing with tactical tasks. More importantly, these robust technologies will ultimately create a B2C experience for B2B users, making it easier for them to conduct business with you – a win-win for everyone.

Ecommerce Tailored to B2B

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Abbe Miller is the marketing manager at NetSphere Strategies, located just outside Chicago. NetSphere Strategies is a boutique eCommerce company positioned to help businesses transform their online presence by providing a full complement of services that starts with our strategic consulting and creative design teams, then continues with building innovative solutions and providing ongoing post-project support.