Business

Business functionality and confidence are key to B2B e-commerce web-sites

THE trick to business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce websites is to have buyers ordering again, again and again – with total confidence.

The ultimate way to working, is to sit back and let someone else do the work for you, and then collect your money at the end of the day. Even better, to have this happen time and time again!

That's a little bit like a business to business e-commerce website. Once you have the website set-up, with its links to your back-office accounts system, its best if you can set back and let your customers (professional buyers) browse, select and complete orders for your products, without any effort from you.

However, with the pace and demands of industry and the way many manufactures hold very few parts in reserve, the buyers must have absolute confidence to continue to use your B2B site.

Take, for example, some of the big car manufactures, who are so finally tuned, they could run out of parts in a few hours of production. Buyers for the manufacturers need to be confident that their digital online order are progressing as expected.

As household consumers, we use e-commerce sites almost every day, for many aspects of our everyday lives. We order groceries, book flights and reserve hotels rooms and for some reason, some people in my household are attracted to clothing and cosmetic sites. In fact, there are very few products or services we can't acquire on-line. The more we use our favourite sites the more comfortable we become with them and the more trust and confidence we develop in them.

But this seamless user experience we enjoy with our consumer e-commerce sites (B2C), is not reflected in many B2B e-commerce websites. This is one of the main reasons why many professional buyers don't buy online, as the commercial B2B sites don't live up to their expectations, that they are used to elsewhere.

For the B2B e-commerce site owner, after the initial costs, which can be substantial depending on the level of complexities, online ordering should reduce a number of business costs. These costs include, order processing costs accumulated by sales staff answering telephone calls, emails, sales reps expenses and the time it takes in carrying out these tasks.

The costs of designing, composing, printing and delivering, professional glossy catalogues, can be offset against the creation of a digital e-commerce web-site.

However adding, removing or altering a product online on a B2B website is not just simpler and adds little cost, it is possible. Carrying out the same task with a recently printed catalogue, is virtually impossible to achieve.

Going digital can cut down on these traditional printing costs and gives an additional advantage, of providing up-to-date pricing, with the option of also providing accurate stock levels.

B2B e-commerce sites are not all equipped with the functionality a professional buyer requires, yet this is what's expected, if your B2B site is to be successful.

Once you achieve this level of functionality and service and therefore buy in from your business customers, the next hurdle, is maintaining that level of expectation and developing functionality, resulting in a growing list of returning clients, which is the ultimate goal.

Unfortunately, some companies go down a route of creating a costly bespoke e-commerce website and more often than not, ask a web-designer, who has not got the knowledge of the companies back office accounts or procedures, to do this.

It is vital, that when thinking of a B2B website, you work with someone that knows and understands your own accounting solution and procedures.

Equally important, is that you look for a specialist B2B e-commerce solution provider that understand B2B scenarios and concepts, and can provide the vast majority of B2B digital functionality and business advice as standard.

:: Trevor Bingham (editorial@itfuel.com) is business relationship manager at ItFuel in Craigavon. Follow them on Twitter @itfuel.

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