This post was written with help from our partners at OrderCloud.io by Four51, an API-First ecommerce platform which provides developers the ability to build custom, cloud-deployed applications to solve complex B2B ecommerce and order management challenges.
When it comes to ecommerce, planning for a business-to-business (B2B) application can be daunting. Simply put, B2B is complex. There are multiple layers of functionality that lay on top of a standard storefront which is unique to every single B2B company. Rather than having a simple buyer and seller, such as in a B2C scenario, there are multiple sales channels for which customers order through. In fact, sometimes the “buyer” is also a “seller,” and vice versa.
On top of this, B2B companies often require approval workflows, unique pricing, and products based on the buyer, multiple payment methods, complex tax rules, organizational hierarchy, unique fulfillment capabilities, and the list goes on.
It’s safe to say that B2B ecommerce is not just about having an online storefront. So, what’s the best place to even get started? We reached out to Irish Titan and OrderCloud.io Business Analysts, Digital Strategists, UX Designers, and Lead Developers to get their take on best practices when planning for your B2B ecommerce application.
8 Important Things to Consider When Mapping Out Your B2B Ecommerce Requirements
Who Is Your Buyer?
"When starting to build a B2B solution, take the time to understand who is doing the ordering, and the relationship they have to the seller. Ask yourself: What is this buyer's pricing? What products should they be able to see? What are their payment options? and more." -Christie Ulrich, OrderCloud.io Business Analyst
“Every great user experience is grounded in well defined personas. Investing the time in researching, documenting, and detailing these will get stakeholder and resource alignment across teams to make sure the end product is begotten from a holistic perspective that solves real problems and has real value to real people. With custom software, there aren't any boundaries, so all we can do is follow the customer and use those insights and pain points to determine what’s worth building, and what's just fluff.” -Matt Duea, Irish Titan Engagement Planner
What Is The Order Workflow?
"A B2B order flow is more distributed than a B2C order flow. B2C typically looks like: Customer places order, then order gets fulfilled. In B2B, it's common to have a hierarchy of approvers on the buyer side and seller side before the order is sent for fulfillment." -Nathan Clay, OrderCloud.io Senior Business Analyst
What Is The Buyer’s Journey?
"One of the keys to a positive buyer journey is empowering the buyer, especially in B2B ecommerce. The vast majority of true lead generation in B2B is done via word of mouth. Your site should easily and comprehensively back up any claims made by brand champions (those recommending your brand and causing leads to perform organic, branded searches for your company). This can be accomplished by ensuring all site content and products are easily navigable, sortable and filterable. Additionally, having appropriate detailed product content not only enforces brand dominance but subsequently reinforces your company's expertise to site crawlers, thereby increasing domain authority in your given vertical.” -Tom Hodson, Irish Titan Engagement Planner
“As we move through various stages of qualification as buyers, our needs change as we become more and more informed. Make sure your content is designed to overcome objections during each decision point, and identify a clear path to purchase for each targeted persona: from Discovery, Evaluation, Consideration, Purchase, and re-engagement”. -Matt Duea, Irish Titan Engagement Planner
What Business Problem Are They Trying To Solve?
“B2B ecommerce is not always about revenue; often times it’s more about business cost-savings and operational efficiencies. Understanding the customer's current processes, and then automating them or making them self-service is key." -Ashley Bishop, OrderCloud.io Business Analyst
What Integrations Are Required?
“More and more 3rd parties are making custom software to solve specific problems. Because of this, integrations are becoming so important, so a lot of attention needs to be placed on what problem the customer is trying to solve, and what technology they want to integrate with to solve it." -Nick Ice, OrderCloud.io Integration Engineer
What Should a B2B Product Page Look Like?
“When making decisions about page structure and product catalog organization on an ecommerce site it is important to consider whether the experience is appropriate for your target personas and whether the pages generated can be expected to garner user interest and organic search traffic. Product types and product attributes, including how pricing is displayed, should be organized and presented using the appropriate categories, subcategories, and product filters to best meet user needs”. -Brian Cole, Irish Titan Experience Planner
“In terms of positioning a product page for search engine discovery, remember to distinguish yourself from retailers (if in a B2B2C model) through unique content. Don't use the same old product descriptions as everyone else. Leverage whatever schema markup makes sense to use, given the product info you have available, to make sure product attributes are easily identified by crawlers.” -Matt Duea, Irish Titan Engagement Planner
Will The Buyer be Ordering on a Mobile Device?
“2016 was the year responsive design became the norm. A huge spectrum of screen sizes and ubiquitous high-speed internet have relegated term to a mere bullet point in the greater design process. The emergence of mainstream user-centric design will allow businesses to focus on buyers first with confidence that their ecommerce site will perform no matter the device”. - Peter Tressler, Irish Titan UX Designer
What Pricing And Payment Options are Needed For Each Buyer?
“Very often in B2B cases, pricing and payment are unique to a user’s role. Identifying user-specific variables early on in planning helps expose needs for different buyer groups and multiple storefronts, minimizing architectural challenges after development had begun”. - Matt Duea, Irish Titan Engagement Planner
“Optimal payment options come from research. Leverage analytics and user testing into a knowledge base that will inform the 'what' and the 'why' during the checkout process.
Customers expect a simple transaction, no matter the medium. Keep it easy by offering multiple checkout options and allowing purchases without an account. By catering to user expectations you reduce cart abandonment. If customers are turned off by a poor experience and leave, they are much less likely to return”. - Peter Tressler, UX Designer Irish Titan
To build a successful B2B ecommerce application and ordering site, you need two things:
1. A flexible technology such as OrderCloud.io, an ecommerce platform ready to solve complex B2B ecommerce and order management challenges.
2. The right website implementation partner like Irish Titan, a digital agency dedicated to designing ecommerce websites that look good, work well and generate real results.
Combine the two, and you’ve got a partnership that will map out and solve your B2B ecommerce requirements, no matter how complex.