B2B4B: Or B2B ECom for Beginners

We're all newbies at different times. And starting (or accelerating) a B2B ecommerce channel is no small feat. But Xngage, a B2B digital commerce services provider, can help simplify your journey. Whether you're starting from square one, or just need a refresher for the new year, here are three basic areas that we like to recommend to those leading digital commerce in their B2B companies.  

Start With The Big Picture

Digital commerce if done well is a digital operations enhancement. Yes, B2B end-user customers need to make purchases, but they also want to simplify operational tasks. They want to check orders. They want to pull up an order history. They want a simpler way to get credit approvals. They want to do their research online before they call your inside salesperson. Quite simply they want easy, reliable service to do jobs in just a few steps. And increasingly, they want more self-service and to connect with your people only when they truly need them.   

With this in mind, ask yourself: 

  • What are your key objectives (sales? cost-to-serve? competitive advantage?) and how will you measure them?
  • Is your website an effective end-to-end digital customer experience? Do your department leaders agree? 
  • Can someone in your company place an online order with your company easily and reliably? 
  • How would your customers rate their digital experience with you on a scale of 1 to 5? 

These questions give you a sense of the big picture. In a nutshell they capture: 

  • The business value you want from your website and the metrics to guide them
  • Your appetite for being a digitally-based business, either partially or in whole, and leadership team alignment
  • Friction in the customer journey and opportunities both for improvement and team collaboration
  • The best measure of your success - customer satisfaction and loyalty

Let Strategy Drive Your Technology

Most B2B businesses don't have the luxury of a completely harmonized technology stack. A good partner like Xngage will work with you in the beginning to understand where you are, and where you're going. Sometimes the reasons or strategies for selecting technology are obvious, but our experienced B2B ecommerce team will dig deeper to see if what you have still fits your needs. 

A strategy session will focus on modern B2B digital experiences and may include questions like: 

  • New Customer Acquisition Strategy: How many steps convert a prospect, and how many of those are digital? 
  • Merchandising Strategy: How web-ready is your product data? 
  • Payments Strategy: How automated vs. manual would you like your approval process to be?
That same strategy session may yield new or enhanced technology recommendations like:
  • New Customer Acquisition Strategy: enhanced onsite search capabilities in year 1
  • Merchandising Strategy: a Product Information Management (PIM) system add in year 2
  • Payments Strategy: automated payments integration in year 3

Curate The Websites You Most Admire

This may seem obvious, but people sometimes learn best by seeing what others do. Seeing great websites or having a great website experience can rewire us to think what's possible. By doing so, some B2B companies have made small, but impressive improvements on their website. Others have rethought the entire online User Experience journey - growing with new complementary offerings and becoming more profitable from self-service offerings. 

Xngage clients have done smart, strategic benchmarking and found opportunities for improvement. Examples are: 

  • A B2B wholesale distributor who adopted one-click technology that allows buyers an "Amazon-like" experience with previously-stored payment information
  • A B2B manufacturer who provided a drop-down menu at "click-to-cart" to integrate medical recommendations
  • A B2B electrical distributor who created an automated credit-approval process to turn DTC single-order entries into established accounts

While other digital commerce experiences can inspire you and provide a catalyst for change, be careful that the changes reflect your brand promise. Wholesale adoption isn't good since true competitive advantage comes from offering solutions that only you can provide.  

Beginnings are full of surprises. But having a big picture alongside a strategy that drives experiences and technology, and keeping a pulse on the market will help to make the journey easier. And partnering with an experienced B2B digital commerce provider like Xngage may even help you enjoy the journey. Whether you're brand new to B2B ecommerce or have spent over a decade on the path, B2B digital only continues to grow and you've taken the best step: the first one. 



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