Over the last few years, the B2B eCommerce market has been accelerated by rapid advances in technology and heightened customer experiences.
The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated these changes and pushed digital commerce to the forefront as many companies experienced disruption to physical selling channels.
Digital transformation projects involving eCommerce were fast-tracked, particularly as manufacturers, distributors, warehouses, and other B2B sellers sought to readjust to the new environment and future-proof their business.
Why is digital commerce important in 2021?
Digital commerce offers businesses much-needed flexibility. Sellers can capitalize on new business models, expand to new industry segments, and respond to fast-changing market conditions.
Another factor accelerating digital commerce is rising customer expectations. Shoppers have no patience for outdated interfaces, slow loading pages, or simply irrelevant, convoluted commerce experiences.
In this post, we’ll go over the quickly changing state of the B2B eCommerce platform market, the features you should consider when selecting your solution, and explore some of the B2B-specific eCommerce solutions on the market.
Evaluating B2B eCommerce platforms
A business-to-business digital commerce platform should accommodate the needs of both businesses – the seller and the buyer. Start with identifying what they need – it will help you craft your requirements list and make the platform selection process easier.
A positive customer experience will lead to higher conversions and return customers, leading to more sales. Since eCommerce platforms are customer-facing solutions, they must be built with the customer experience in mind. For B2B businesses, that means extensive personalization options to accommodate a variety of business clients.
Your solution should help you reach your business goals, whether it’s faster time to market, increased agility, or internal efficiency. For some businesses, this can mean maintaining an eCommerce solution as a single source of truth through integrations. It could also mean the flexibility to streamline internal workflows or operate across different geographies.
Scalability and robustness
Starting off with a wrong foundation can lead to a longer time to market, costly development workarounds, or a need to re-platform. Strong cloud infrastructure and a robust and scalable API offer B2B sellers the desired performance and peace of mind. A strong developer and partner ecosystem can make it easier to change and expand your system.
Ease of setting up
Even with proper planning and resource allocation, an eCommerce solution with poor implementation support can cause headaches down the road. Look for a platform with an innovative track record, a strong customer support strategy, and a community of technical partners, solution providers, and independent developers to help you make the most of your solution.
Features to consider in your B2B eCommerce platform
If you want to achieve success in B2B eCommerce, utilize an eCommerce platform built for B2B in mind. While the market is full of excellent solutions, they will all have some strong and weak points. Nevertheless, keep the following essential functions in mind when narrowing down your search:
Strong B2B features
On the surface, it might seem there are many similarities between B2C and B2B eCommerce. However, a B2C platform will skip over many critical B2B capabilities. For example, B2C platforms are not designed to handle dozens of different pricing rules, millions of SKUs, or offer checkout workflows for every customer group.
Almost all B2B businesses operate some ERP system. Others may rely on eProcurement, product information management (PIM), content management (CMS), or accounting software. It’s essential that your eCommerce platforms offer these integrations as standard or at least have a robust API to facilitate these connections.
For business customers, order tracking and timely deliveries are not just a nice-to-have but a crucial business requirement. Self-service features help them track shipments, manage their order history, and quickly reorder items without the need to consult a sales rep.
Business buyers often comprise multiple decision-makers, and they all play different roles in the purchase process. With a workflow automation engine, B2B sellers can streamline checkout flows, accommodate approval steps, or automate the quotation (RFQ) and product configuration (CPQ) processes.
Pricing and discounts
Unlike in B2C, businesses sell to distributors, resellers, and independent stores. As such, they must offer unique pricing strategies in line with their location, account type, or even department. A B2B eCommerce platform with a pricing engine helps you calculate complex prices, manage promotions, tiers, and more.
The Best B2B eCommerce platforms
Now that you’re familiar with what to look for, let’s take a look at some of the biggest names in B2B eCommerce in 2021.
OroCommerce is designed for B2Bs such as manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. It boasts a long list of native B2B features, and its flexible open-source design accommodates various business verticals, business models, and customer types.
Oro’s all-in-one open source B2B eCommerce platform comes with a built-in CRM, integrations with business systems, and a large partner ecosystem. It is ideal for mid-market and enterprise B2B, B2B2C, or D2C businesses. However, it may not be the best choice for smaller, B2C-only sellers.
Magento is one of the market leaders in B2C eCommerce. The ecosystem is arguably the largest in the industry, and Adobe’s flat fee structure makes it an attractive solution for small businesses and enterprises alike.
Adobe, too, has a large ecosystem and is applicable for virtually any industry and business model. Those comparing OroCommerce vs Magento will realize the latter is a B2C-focused platform and is not suitable for all B2B use cases.
Oracle offers a B2B eCommerce platform Oracle CX Commerce. Oracle’s CX suite includes a CRM, marketing, and service suite of products. This platform is best suited for enterprises on its ecosystems looking to implement the full breadth of their customer experience, quoting, and accounting applications.
Its strengths include a robust CPQ application, powerful APIs, and front-end flexibility. However, it’s weak with regards to integrating with external systems.
4.SAP Commerce Cloud
SAP Commerce Cloud, SAP’s B2B eCommerce offering, has a long history of serving enterprise customers. The SAP ecosystem offers a CRM, CPQ, marketing, and other business tools that integrate with their eCommerce offering.
Like Oracle, SAP is ideal for large enterprises already in the SAP ecosystems looking for a flexible, multichannel eCommerce system with extensive personalization options.
Formerly owned by IBM, HCL has invested heavily into its digital commerce platform. Today, it’s a flexible solution and one of the leaders in the B2B and B2C space. It can accommodate complex requirements ranging from B2B2B, B2B2C, PWA, headless, hybrid, and other implementations.
Since it offers a unique pricing model (based on orders processed) and a highly customized eCommerce experience, it’s best suited for enterprises or larger B2B businesses.
Episerver’s B2B eCommerce platform positions itself to serve manufacturers and distributors. Its platform offers many B2B functions, a strong CMS feature set, and a built-in PIM as part of its product suite.
However, one of the biggest challenges includes poor integration capabilities, making it difficult for brands to implement changes quickly to their platforms.
BigCommerce is a cloud-based SaaS commerce platform. While it started as a B2C-focused platform, it is quickly growing in the B2B space. One of BigCommerce’s biggest strengths is a clean back-office and customer-facing user interface.
It boasts a solid cloud infrastructure, a large partner ecosystem, and a tiered pricing model for small businesses and enterprises. BigCommerce lacks some of the advanced B2B features found in other platforms.
Today’s B2B customers expect modern experiences, and sellers are looking for robustness, flexibility, ease of integration, and implementation. To make the best platform decision, start your search with these requirements in mind.
Your business won’t sit still, and your B2B eCommerce platform shouldn’t either. Look for innovative software providers that can grow with your business, accommodate future traffic volumes, potential business models, and ever-changing customer requirements.