With a rapidly growing number of B2Bs joining the race for eCommerce dominance and the specter of Amazon Business looming large on the horizon, a run-of-the-mill B2B eCommerce store just isn’t going to cut it these days!
So, we’ve identified three key ways to enhance your B2B eCommerce software and lead your industry, namely, adopt a marked differentiator, develop an inventive business model, and utilize the right eCommerce platform to let your B2B eCommerce software flourish.
1. Enhance your B2B eCommerce software with a marked differentiator – visual product configuration.
A visual product configurator is a powerful tool you can integrate into your B2B eCommerce software allowing your visitors to build out (configure) products to their exact requirements by selecting options within an interactive visual interface. It’s a marked differentiator that elevates your B2B eCommerce software above that of your competitors.
Quick and easy to use, a visual product configurator lets your customers (and sales reps) point-and-click or drag-and-drop to rapidly assemble the most complicated, customizable products in minutes without any input from engineering specialists. They can add, remove, or upgrade parts, change dimensions and colors, and personalize attributes. It all depends on the unique characteristics of your products, goals, and objectives, but anything’s possible.
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Configuring products visually gives buyers a crystal-clear understanding of what they’re getting, so there are no nasty surprises when goods arrive. Buyers take full ownership of their configurations, understand every available option, and feel invested in their purchase decisions, with conversion rates increasing dramatically as a result. Product rules ensure every configuration is optimized from an engineering and profitability standpoint, and return rates (not to mention rework and dreaded chargebacks) drop way down.
Visual product configurators vary in complexity from more basic 2D versions with Amazon-like filtering systems, right up to 3D configurators with virtual and augmented reality capabilities. 3D, of course, provides the more immersive shopping experience, bringing products to life and connecting buyers with your brand on a deeper, more emotional level.
With 3D product configuration, buyers can actually “use” the products that appear on their screens. They can open a door, operate a piece of heavy machinery, or fly into a vehicle’s interior, resolving the desire to see and physically interact with a product before purchase. In a post-Coronavirus world, where the frequency of business travel is likely to fall dramatically, the value of providing such a virtual experience cannot be overstated.
2. Bring your B2B eCommerce software to your customer with B2B2C.
B2B eCommerce software massively increases the size of your total addressable market, allowing you to reach a global pool of potential buyers through search. Despite this widening of your customer base, however, you’ll never access every potential buyer through eCommerce alone.
B2B2C provides a new way to accumulate a massive volume of additional customers at a remarkably low acquisition cost. And you can initiate such a strategy with just a few tweaks to your existing B2B eCommerce software, provided it features a visual configurator.
So, what’s B2B2C?
Unlike a run-of-the-mill channel partnership, where your company supplies its products to a retailer who sells it on to the end consumer, B2B2C is a slightly more sophisticated arrangement. With B2B2C, the first business (B1) accesses customers through a second business (B2), but under B1’s own brand. End consumers are fully aware that they’re buying from B1, and, crucially, B1 retains the customers and data generated from every transaction.
Confused? Read on.
To illustrate B2B2C more clearly, let’s use a KBMax client, Tuff Shed, as an example. One of the ways Tuff Shed (B1) reaches customers is through Home Depot (B2.) But, rather than wholesaling its sheds to the home improvement giant, Tuff Shed has leveraged the power of B2B2C.
Tuff Shed has positioned iPads running its 3D visual product configurator software throughout Home Depot stores. Customers visiting Home Depot can use the iPads to configure sheds to their exacting standards. And once the Tuff Shed customer has finalized the configuration of their product, the software submits the data to Tuff Shed’s manufacturing department, where the shed is engineered to order and shipped.
Despite being situated inside Home Depot, the product configurator software is heavily Tuff-Shed-branded on screen. Customers know, therefore, that they’re dealing with Tuff Shed directly, and all the customer data generated by the transaction is captured by Tuff Shed to keep and use.
The benefits to Tuff Shed are relatively obvious. They can make more sales at low cost, achieve economies of scale by selling standardized products in larger volumes, access additional customers who won’t shop online, and gain a certain level of credibility by partnering with such an established and respected brand. Home Depot makes a commission on each sale, lures more customers into stores, and increases sales of complementary products. Everyone’s a winner.
3. Be sure to choose the right B2B eCommerce software platform to achieve optimal performance.
With a plethora of eCommerce platforms on the market, it can be hard to know which way to turn, but if you fail to select the right one for your company’s needs, you’ll never be able to optimize your B2B eCommerce software fully and achieve the best conversion rates.
In the broadest terms, there are three primary types of B2B eCommerce software: traditional, SaaS, and headless. If you’re building out your B2B eCommerce solution for the first time, think carefully, because re-platforming at a later stage can be as challenging as starting from scratch!
With traditional B2B eCommerce software like Magento, you purchase a license, and your dev team builds a solution on top. You maintain complete control over your code, and the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can create. But it’s certainly not the easy option. Building such a solution is technically very demanding. You have to do it all: hosting, PCI compliance, patches, updates, integrations, and new features. Even if you go open-source (no license fees), you’ll still pay six times more than you would for a SaaS solution.
SaaS (software as a service) B2B eCommerce software (most notably Shopify Plus, BigCommerce, and Salesforce Commerce Cloud) is the go-to choice for mid-sized enterprises. It’s cost-effective, easy-to-use, and relatively hassle-free. You can launch your eCommerce store in a matter of weeks and start generating revenue almost immediately. You gain full access to the software via your web browser with maintenance, hosting, security, updates, and upgrades all included in your monthly fee. The downside: you don’t really “own” your website and only have superficial control over your code.
The third and least widely known of the three major B2B eCommerce software options is headless. With headless B2B eCommerce software, the front end (the bit your customers see when they come to your B2B eCommerce site) and back end (the behind the scenes bit that your team uses to run the site) are “decoupled.” An API layer manages the flow of information between them.
With Headless, you’re free to use any presentation layer (or layers) available on the market, making it easy to reach customers through any channel and device. Adding in new channels or technologies is easy and poses no risk to the stability of your existing eCommerce infrastructure. You can’t beat headless B2B eCommerce software for flexibility and agility, but it is more technically involved than SaaS, and costs can start piling up as you pay for both back end and front end services.