The 5 Stages of the B2B Ecommerce Journey

B2B Ecommerce Journey: 5 Stages

At Corevist, we hear from lots of manufacturers who are figuring out their journey in B2B ecommerce. Over the last 11 years, we’ve seen it all. While each manufacturer’s journey is unique, they all tend to pass through 5 distinct stages.  

In this article, we’ll outline the 5 stages of the typical B2B ecommerce journey. You can use this framework to diagnose any issues with your web channel (and figure out what to do next).

Let’s dive in!

Stage 1 – No B2B Ecommerce Presence (And Never Had One)

Manufacturing has been slow to catch up to the ecommerce revolution. Many manufacturers come to us still relying on phone, fax, and email ordering methods. While these channels have worked well for years, they may not actually be your customers’ first choice.

As we explain in this article, there are several things your customers probably want:

  • Online answers to pre-purchase questions
  • Easy, Amazon-style online shopping and buying
  • The ability to buy direct from manufacturers
  • Personalized online experiences

Next steps: Evaluate B2B ecommerce platforms

With the B2B ecommerce market growing fast, it’s clear that the time to build your web channel is now. But where do you start?

We’ve put together a chart to help you evaluate B2B ecommerce platforms. It covers Corevist/Magento, SAP Commerce Cloud (formerly hybris), Shopify, Bigcommerce, and more. Check it out here.

One thing to note: Many top platforms don’t include your ERP integration out of the box and can’t provide “one throat to choke” for everything related to your web channel. That’s why Corevist exists. Read more here: The Corevist Difference.

Stage 2 – B2B Ecommerce Project Failed to Launch

It’s saddening to us how many companies fall into this category. While there are many reasons a B2B ecommerce project can fail, we’ve seen a common thread in the companies that come to us for help. Usually, it’s the ERP integration that sinks an implementation.

For example, in one case, a company evaluated Corevist 7 years ago and ultimately chose a different solution. Fast forward to today, and the project is STILL not finished to spec. Why? According to a consultant with knowledge of the project, “There is NO integration with SAP because they couldn’t figure it out.” More here: Straight Talk: Integrating Magento With Your ERP.

That’s not an outlying story, either. As our CEO, Sam Bayer, puts it, “the shores are littered with the remains of project teams who have attempted Magento-SAP integrations.”

Next steps: Evaluate Your Options

If technical hurdles have proved insurmountable, it’s time to deal with the root cause of the problem. In our experience, 99% of the time, that root cause is a lack of sustainable, scalable, real-time SAP integration. That’s why our core product, Corevist Commerce, comes with out-of-the-box, real time integration to SAP that’s fully configurable to your unique business rules.  

Stage 3 – Launched B2B Ecommerce, But Customers Haven’t Adopted It

Got a working web channel, but lackluster adoption? This is a common problem among manufacturers. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to launch ecommerce, announce it to customers, and hope they’ll adopt it. At a high level, assuming your customer relationships are fairly stable, there are two big reasons why they might not use your web channel:

  1. The communications plan around the ecommerce launch didn’t make a big enough impact (thus, customers don’t know or forgot that you launched a web channel).
  2. Customers tried ecommerce, but it was too difficult to use or didn’t give them the info they needed, so they got frustrated and gave up. (Typically, this is due to lack of real-time integration, which is essential for things like inventory information, contract pricing, and more.)

Next steps: Figure out which of these applies to you (it may be both)

If ecommerce really does meet your customers’ needs, and you have a communication problem, check out this post: Crafting Your Ecommerce Rollout Care Package.

If ecommerce isn’t meeting your customers needs, i.e. they’ve abandoned the site due to frustration, you need to find out what those pain points are so you can address them. See this post for more: Overcoming The #1 Challenge to B2B Ecommerce Success.

Stage 4 – Launched B2B Ecommerce, Existing Customers Use It, But No Growth

Actually, this stage is fairly common for manufacturers with a working web channel. Due to the competitive landscape or other characteristics of their market, not all manufacturers may be trying to grow their revenue through B2B ecommerce.

However, we’d like to suggest that the lack of a growth goal for ecommerce is a huge missed opportunity. Launching ecommerce gives you the power to compete in the digital landscape—not only against other manufacturers, but also against distributors. To get your full value from your web channel, you should leverage its capability to grow your business.

Next steps: Define A Growth Target

Evaluate your current ecommerce performance and figure out where you’d like to be. Define a specific revenue number or growth percentage which you’ll target. Then identify the building blocks of that growth. They’ll vary by market, but here’s one example: Our client, Mannington Mills, grew their web sales 150% when they added a catalog with rich content to their Corevist Ordering Portal.

Stage 5 – B2B Ecommerce Is Growing

This stage is sort of like nirvana. You’ve covered so much ground already:

  • You’ve launched ecommerce and overcome technical hurdles like SAP integration.
  • You’ve built real customer value in your web channel; you’ve communicated it; and customers have adopted it.
  • Your Marketing department is leveraging the power which ecommerce gives you for digital marketing efforts, and your market coverage through ecommerce is growing.

If this is you, congratulations! You’ve reached a point where many manufacturers would like to be. What’s next?

Next steps: Identify What’s Working (Plus New Opportunities)

Even if B2B ecommerce is growing, you can’t rest on your laurels. You need to know, with real data, what’s driving your success. Is it a tight product/market fit? Low competition from other manufacturers who haven’t launched ecommerce yet? Ecommerce messaging that really resonates with your target audience?

Identify what’s working, as well as any competitive threats that are on the horizon. For each factor, build a plan to maintain your dominance. 

Moving Forward: FREE Case Study

Wondering what it looks like when a company conquers all 5 stages of the ecommerce journey? Download this case study on Mannington Mills. You’ll learn how this flooring manufacturer launched a Corevist Ordering Portal, then added a catalog with rich content and grew web sales 150%.

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FREE Case study: 150% Sales Growth with Rich Content

Learn how a leading flooring manufacturer more than doubled sales with a B2C-style catalog.
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