B2B eCommerce strategy was a tough nut to crack before COVID. The pandemic only made it harder.
You know you need to transform. You’ve got competitive pressure breathing down your neck. You’ve got shifting digital demands from B2B buyers.
How do you carve out a strategy in the midst of all this?
Here are 5 timeless secrets that we’ve learned in 14 years of helping manufacturers. They’re more relevant now than ever.
1. Put the voice of the customer first
Who is B2B eCommerce for, if not the customer?
Winning strategies start and end with the people who will use the solution every day.
But not every organization knows their customers as well as they’d like. Different stakeholders may have wildly different pictures of who customers are and what they need.
That’s why it’s essential to incorporate the voice of the B2B customer into the project, every step of the way. You can only do this with a project methodology that puts real, working software in front of customers (even if it’s not finished).
Read more here: The Power Of Customer Collaboration In B2B eCommerce.
2. Start small, learn, and iterate
Imagine this. Someone wants to sell you a big, complex machine for $1 million. You’ve never operated this machine before, but you know you need it. The thing comes with a 500-page owner’s manual—plus it requires maintenance once a week. No one on staff knows how to operate the machine, and your repair techs are already fixing other machines.
Oh, and you can’t hire anyone to help.
But you need this $1 million machine.
Now say someone offers you a path to owning and operating that machine. You can start with the base model for $10,000. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it helps you learn the ropes in a low-risk scenario. It also comes with a seamless upgrade path and an expert team of guides to help you get your machine tricked out. These people built the machine, which means they can handle your technical maintenance in their sleep.
With the second approach, you end up in the same place, but you get there without massive risk and sleepless nights. Along the way, your organization learns how to operate the machine. You become experts without taking on that large upfront cost.
This is the thinking behind the Corevist Platform. We empower manufacturers to start with tracking for orders and invoices, then add online ordering and more sophisticated functionality when the time is right. Because no one should have to buy that $1 million machine before they’re ready.
3. Don’t complicate the technology
Let me rephrase that. The technology is always complicated.
But it shouldn’t be complicated for you. If you have limited IT resources (who doesn’t), then the burden of complexity shouldn’t fall on your organization. You should engage an expert partner who can integrate and support your B2B eCommerce solution.
Now, that partner will have more success if they offer lean, mean, and efficient technology. There are several principles at play here:
- You shouldn’t have to build a custom SAP integration. Corevist includes it out of the box.
- If duplicating and synchronizing data isn’t right for you, don’t settle. Corevist reads and writes SAP ERP data directly—in real time.
- Think carefully about the look and feel of your B2B eCommerce portal. Does it need to be 100% unique, or will a template serve you better with a faster time to value? This leads us to our next point…
4. Don’t settle for long project lead times
Once again, I need to rephrase that.
Don’t settle for long project lead times if they aren’t justified.
In highly specialized scenarios, a massive custom project may be essential to success in B2B eCommerce. Maybe your market needs a super-sophisticated solution for configurable products. Or your market is so consumerized, you can’t compete without a truly unique look and feel in your web store.
These (and similar scenarios) are the outlying cases. Most manufacturers just need to get that B2B portal up and running. They need self-service tracking for orders and invoices, and they need online ordering, too. Since the portal is for known customers (and it’s login-protected), a template-based UI is just fine.
In these situations, custom integrations can slow the project down—and that’s the wrong move in today’s competitive climate.
Manufacturers who need to transform fast should look for templatized solutions. That’s the thinking behind the Corevist Platform.
5. Don’t hire if you don’t have to
Complexity begets FTEs.
And unnecessary complexity begets unnecessary FTEs.
Let’s turn to that $1 million machine again. Remember the second option—the one that allowed you to start small?
It also came with an expert team.
Now imagine that in a B2B eCommerce scenario. Imagine finding one partner who owns your B2B solution from top to bottom—user interface, SAP ERP integration, and everything in between. This partner gives you rock-solid cost forecasting for your B2B eCommerce channel. They also ensure you can take down those job postings for technical staff.
That’s the thinking behind the Corevist Platform.