You can’t have enough of it. Taking into account that business reputations can be permanently damaged by a data breach or ransomware attack, nothing is too much for the sake of security.
There are over 30,000 websites hacked every single day. If you are connected to the internet, you are fair game, there are no rules. Over 60% of companies use passwords that never expire and therefore are never changed. That’s like locking the front door and leaving the window open.
Choosing a B2B ecommerce platform that provides SSL certificates and strong PCI protection is a must in order to comply with financial and security regulations.
The magic number(s) for ecommerce page loading is 2-3 seconds, anything longer than that will lose customers. Patience is not a virtue nowadays. Clients want to be able to zip through the ordering and payment processes as quickly as possible.
Businesses expect high performance websites that deliver quality impressions. Lags, crashes and bad formatting will not be well received, and customers will rapidly become uncustomers.
Even a performance increase of a tenth of a second will positively affect sales and SEO rankings.
Creating a good connection between you and your clients is vital for the business, and making them feel valued is paramount.
Having a great customer service experience that removes all communications barriers will do wonders in client retention. 24/7 support with chatbots as well as humans is a necessity, and follow up communication when orders are fulfilled. Excellent customer service opens up opportunities to engage with old and new clients.
User interface and experience
On mobile devices, we have become used to cool interfaces and experiences, as the top B2C digital companies fight for the #1 spot in their field. We feel drawn into a family when we support a particular brand, and the experience becomes even more personal when we provide our details for subscriptions.
It’s different for B2B operations. Relationships are nurtured and trust is the ultimate goal. Clients must be able to find any information they require quickly and easily, whether it is about a new product or shipping fees.
Even though most of the communication and ordering will be done online, the personal touch cannot be ignored.
There are B2B platforms with legendary customer support and CRM, allowing you to take complete advantage of data generated by sales.
Some B2B ecommerce platforms allow you to create complex client loyalty tiers, with personalized price structures.
Integration and 3rd party software
Depending on the size of the company, any mid to large one will need Enterprise Resource Planning software to boost productivity and use data consistently. ERP falls into several different categories encompassing all aspects of business. It’s expensive but necessary.
You want the platform to grow as you grow, that’s a given. But some platforms change their pricing strategy when a business passes an income threshold, and it’s worth checking out the adjustments before committing.
All businesses have to manage their physical stock levels, and if a B2B ecommerce platform offers an inventory management system, why not use it?
Knowing exactly how many wotnots there are is only a small part of tracking. A good inventory management system will be able to control and monitor all products from the supplier to the customer, with warehouse storage in between.
The monitoring is excellent at providing data on turnover and sales.
On to the platforms
Before we go ahead, there are basically three different types of ecommerce platforms. Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Open Source.
SaaS are cheap, fairly easy to set up but lack flexibility.
PaaS are more customizable with extra integrations, themes and extensions, and usually more expensive.
Open Source is generally free but you will need a team of developers to make it work to your liking, and extensions are not cheap.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some offerings, in no particular order.
Owned by Adobe since 2018, this is an Open Source platform with a very large community. It was a B2B platform leader in the 2020 rankings by Forrester, and has plenty of huge companies that use the software.
Pros – Very flexible, unlimited store front designs, basics are very cheap.
Cons – Good coding knowledge needed, extensions very expensive, time consuming to set up.
VTEX Commerce Platform
Founded in 2000, this SaaS is not well known yet, but looks after some seriously big corporations, such as Coca Cola, Walmart and Nestle.
Pros – Flexible and fast to set up, lower costs, every size from small to large retailer.
Cons – Majority of official paperwork is in Portuguese, UI is difficult to master.
A cloud based SaaS product that has received high ratings from users, Pepperi provides all sizes of businesses with the tools they need for mobile sales and CRM.
Pros – debt, discount and price management features, apps for Android and iOS devices.
Cons – Starts at $500/month, increases if more product modules and sales rep licenses are needed.
An Open Source plug-in, Woo-Commerce runs alongside WordPress as an online B2B store. Used by Tesla and Samsung, it’s one of the most popular platforms.
Pros – Easy to install and customize (but you need developers), one time licence fee with free updates, Multi language/currency support.
Cons – IT help needed for integrations, paid plugins, performance issues if you’re not careful with the plug-ins.
Another lesser known platform, Shopware is based in Germany and fully complies with the GDPR regulations for the EU. Still in its youthful stage, development is moving along swiftly. Shopware 6 is the latest iteration.
Pros – Loads of functionalities, professional plugins, high frontend speed.
Cons – Payment gateway tricky to implement, basic CMS.
The world’s first B2B platform with built in artificial intelligence tools for marketing. Using multiple channels, a business can customize shopping experiences and increase sales. Maintained and supported by Powerweave Software Solutions.
Pros – Easy to transition from old to new website, excellent search options for clients.
Cons – Glitches in image uploads, adding new products should be easier.
Some say that Oro is the one true B2B platform for medium to large companies. It provides many features including workflow management, user authorization, multiple pricing sets and a large variety of form templates for sales, purchases and invoices.
Pros – Complete ecosystem, CRM integration, customer portal, entities manager, perpetual licence fee.
Cons – The architecture is not easy to customize unless you have an experienced developer, and the learning curve is big.
Focussing on the apparel and footwear wholesale market alone, EnvoyB2B, a SaaS, is offering a clean way to streamline operations and digitally enable sales reps. Gone are the days of spreadsheets and order books! No pricing available online, and only highly positive comments.
Pros – Significant reduction in human error, faster and easier processing of orders, UX very highly rated.
Cons – Several limitations but this young (2010) company is constantly adding new features.
I haven’t mentioned Shopify Plus or Bigcommerce as there are already stacks of articles written about them and the services they offer.
I wanted to highlight some of the lesser known platforms that consistently do well according to their users, but do not often get the attention they deserve.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, there isn’t a perfect fit scenario for these types of products, but if you research well and listen to your peers, you might get close.