The Road to B2B
Logging into your typical business-to-business commerce site is like a step into ecommerce days forgotten. These stripped-down, circa 1990 Honda Accords are made to get you from here to there, but they’re not going to impress anyone on the drive. I would wager that most B2B sites today are still just a minimal user interface frame over a robust ERP drive train. Just cranking it up can rattle the doors off.
The Past Has Passed
Over the past fifteen or so years, B2C matured at a quick pace while B2B stayed relatively stagnant. Sure B2B users had specific requests: purchase orders, payment on credit, request a quote, quick ordering, and maybe even custom pricing and catalogs, or, if you really needed it, parent-child account approval, but that’s all custom development, and it’s gonna cost you, and why are you doing that to an Accord?
On the other hand, B2C is the souped-up, custom Hello Kitty Ferrari. Everyone is screaming “Faster! Flashier! More! More!” and so that is what the great platform builders gave them. Full of functionality you never knew you needed and built to handle as much traffic as you can throw at it.
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If you wanted a B2B site and chose to start with an enterprise platform, like Magento or Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware), most of this robust native functionality is being turned off and you’re left wondering where the value is, especially if you still need to custom-build B2B functionality. If your average order value was high (in the $500+ range) your business could require enterprise software to handle only a few hundred orders a month. Hello Kitty Ferraris are built for performance and you’re driving one just to get to the grocery store and back, and where is the trunk on this thing.
Mobile: A Reset Button
Luckily we have the great mediator: mobile. Suddenly every pixel is important again, and you can’t get away with adding in a bunch of flashy-flash just because you have the screen space. At the same time, B2B has grown up, they realized their clients were learning to shop on B2C sites and expected the same user experience or better, no matter where they do their shopping. Several recent reports have been published around B2B that reveal that ecommerce is quickly evolving into the buying method of choice. According to a 2014 Forrester report, 69% of B2B companies expect to stop publishing print catalogs within the next three to five years, moving instead to mobile-friendly versions that can be viewed on tablets or mobile devices.
This merging of mindsets and fundamentals across platforms is what I see as the next phase of ecommerce. Sure B2B clients are going to require specific functionality and B2C clients are going to want to customize and personalize. But at the end of the day, the goal is to provide a platform that you can tailor to your unique business processes that guarantees a seamless transaction process.
The Platforms Have Stepped Up
As I write this, Magento is putting the final touches on their newest B2B module which does a great job of checking the boxes of some of the most requested custom B2B functionality. At the same time, they listened to feedback and revised licensing pricing structure to make the platform more economical for B2B businesses with high average order values.
With Commerce Cloud, you can use the same cloud to engage both B2B buyers and customers across the same or separate sites. Multiple price books, quantity step rules, volume pricing, targeted promotions, and content help create optimal B2B buying environments.
Blue Acorn iCi has worked with several brands to enhance their B2B customer experiences, including SouthernCarlson and Crane Stationery. If you’d like to learn how we can help your B2B company, reach out to a member of our team here.
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