What Is The Best B2B eCommerce Platform To Sell On?

What Is The Best B2B eCommerce Platform To Sell On?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017Lindsay Hampson I just searched “best b2b ecommerce platform” and Google returned 8 million results.  Only 8 million online shopping cart platforms to pick from, eh Google?  <<gasp>>

There is no shortage of options for ecommerce carts or platforms out there – that’s for sure.  The problem is there isn’t much written about successfully PICKING a B2B platform for selling.  

Without a great platform for selling, there are no beans to count in your back-office.  It is important to choose the best tool for your business.

Spend 7 minutes reading about the platforms options out there, and the experts’ top 10 capabilities or features smart businesses should look for.  
Ecommerce is synonymous with B2C.  Why is ecommerce equally important to b2b too?
I’m sure you have a favourite number.  Some like 99.  Some like 12.  Some like 19.  However, your new favourite should be 6.7 trillion.  

Why?   $6.7 trillion is how big Frost and Sullivan expect total B2B ecommerce sales worldwide will be by 2020.  (That’s $1.1 Trillion in the US by 2020, according to Forrester Research.)  While not all B2B businesses are investing in ecommerce, the ones who will survive will be.  You are smart for considering b2b ecommerce.    

What platforms are out there?  
Picking the best B2B e-commerce platform for your business is hard.  eCommerce platforms have been getting a face-lift over the last 24 months.  Magento launched Magento 2 this past year, adding superior customization ability and back-end support.  Shopify “makes selling online, on social media, in store, or out of the trunk of your car,” possible, with a focus on simplicity, appropriate pricing, and a large partner ecosystem of apps, like Kit, to save you time and help you compete.  Shopify Plus powers some of the world’s largest brands, and comes complete “without the headaches” common with other enterprise ecommerce platforms.  BigCommerce boasts customizations, shipping and payment management, connections to popular Marketplaces, and social media integration.  3dcart offers  “no hidden fees,” is super easy to use, and has a support team at the ready 24/7.  WooCommerce continues to be the most used ecommerce ‘cart’ today, powering over “28% of all online stores” and offering season-specific store designs to increase customer interactions.  MIVA is “fully integrated” and raves about its award for #1 customer satisfaction from G2 Crowd.  And finally Kibo (who recently acquired Volusion and Mozu) boasts unified omnichannel capabilities making sure to keep the modern seller smart, agile and connected.  

Without sounding too much like Switzerland, every platform mentioned above could be the right choice for your business.  Its true. Your job is to review the vendors mentioned above, according to the importance of the 10 features listed below.  
What are the top 10 things to look for when choosing your B2B ecommerce platform?
1.    Can you try it before you buy it?  If I can’t get my hands on an application I’m considering, I’m not going to consider it for long.  The top b2b ecommerce platforms offer 14 day trials to anyone with a pulse!  Spin up as many trials as you can.  See what user experience suits you.  If a few of your employees will be using it, get your colleagues to try it too.  Give top grades to the vendor that created the most intuitive user experience.  Less time learning means more time creating.     

2.    Is it proven?  New ecommerce platform vendors haven’t been through the battles some of the older platforms have.  Consider all features.  Consider time in the market.  Pick the experts.   Make sure that your customers have the best experience possible while shopping.  Is it mobile-friendly.  Does it provide a succicnet, tiered pricing page?  Does it allow for discounts? 

3.    How quickly can you get help?  Even more important than price and value, is how easily can you get support when you need it.  Online shopping is a winner-take-all sport.  If your shop site is down, you lose.  Pick a platform that offers unmatched support.  

4.    What is the value offered?  Make sure that you are not being charged  the same price as a business 5 times your size.  The best b2b ecommerce platforms are offering pricing tiers and payment frequency choice.  As you begin, they begin.  As you grow, they grow.  

5.    How easy is the platform to use?  If asked if I could learn to play the tuba, I’d say, “No way.”  In this same vein, I certainly do not have time to learn a brand new tool.  By way of number 1 above, try the application and give points to the vendor that made creating your mock selling page the easiest.  Software should delight you.  If it drags you down, reconsider.    

6.    Is the design as custom as you wish?  The best b2b ecommerce platform vendors give you choice.  Choice #1: Pick from a bunch of great online store designs.  Choice #2: Design your own, fully. 

7.    Cloud, Prem, Hybrid – what works for you?  The location of the platform is an important decision and consideration too.  Some businesses have policies limiting applications from being on the cloud.  Others prefer to push maintenance to the vendor side.  Does the ecommerce platform you lean towards offer you the hosting you prefer?  

8.    Security up to snuff?  I can’t state this enough – make certain that you select a reputable vendor that steps up to the task of PCI security as required by the ecommerce industry.  Your customers believe that their data – especially their financial institution credentials – is safe with you when they buy on your online store.  Don’t let them down, or ‘you’re done.’

9.    Can the platform scale?  Assess the suitability of the b2b ecommerce platform for your business today.  But, of equal importance, also assess the suitability of the platform 5 years from now.  If you need to pay an extra bit of money at the start, but select a vendor that you can stay with for eternity, you will never need to endure the hardships of platform migration.  (Platform migration is comparable to 10 simultaneous root canals.  (But if you need to switch, eBridge Connections can help!) 

10.    Does it connect with your other business tools?  Once your online store gets busy, the data created when a customer places an order will start to haunt your dreams.  Every order comes with an email address, information about the exact SKU or product number, the quantity requested, the size needed, the price and / or discount offered, the shipping level selected, the shipping address, the billing address, the size of the box, and more.  That data needs to flow (or be mapped) to your back office systems (like your POS or your ERP) so you can track bottom line, inventory, and customer activity, for example.

Make sure that your ecommerce platform connects, syncs or integrates with your ERP or accounting application (like Epicor, SAP, Sage, Microsoft Dynamics, or QuickBooks) and your CRM (like Salesforce or Dynamics CRM).  Bonus points if you can also integrate your ERP with all of the retail trading partners (aka big box stores) you sell at.  
What about eCommerce marketplaces?   
Amazon, and eBay have truly taken over North America, more so Amazon.   About 50% of all online product searches now begin on Amazon.com.  Is your product better suited to be sold on Amazon then?  Better to be sold on your own online store?  Or both?
 
Next steps
It’s hard being a seller, merchant, and entrepreneur today.  While technology enables, it also leaves you in the dust if you take a wrong turn.  Your best defence is education.  

•    Read up on the top b2b ecommerce platforms and b2b ecommerce platform vendors
•    Research their successes and failures
•    What channels suit your buyer?  Find out, and get on all of them
•    Try!  Click ‘yep sir’ to as many free trials as you can
•    Make a list of your must-haves
•    Ask your Accounting/ERP consultant, if you have one, for advice
•    Read eCommerce Integration for Dummies > free download 


Thanks for reading.  eBridge has worked with over 1000 businesses over almost 25 years.  Agree with us?  Disagree with us?  Let’s keep the conversation rolling.  Live chat with us now.