Success factors for B2B online stores

In the era of digital transformation, companies face the challenge of adapting to the changing needs of their customers. Especially in the B2B sector, where more than 70% of decision-makers now belong to the Millennial generation and 90% of buyers also conduct business research online, digital purchasing channels are indispensable. However, the success of such a B2B commerce platform depends on various factors. We would like to take a look at these in this blog post.

E-Commerce Online Shopping

First impressions count: the user experience in online stores must be in tune with the customer’s needs

The improvement of the customer experience and the 24/7 availability of an online store are probably the most decisive criteria that motivate B2B companies to enter the digital business. Especially for sales channels such as web stores, the first impression, i.e. the customer experience, must be right. After all, nothing is worse than being trapped in a user-unfriendly web store with poor product descriptions.

If you’re looking for a new pair of sneakers in the private sector, for example, you want a good description, options for comparison, information about delivery times, and probably also the experiences that other customers have had with the product. In the B2B sector, where it is usually a matter of technically complex products that require explanation, the bar is set a little higher. Here in particular, an exact and complete product description is important, and prices should ideally refer to the customer who is looking at the product in question. This is because in the B2B sector there are often different prices for different customers – these can either be graduated prices or, depending on the case, individually negotiated conditions. To be able to guarantee this, it is imperative that the IT systems used internally talk to each other. In our pricing example, the online store would have to be directly connected to the ERP in order to be able to retrieve the correct conditions for each customer. The same applies to the specification of delivery times. Here, too, a correct statement is only possible if the online store obtains the data directly from the ERP.

On the subject of product description, the use of a PIM system is recommended, in which the respective product descriptions are managed. In the B2B sector, intelligent product data management is indispensable. Because if the technical details in the product descriptions are not correct or translations are inconsistent, the most appealing stores are of no use.

In addition, more and more companies are selling their products not only through their own online stores, but also on marketplaces such as Amazon. Here, too, it is essential that the correct description texts are available and maintained. If you rely on a PIM system, the data is managed in this system and you can avoid duplicate maintenance.

Another factor that should not be neglected when it comes to customer experience in B2B online stores is the issue of customer service. And customer service in the sense of: what options are available to the customer after the purchase. If the topic of ordering spare parts is integrated into the store in addition to the option of ordering new products, a classic win-win situation is created. The customer can act independently and order the required spare parts at any time. For the store operator, this in turn reduces the effort involved in the ordering process and increases profitability. Based on stored configurations and orders, the customer can also be shown only the products already ordered for ordering spare parts.

In addition, a web store should also offer the possibility of retrieving the latest invoices, the status of open deliveries, etc. online. Thus, in summary, it can be said that an online store in the B2B sector can rather be described as a customer service portal.

The icing on the cake – product configurations in the online store

But let’s jump back a step from after sales and take a closer look at the buying process in a B2B online store.
B2B companies can score points with their digital sales channel if they allow their customers to configure products online. To be able to implement this, they need to integrate powerful CPQ software that supports the configuration of products and the creation of offers.

With complex technical systems, this is of course not quite as trivial to implement as with simpler products such as a cable. Here it is conceivably simple to provide configuration options directly in the online store, with which you can configure these cables yourself in terms of length and design and then even see them in a 3D representation.

If complex machines are involved, such configuration options can nevertheless also be implemented.

  • One way would be to offer the customer the possibility to create a basic configuration online, which is then sent to technical support for further processing
  • Or, the sales department configures the machine together with the customer in the online portal

Either way, the ability for customers to configure products online is a key success factor, as this not only makes the sales process easier for the store operator, but also gives the customer a certain degree of independence.

Headless commerce architecture creates a seamless omnichannel presence

A final and additional factor we would like you to consider when building your online ordering platform is that it is built on a contemporary and scalable architecture that supports all online channels and devices, and offers easy extension and integration options for channels such as website or social media.

A headless commerce architecture is state of the art here. By decoupling the frontend and backend components, the user interface (the frontend) and the e-commerce functionality (the backend) can be developed and operated separately.
In concrete terms, this means a perfect user experience for the user, as the frontend components are completely geared towards usability and any display on different channels, devices, etc. is supported. For the operator, on the other hand, flexibility and agility, as they can easily use different frontend technologies and frameworks for an appealing user experience and, on the other hand, manage the backend, which is completely focused on data, transactions and business logics.

Success factors for B2B online stores: User Experience, Configuration Options and Headless Commerce Architecture

Building a successful B2B online store is no easy task. With the right strategy, the right tools and technologies, and the right partner to help launch the online sales channel, even B2B companies can offer their customers an outstanding digital shopping experience while increasing their own competitiveness.

B2B commerce success depends on factors such as user experience, product configuration options and the architecture of the entire store.

Before deploying a B2B customer service portal, some crucial considerations are required:

  • The user experience must be right – the web store must be user-friendly and the product descriptions must fit. For the latter, a product data management (PIM) system is recommended to ensure consistent and up-to-date descriptions. In addition, the displayed prices and delivery options should always be adapted to the customer, which requires integration with the ERP system.
  • After-sales services – after the purchase is before the purchase. Therefore, the aspect of customer service is an important factor that promotes customer loyalty and reduces the effort for the store operator. Ordering spare parts directly from the exploded view of the product used is just as much a part of this as online access to invoices or the current delivery status.
  • The online configuration option for products is a major success factor and the icing on the cake. This requires the integration of powerful CPQ software to make even complex products configurable.
  • A headless commerce architecture offers flexibility and an excellent user experience, as well as a seamless omnichannel presence.

Overall, these success factors are critical to succeeding in B2B e-commerce and meeting the increasing demands of the digital business world.

About the author

Michael Stump
Michael StumpManaging Director itmX
Michael is part of the management trio of itmX and, with his many years of project experience, always knows where the customer’s shoe pinches. He has been working in the SAP business since the mid-90s and has distinguished himself as an expert in the areas of marketing, sales and e-commerce. With his expertise, he supports our customers in the implementation of their digitalization strategies.