How to Get a B2B E-Commerce Implementation on the Right Track [Interview]

B2B E-Commerce ImplementationIt’s a complex undertaking for a B2B business to set up an e-commerce platform – or even enhance an existing platform. When it comes to finding the backbone of e-commerce – the software to run it – there is a lot to consider and prioritize before moving forward with any solution.

In recognition of this B2B marketing challenge, Slatwall Commerce recently put together a comprehensive list of software requirements for a typical B2B company. Earlier this month, we spoke with Greg Moser, product manager at Slatwall, for more insight into the specific challenges for B2B e-commerce.

Why did Slatwall put together this list of necessary e-commerce requirements?

“At the beginning of any potential e-commerce engagement it’s important to understand what the requirements are for the project. These requirements are used to get an internal consensus, determine project viability, and will serve as the basis for an RFP.

However, most businesses are unsure of how to structure such a document or even how to get started and that’s why we developed this guide.

Based on our years of experience across hundreds of e-commerce projects, we’ve included a large number of example requirements to this document that are unique to B2B organizations, including features like paying with PO instead of credit card, allowing for quick bulk ordering, and automating re-order processes for consumables.

Those types of features are certainly something that a B2B organization should consider, but would never be requirements for a traditional retail e-commerce site.”

At what point should an organization, particularly in the industrial and manufacturing space, consider an e-commerce platform?

“That is an easy one, ALWAYS.  One thing to consider is that e-commerce doesn’t have to mean a grid of products and a shopping cart like Amazon.  It’s important to think about e-commerce as aiding in everyday processes like having your sales team create a quote for their customer.

If you’re currently just sending over a PDF from your ERP system, wouldn’t it be a better customer experience if they could receive that quote digitally, review all of the products in depth online, approve the quote, have the order automatically placed, and then close the loop by sending an electronic invoice for online payment to the finance department?”

Are there specific questions that industrial and manufacturing companies should ask internally, to determine if e-commerce is a good business decision?

“Typically, e-commerce is going to aid the sales team and, in a lot of respects, it should be thought of as a tool to help increase their numbers. We would recommend looking through this guide and talking to the sales team about the features to see if those tools would benefit their relationship with the customer and lead to more sales.”

Can you highlight some best practices for companies considering an e-commerce platform?

“Start small and iterate.  Essentially, figure out the simplest features that would bring the most potential value to your customer and implement those first.  It’s important to constantly get feedback from your customers and continue to grow the initiative with new features as the customer base grows.”

What are the most common technology gaps at B2B companies you’ve seen at companies who want to add e-commerce? How can these gaps be addressed?

“The most common gap we see is a siloing of data into various systems: ERP, CRM, email marketing, the list goes on.  One of the key benefits of adding e-commerce is giving your customer a place to manage their account with you.

When six different account records exist for the customer in six different systems, it really limits the ability to provide the type of online management that keeps everything in sync.  However, this gap can be addressed by using an e-commerce platform that is designed to aggregate and integrate with all of the internal systems to provide a single unified view for the customer.”

What are the unique challenges B2B companies (particularly in the industrial and manufacturing space) face when implementing an e-commerce platform?

“One that comes to mind right out of the gate is delivery of goods.  Most e-commerce platforms are designed for retail consumer goods which are delivered via carriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx.

When working with industrial and manufacturing companies you need to be able to get freight quoting done easily and be able to deal with things like customs and other transport costs in the most streamlined way possible.”

There are dozens of requirements listed in the document; how can a company prioritize them?

“Well, the intent isn’t necessarily to ‘prioritize’ them, but instead to remove the ones that don’t make sense for the business.  In addition, we recommend categorizing the remaining requirements into one of these three buckets: Essential, Nice to Have, Potential Future Requirement.”

In your experience, once an e-commerce platform is identified, are there any challenges B2B companies should anticipate?

“I believe that the most overlooked challenge centers around how the platform will be supported once the implementation is complete and a website is live.  That includes identifying the internal resources that will have ownership over the platform, and any external resources that will be needed.

Also, during the implementation, it’s critical to understand that at least one person from your company will need to dedicate 50-80 percent of their time in seeing the project across the finish line.  If you don’t plan for that internal project manager, then the implementation will be almost certain to fail.”

What are the best practices for a successful e-commerce platform?

“This is a broad question, with many different answers, but there are three common truths we have found:

  • Let the business requirements drive the technical implementation as opposed to choosing a technology and then changing the business to fit the capabilities of the software.
  • Finding the right implementation partner is critical.  Even with well thought out requirements and a solid technology platform, the wrong partner can kill a project.  It’s also important because the team you work with to implement the project will be a key to providing ongoing support.
  • Be prepared to iterate as you move through the process.  Establish the minimal functionality that will provide value to the business and your customer, launch with that v1.0, and then add new features based on real feedback and new opportunities.”

About Greg Moser

greg moser

Greg’s diverse background includes 13 years of web development, online marketing and business operations experience. He was one of the core developers of Slatwall, from v1.0 in 2011 through v4.0 launched earlier in 2015.

As Slatwall Product Manager, Greg works closely with the ten24 partners to determine product planning.  This includes gathering and prioritizing product and customer requirements and working with development team to deliver a winning product. Greg also assists in steering the direction of product sales and marketing to achieve revenue goals for the Slatwall product.

Visit the Slatwall Commerce website for a free download of the complete “B2B eCommerce Requirements” document.

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