During my five years as a purchasing manager for a retail sporting goods company, I became very frustrated with the lack of technology or innovation offered to me by the brands carried in our stores and online. Placing a purchase order or drop shipment meant picking up the phone and sitting on hold.
Like most people, I accepted the lack of helpful technology because my perception of operating a wholesale website was that only huge pure play sites or brands need them, and they’re too cost prohibitive for SMBs. After four years of working for an ecommerce agency, I’ve realized just how far from the truth that is.
Platforms like Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Magento see huge potential in B2B, and they’ve begun to invest heavily in features that appeal to the industry. Meanwhile, the costs of manually taking orders hasn’t gotten any cheaper. This article should help explain why offering a B2B experience has become an incredibly cost-effective strategy, no matter the size of your business.
The costs of doing business the old way.
If implemented correctly, a B2B experience could pay returns immediately. Any company that accepts wholesale orders and does not have a B2B website is spending more manually handling orders through phone calls, email, and yes, fax. When customer service reps take phone orders, it not only takes longer, but there’s much greater room for error. For those customer service reps that don’t know the NATO alphabet, misspelled addresses or wrong skus lead to angry customers and lost revenue.
When clients email or fax over a PO, it requires manual entry which again leaves room for human error and the possibility of missing the order altogether due to an overzealous spam filter or a temperamental fax machine. Not to mention, even if things go perfectly, the process still takes twice as long because the customer has to input an order and so does the customer service rep. Having a “portal” for customers to place their own orders allows the user to become self-sufficient, and most importantly, frees up customer service representatives for other important duties.
Technology wants you as a customer.
Internet Retailer predicts B2B eCommerce will be a $1.13 trillion market by 2020. These predictions indicate a huge influx of wholesale websites that don’t exist today. These new sites may be add-ons to an already developed B2C site, wholesale.example.com, or a stand alone wholesale website, wholesaleexample.com. If adding B2B functionality to a preexisting site, the investment needed becomes less burdensome. The architectures of Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Magento allow companies to easily roll out multiple sites without having to write custom code. For many clients, it’s as easy as duplicating the template structure of their B2C site and applying it to a wholesale site on the same application instance. This drops the price tag of a B2B site to fractions of the original B2C implementation cost.
The majority of the setup can be done through the Magento Admin panel or Commerce Cloud Business Manager. Admin users with the correct privileges can then toggle between the two sites from one unified backend. Any pre-built integration to an ERP or order management system can also be leveraged for the B2B site, saving thousands of dollars on re-development.
Considering the UX and design of the site was duplicated from the B2C experience, clients now have the opportunity of adding features to an already built template structure or removing certain elements that may not be relevant to the B2B shopping experience. Certain features, such as inventory control and order tracking, can be made more prevalent and features like purchase orders payment option and CSV order upload can be enabled.
We expect Magento to roll out additional B2B specific features as part of the core Magento 2 product in the next few months, so enabling these features can be done with the click of a mouse.
For companies that are interested in offering a B2B experience but are not sure if they can get buy-in or budget for a B2B implementation, simply replicating the codebase is a fast and inexpensive option. From here eCommerce managers can gain feedback from their wholesale customer group and ultimately build a roadmap for additional feature development. The increased revenue and volume can hopefully provide the information or research needed to sway over any naysayers.