15 June 2023
B2B ecommerce projects: critical factors and opportunities
"Is our company ready to handle the new challenges of online B2B sales and distribution? Are we sure that our competitors do not already offer B2B ecommerce? Do we really believe that our buyers still prefer face-to-face relationships and in-person appointments? Do we think that a simple shop is enough to do B2B ecommerce? Do we think that B2B ecommerce is only suitable for small transactions?" These are some of the questions that companies ask themselves when approaching B2B ecommerce sales projects.
Today, worldwide, 61 per cent of B2B transactions start online and 51 per cent of buyers use social media for the initial supplier search. When the supplier is identified and has a B2B ecommerce in 65% of cases, the sale is completed directly online. Most buyers have learnt to use tools to negotiate and purchase the products they need online. B2B ecommerce is no longer just an online shop but a structured sales channel that allows remote interactions, self-service activities and the customisation of one-to-one relationships. B2B ecommerce has become a MUST HAVE without which companies lose market share and sales opportunities to not only traditional competitors but also possible new entrants in the sector.
Today, the buyer's customer journey in purchasing processes is no longer linear but involves several touch-points. Today's buyer expects an open, connected, intuitive and immediate buying experience. He expects to move easily between all available channels, both online and offline.
The success or otherwise of a B2B ecommerce project is often the result of a digital transformation project that is limited only to sales and distribution processes or that involves the entire company.
The first mistake that can be made in a B2B project is to consider it similar to other B2C projects. Business to Business is profoundly different from Business to Consumer and requires completely different methods, skills and tools from those perhaps used to realise the retail shop.
B2B ecommerce is the business model that makes it possible to respond to all these business needs, generating opportunities for value creation and competitive improvement in terms of increased effectiveness and efficiency of processes and the creation of new business.
The introduction of B2B ecommerce in a company certainly represents a disruptive opportunity provided that all the critical factors that can compromise the success of the project are mitigated.
The main factors are related to:
- Vision and business model
- Strategy and tactics
- Operational processes
In this section, we will analyse these elements in detail in order to ensure that every B2B ecommerce project becomes a success story like the one described in the conclusion.
Visione e modello di business
Vision and business model
The first of the critical factors in a B2B e-commerce project is certainly related to the need for the company to have a clear vision and to have identified the most suitable business model for its goals. This critical factor is probably the most important one within a B2B e-commerce strategy. It is the element that can make the difference and turn a good project into a successful case history.
Very often, companies adopt B2B e-commerce models without having defined and shared their vision and objectives.
Adopting B2B e-commerce has significant impacts on all business processes and represents much more than simply introducing a new sales channel.
Neglecting important elements during the planning phase of the project can have devastating consequences on the success of the project.
A digital transformation project with the introduction of a B2B ecommerce tool can bring about a significant change in the business model adopted by the company.
Adopting a B2B ecommerce opens up new scenarios for companies due to the ability and possibility to manage not only sales but also planning, procurement, materials management, marketing and lead generation processes in a completely new way.
The definition of the vision and business model involves top management at the highest level and must be shared with the rest of the company.
Some of the critical issues or potential critical factors arising from the vision and business model include:
Lack of a clear vision: a lack of a clear vision could lead to poorly defined objectives and strategies;
Wrong choice of business model: choosing the wrong business model could lead to reduced turnover or increased competitive pressure;
Wrong management of existing sales channels: setting up a B2B ecommerce without involving the agent network or existing distributors could have negative effects on the success of the project;
Lack of an effective plan: an ineffective promotion, marketing and implementation plan could lead to reduced sales in all channels;
Lack of resources and expertise: Lack of resources and expertise could, for example, prevent the best promotion of B2B eCommerce and worsen the customer experience.
Vision and business model are critical elements in the implementation of a B2B eCommerce project: lack of a clear vision, choosing the wrong business model, lack of an effective plan and resource problems can be critical factors that need to be addressed to ensure the success of the project.
Strategy and tactics
Once the vision and business model to be adopted by the company has been set, it is very important that the strategy and tactics to implement what has been defined are precisely defined. Some of the critical issues or potential critical factors arising from strategy and tactics include:
- Lack of a defined strategy: without a clear strategy, the project could become disorganised, chaotic and oriented towards unattainable goals. In addition, the lack of a strategy could lead to a project implementation that does not meet customer needs or does not take into account the competition;
- Lack of a shared strategy: a lack of shared objectives could make B2B eCommerce implementation difficult and lead to inefficiencies and financial losses;
Gaps in the project plan: without a detailed project plan, the implementation and adoption of B2B eCommerce could become disorganised and chaotic, causing delays and additional costs;
- Underestimation of the change management challenge: the implementation of a B2B eCommerce requires effective change management to involve staff, the sales network and business partners. Lack of adequate change management can lead to resistance and slow adoption of the new business model and technology tools;
- Lack of market and competitive awareness: competition in the B2B eCommerce market can be intense and it may be difficult to distinguish oneself from competitors. In addition, competitors (current and new entrants) may adopt aggressive tactics to try to steal current customers and consequently market share;
- Market segmentation problems: the lack of proper segmentation of the new market opened up by B2B ecommerce could lead to customer targeting problems and a lack of understanding of buyers' needs;
- Positioning problems: the new positioning of the product or service within the market can be critical to the success of the project. If the positioning is not consistent with the new business model, the product or service may not be considered relevant by customers;
Mismanagement of prices: the prices of products or services within a B2B eCommerce project can be decisive for the success of the project. Failure to pay attention to prices, organised in price lists for various types of customers, may lead to a lack of competitiveness of the product or service distributed via the new channels;
Lack of attention to user experience: the user experience (UX) within a B2B eCommerce project can be critical to the success of the project. If the UX is not adequate, customers may not use the website and prefer competitors with a better user experience;
Gap in skills and experience: the lack of an experienced team could lead to problems in project implementation. This could be caused by a lack of technical knowledge, marketing experience or industry knowledge.
A forward-looking vision and an innovative business model may be thwarted by the absence of an adequate and coherent strategy.
The strategy must translate and be reflected in the redesign and rethinking of the operational processes that must make it possible. It is very important to think about automation and scalability of the business: if processes are still manual and not automated, it may be difficult to handle a high volume of orders. This could lead to human errors, delivery delays and, in general, a negative customer experience. The need to review its flows and procedures exposes the company to critical issues and potential critical factors related to the operations and processes of e.g:
- Sales and CRM: the optimisation and normalisation of relationship management processes with customers, distributors and the sales network is one of the most critical activities for success. Existing customers must be brought to use the new channel and share the benefits and value created by the new business model (find out here how to exploit the full potential of crm);
- Logistics: logistics management can be critical to the success of the project. A lack of attention to logistics could lead to delays in product delivery and a negative customer experience. Non-optimised warehouse management could lead to problems with product availability, overproduction or underproduction of products and, in general, difficulty in meeting customer demands. This requires careful planning of logistics and effective collaboration between the various actors involved (find out how to optimise logistics here);
- Production: production management in the B2B eCommerce context can be complex and require careful planning and management. Without good management of production processes, the project may encounter product availability problems and inefficiencies in the logistics processes mentioned in the previous point;
- Procurement: the processes of purchasing finished goods (for distribution companies) or intermediate goods (for production companies) also play a crucial role in ensuring the success of production and logistics processes;
- Budgeting and management control: the implementation of a B2B eCommerce can entail high costs for the company. Lack of careful cost management can lead to financial problems and the need to reschedule investments as costs increase inappropriately;
- Collection: payment processes must be reliable, fast and secure. Problems during the payment process could lead to delays in product delivery or loss of money. Transferring the same conditions online that customers enjoy during assisted sales is one of the keys to acceptance.
In summary, operations and processes are a critical element in the implementation of a B2B eCommerce project. Poor process integration or inconsistent processes may cause compatibility and communication problems between the various business systems. This could lead to delays in operational activities and product delivery. Poor system integration, manual processes, inventory issues, returns management, logistics management, data security and payment processes can be critical factors that need to be addressed to ensure project success (find out here how to achieve optimised management of all corporate sales channels).
Integration can be one of the most critical issues in the implementation phase of a B2B eCommerce project. Listed below are some potential critical factors due to integration needs (not only technological) that may arise in a B2B eCommerce project:
- Integration with existing systems: the integration of a B2B eCommerce system with the company's existing systems can be complex and require the processing of data and processes in real time. Lack of proper integration can lead to a lack of synchronisation between systems, loss of data and inefficient operations;
- integration with suppliers and partners: integration with the company's suppliers and partners can be a challenge that can generate a lasting and sustainable competitive advantage. The company must work with suppliers and partners to define integration requirements and ensure that all data and processes are properly integrated;
- integration with the order and warehouse management system: integration with the company's order and warehouse management system is critical. The company must ensure that all order, invoicing and shipping data are correctly integrated;
- integration with the accounting system: integration with the company's accounting system must ensure that all invoicing, payment and accounting data are correctly integrated;
- integration with the customer data management system: all customer data, including contact data, previous orders and purchase preferences, must be properly integrated with CRM, marketing automation and loyalty systems;
- integration with collection systems: payments within B2B eCommerce systems follow different logics from B2C and the most suitable tools in line with current practices need to be integrated.
To sum up, integration may be one of the most critical issues in the implementation phase of a B2B eCommerce project. The company must ensure that all data and processes are properly integrated and that updates are made in real time to avoid lack of synchronisation between systems, loss of data and inefficient operations.
As knowledge and the availability of solutions have increased, technology has become an often underestimated factor when choosing ecommerce projects. Technology has become a commodity, that something everyone takes for granted that works until problems arise. In B2B where integrations with business processes are pushed to the highest level, technology is an extremely delicate and critical element.
When companies initiate B2B ecommerce projects, they can turn to two types of interlocutors, depending on whether responsibility for the project lies with marketing or IT.
In the event that the project is entrusted to marketing, the partner that will most likely be involved in the realisation will be the web agency or communications company that has already realised the website or B2C shop. If, on the other hand, the project is entrusted to IT, the interlocutor that will be involved will most likely be the system integrator that supplies the ERP.
Both choices present risks and possible limitations. Entrusting the project to the web agency will most likely lead to a shop based on B2C logic with the use of the most popular open source or SaaS platforms, adapted with a few plugins to manage price lists and the reserved area. The UX will be taken care of and even the SEO and marketing aspects will certainly be managed in the best possible way, but the project will most likely struggle with the logic of integration and synchronisation with ERP, WMS and CRM. On the contrary, entrusting the development to the system integrator will most likely lead to the realisation of an order management interface that is perfectly integrated with the company's processes and systems, but not particularly well taken care of in terms of UX, SEO and marketing functions.
This dichotomy represents a particularly critical and important point that can have a major impact on achieving the desired results. It is very important to entrust the development of the B2B ecommerce project to experienced companies that have the necessary skills and tools in-house to meet all the requirements described.
In addition to the above, technology can lead to several critical issues in a B2B project, including:
- platform choice: B2C platforms cannot be adapted to become B2B with the introduction of simple plugins. B2B ecommerce is more complex and requires ad hoc developments (find out here how to choose the right platform for your business needs);
- need for integration with existing systems: if the technology is not able to integrate with the customer's existing systems, it could create difficulties in using and managing business information;
- difficulty in adaptation: the technology may require cultural and organisational adaptation of the company. If the company is unable to adapt to the change, it may cause inefficiencies and financial losses;
scalability problems: failure to consider the scalability of B2B eCommerce could lead to problems when volumes grow. This could lead to a decrease in performance, delays in product delivery and a decrease in customer satisfaction.
- limitations in the technology used could prevent the ability to handle rapid business growth, causing problems with performance, reliability and availability;
User experience: the technology platform used may not provide a smooth and effective online shopping experience for B2B customers, which could negatively impact buyer satisfaction and sales conversion;
- economic impact: the adoption of advanced technologies may entail high costs for the company, especially if it is unable to fully exploit the benefits it offers;
maintenance and support: a B2B eCommerce requires constant maintenance and technical support from the supplier. If the supplier is unable to provide adequate support, this may cause interruptions in the customer's operations;
- data security: the technology used in a B2B project could be vulnerable to security threats, such as theft of sensitive data, violation of privacy, etc. This could cause reputational damage and loss of revenue. This could cause reputational damage and financial losses;
- implementation limitations: the technical implementation of B2B eCommerce may be complex and require specialised technical skills. Lack of appropriate skills may cause problems in the implementation and maintenance of the technology.
In summary, critical technology-related issues in a B2B project may be initially underestimated and then have major impacts and consequences on the success of the project. It is necessary to have a complete picture of the potential risks and to implement all necessary measures to immunise them. The starting point is in the choice of the best technology partner to be entrusted with the project.
There are numerous opportunities to increase the effectiveness of sales processes resulting from the introduction of B2B eCommerce. Below are some examples of benefits generated by the introduction of a B2B eCommerce:
- Improved customer experience: a B2B eCommerce enables customers to place orders more quickly and easily, improving the customer experience. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction and business loyalty;
- Increased sales: digital transformation makes it possible to reach a larger audience and increase sales volume. In addition, the data collected through the eCommerce system can be used to offer customised products and services to customers, improving the relevance of offers and increasing the likelihood of purchase;
- Greater accuracy in inventory management: new tools and procedures allow inventory to be managed more accurately, reducing the risk of errors and outdated stock. This means that products can be managed more effectively, allowing for better matching of supply and demand and reducing inventory costs;
- Greater process transparency: using a B2B eCommerce system allows sales processes to be monitored more accurately and provides greater transparency into the company's performance. This means that the data can be used to analyse results and identify possible areas for improvement;
- Increased competitiveness: the use of a B2B eCommerce system can increase a company's competitiveness, enabling it to reach a wider audience and offer products and services more effectively. This can lead to an increase in market share and an improvement in the company's reputation.
In summary, the adoption of B2B eCommerce can create numerous opportunities to increase the effectiveness of not only sales processes. Improved customer experience, increased sales, greater staff efficiency, more accurate inventory management, increased process transparency and increased competitiveness are just a few examples of how a B2B eCommerce can create a significant competitive advantage for the company.
Introducing B2B eCommerce in a company can bring numerous opportunities to increase efficiency and improve sales processes. Some examples are listed below:
- Increased efficiency in operations management: the adoption of a B2B eCommerce system can automate and simplify sales processes, improving the efficiency of operations and enabling the company to handle a greater volume of transactions;
- Increased staff efficiency: digitisation can reduce manual work and repetitive tasks, allowing staff to focus on high value-added tasks. This means that staff can be deployed more effectively and repetitive tasks can be performed more accurately and reliably;
- Increased transaction speed: introducing a B2B eCommerce system can reduce transaction times and improve process efficiency. Orders can be processed more quickly, enabling customers to receive products more quickly;
- Increased availability: using B2B eCommerce makes products more accessible to customers, whenever and wherever they are. This means that customers can place orders more quickly and easily;
- Increased order accuracy: by automating processes, the adoption of a B2B eCommerce can increase the accuracy of orders and reduce the risk of human error. This translates into higher customer satisfaction and greater staff efficiency;
- Cost reduction: a B2B eCommerce can reduce the costs associated with selling. For example, inventory management and shipping costs can be reduced by automating order management processes and reducing human errors;
- Customisation of offers: customised products can be offered to improve customer loyalty to the company by collecting data on customers, their behaviour and preferences.
In summary, the adoption of B2B eCommerce can bring numerous opportunities to increase efficiency and improve sales processes. Concrete benefits for the company include reduced costs, increased transaction speed, increased accessibility, increased order accuracy and customised offers.
New business opportunities
In-company B2B eCommerce can open up numerous opportunities to generate new business through various growth trajectories:
- geographical expansion: it is possible to easily reach new potential customers worldwide, enabling the company to expand to new geographical markets;
- new market segments: it is feasible to attack new market segments, e.g. small and medium-sized enterprises, that may not have been previously reached;
- new products and services: it is feasible to introduce new products and services, or to offer customised products and services that meet customers' needs more effectively;
- increased sales through cross-selling: it is possible to collect data on customers, their purchases and their needs, useful to suggest complementary or related products, increasing sales through cross-selling;
- increased upselling opportunities: the use of a B2B eCommerce system makes it possible to collect data on customers, their purchases and their needs, which can be used to offer higher-end products and services, increasing upselling opportunities.
In summary, a B2B eCommerce can open up numerous opportunities to develop new business, allowing the company to expand to new geographic markets, reach new market segments, offer new products and services, and increase sales through cross-selling and upselling.
brandsdistribution.com, a B2B2C marketplace for fashion distribution also in dropshipment
BrandsDistribution started operating in online B2B fashion distribution in 2011 with the aim of becoming in a few years
- a distribution channel capable of flanking traditional distribution in an omnichannel logic with a B2B2C model based on dropshipment
- a single interlocutor in online destruction for companies in the fashion world throughout their value cycle;
the ideal partner for fashion companies that want to expand their boundaries quickly, extensively and effectively.
This vision has been supported by a consistent business model and strategy that has led BrandsDistribution to become in just over 10 years
- an online B2B distribution marketplace connected to the leading online/offline players in an ever-growing network of more than 400,000 retailers in over 80 countries;
- a fashion distribution model based on dropshipment with B2C retailers integrated in real time via API, plugins and webservices;
- an excellence that uses top technology to distribute Italian fashion around the world with the best logistics-distribution processes.
BrandsDistribution responds to the needs of retailers, chain shops, online sellers, and large online groups that want to push their business in the online fashion sector. The marketplace connects supply and demand in real time. A product uploaded to the brandsdistribution.com catalogue becomes visible (thanks to the sharing of photos and multilingual descriptions) within minutes on over 500 sites worldwide and starts being ordered as soon as end customers are informed of the new arrival. Optimised logistical processes are able to guarantee delivery of the order to the end customer anywhere in the world within two days after receipt of confirmation with payment.
Rewix, the eXP B2B platform used by BrandsDistribution
BrandsDistribution is one of the B2B ecommerce projects realised with Rewix: the eCommerce eXperience Platform (EXP) that enables companies and brands to distribute and sell their products across all B2B sales channels within digital sales rooms (DSR), marketplaces and integrated B2B2C supply chain models.
Rewix is not:
- just a simple order-entry interface linked to your business management system.
- a B2C platform configured for the B2B sales model using a myriad of often incompatible plugins and extensions.
- just an advanced ecommerce platform integrated with the Customer Data Platform and marketing automation.
Rewix is the enterprise-class integrated EXP sales platform, specifically designed for manufacturers and distributors who want to sell their products and services in global markets with B2C/B2B and B2B2C sales models.
Rewix is the fast, flexible and secure platform that combines eCommerce, CRM, marketing automation and analytics functions all within a single integrated suite supported by Artificial Intelligence agents.
Rewix is the scalable, reliable, fast, secure, flexible, integrated and modular SaaS solution to make your business ready for the future of B2B digital selling.