The market for B2B eCommerce platforms is quite diverse, and offers something for everyone. It can take a while to choose the right system for your current needs, especially if you’ve never operated in this field before. However, taking care to ensure that you’re making the right choice can benefit you significantly in the long run, and can remove many of the hassles associated with expanding your operations.
Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Platform from the Start
Investing in the right B2B eCommerce solution is a crucial choice when starting a business in this field. Some business owners seem to be under the assumption that they can just pick something that covers their initial needs, and move on to a better system in the future once they expand. But the reality is that you’re setting up for a lot of trouble if you go down that road, especially if your old system has serious compatibility issues with the setup of the one you’ve chosen later. There are many points to consider here, and if you want to save yourself from all the trouble associated with migrating your data and re-integrating the new system into your operations, you should do your best to get things done properly from the very beginning.
Points to Consider
If you’ve explored the B2B eCommerce platform market, you’ve probably seen a good number of solutions available. You should approach your search with a concrete plan, knowing exactly what kinds of features you’re looking for, and what scale you plan to operate on. If you’ve taken the time to prepare those details in advance, finding the right system can be as simple as checking off items from a list.
- Feature Availability
The most important thing to consider is, of course, the range of features offered by each platform. A good B2B eCommerce platform needs to account for the unique purchasing cycle involved in the B2B market, and provide you with options for fine-grained customization of each customer’s experience. However, bigger isn’t always better in this world. If you plan on keeping things at a relatively small scale with your store, investing in the biggest, most feature-rich platform can actually backfire. Not only because you’ll end up paying for features that you never use, but also because you’ll be greatly increasing the complexity of its maintenance.
It’s not uncommon for B2B customers to do their shopping on the go, using mobile phones and tablets along with regular computers and laptops. A proper B2B eCommerce solution should have a responsive design that doesn’t take any extra adjustment to integrate properly, and it should be tested across a wide range of devices to ensure compatibility. This is going to become increasingly more important in the coming months and years, as the number of users shopping from mobile devices continues to grow.
- Per-customer Customization
One of the most important features you’ll want to look out for is the ability to customize each buyer’s experience as precisely as possible. The B2B market is very different from the B2C one in this regard, as deals are often negotiated heavily before a purchase is made, and buyers will expect to see that reflected in their own shopping experience. It’s not just about prices either – you should be able to customize the way your catalogs are displayed, customer service availability, and more.
- Payment Methods
If you want to spare yourself a lot of trouble, you should look for a B2B eCommerce platform that offers seamless integration with a wide range of payment providers. This is a common roadblock with less developed systems, as the workload required to manually integrate additional payment solutions can be significant. Not only that, but it will be up to you to maintain those manual integrations in the long run, as opposed to having it all managed by the software vendor.
- Integration with Current Systems
Speaking of integrations, you will also want to invest in a system that plays well with your current infrastructure. A B2B store typically has a lot more in the backend than a B2C one, like warehouse inventory management, accounting, invoicing, and more. Like payment methods, it may be possible to manually integrate those in a system that doesn’t support them out of the box – but do you want to burden yourself with that?
- Ongoing Cost
A cheaper license may seem like an attractive deal, but you should consider all aspects of the package other than how much you will be paying to the vendor. If you need to make constant adjustments to the platform, this will be an additional cost of its own, even if you’re not paying it directly as part of your license. Sometimes, more expensive B2B eCommerce platforms come with various extra benefits, like prioritized support and free upgrades for new features (where applicable). Running a proper cost analysis before committing to a specific purchase can save you a lot of money in the long run.
How popular a B2B eCommerce platform is can be more important than you might think. Some see it as a simple sign of reliability, but it goes beyond that. A popular platform used by a large number of other people means that you’ll have a higher chance of resolving issues yourself through searching the internet. With proper customer support, that shouldn’t come up too often, but it can still be nice to know that you have more control over resolving potential issues with the solution.
Take your time to review what’s available carefully. You’ll ideally only make this decision once, and you’ll be able to reap its benefits for years to come if you play your cards right. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking that you can just upgrade to a better system if your current one doesn’t meet your demands in the long run. This is very likely to cause problems down the road, especially if you anticipate rapid growth of your operations at some point, and want to be prepared for that from the very beginning.