Last updated: 6/17/19
Compare Top B2B Platforms
If you’re evaluating B2B e-commerce platforms, you’re not alone. As B2B Ecommerce World reports, manufacturers will spend $2.4 billion on new B2B ecommerce platforms in the next four years.
With so many options in B2B platforms, it’s getting harder to determine which platform is right for you—even as B2B ecommerce solutions become more complex and feature-rich.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know as you compare B2B ecommerce platforms. We’ll look at the B2B solutions themselves in detail, but we’ll also examine the value that different vendors bring to your project as a whole, what kind of rollout methodology is most effective for global corporations, the importance of ERP integration, and MUCH more.
1. Who’s on the hook for your entire B2B ecommerce solution?
As you compare B2B ecommerce platforms, keep this in mind: most vendors sell you the B2B platform alone. You’ll buy the software license from them, but when it comes to implementation, hosting, management, and growth, you’ll have to engage 3rd parties or hire resources in-house.
Note: Corevist is unique among B2B ecommerce solutions. Not only do we provide licensing for our B2B platform, Corevist Commerce, but we also host, implement, and manage the solution—plus we consult with you on your growth goals. With “One Throat to Choke” for your B2B ecommerce solution, you’ll never get caught in the middle with multiple 3rd parties and SIs pointing fingers at each other. We cover your B2B platform, top to bottom.
2. B2B Ecommerce Platform Comparison Chart
Compare the top B2B e-commerce platforms with our FREE chart. We cover everything you need to know as you evaluate top B2B platforms side by side:
- Total cost of ownership
- Time to market
- ERP integration
- And much more
Understanding the 2019 B2B Platform Comparison Chart
Some solutions are open-source. That means that you don’t get an “out of the box” solution—you license the software and need to hire your own developers to get it up and running (and keep it working).
For some companies, hiring developers (and using an open-source solution) makes plenty of sense. You have the resources in house to do this, or you have the budget to hire. For other companies, hiring may not be an option.
How does this affect real people? If your IT team already has a full plate, building your own open-source ecommerce initiative could place a massive burden on them. It’s something to consider as you compare the leading B2B ecommerce platforms.
Out of the box
Whereas open-source solutions require developers to get them to market, an out-of-the-box solution doesn’t require you to hire anyone. The developers work for the company that builds the software. When you engage a solution like this, you leverage economies of scale. The software vendor invests in the development work and pushes that out to its clients. You take advantage of the investment that the vendor continues to make in their product.
An out-of-the-box solution is a great choice for companies that don’t have developers on staff and/or can’t justify the expense. In fact, a good out-of-the-box solution, like Corevist Commerce, requires no on-staff IT resources to keep it up and running. For manufacturers and distributors running SAP, that makes us a top choice as you compare B2B ecommerce platforms.
A cloud-based solution allows companies to launch a best-of-breed B2B ecommerce platform without the costly investment in the technology stack. A cloud vendor like Corevist Commerce manages the entire ecommerce stack so you don’t have to.
This kind of solution is ideal for companies that don’t have the expertise or resources to handle security, PCI compliance, and integration to their ERP system (typically SAP). Keep this in mind as you compare the top B2B ecommerce platforms.
OOTB core ecommerce product Includes:
Content management system
A content management system allows you to manage the digital content that’s presented in your ecommerce platform. Having control of your CMS empowers you to create an attractive user experience on the web.
Not every B2B market needs CMS capabilities. But for markets that are heavily influenced by B2C user experience, a B2B ecommerce platform with CMS allows you to control rich content to present your products in the best possible light.
How does this affect real people? A content management system makes life easier for your Marketing team, giving them the tools they need to do their job. It also simplifies the buying experience for your customers, providing intuitive access to critical content on products, availability, lead times, and more. When you compare B2B ecommerce platforms, make sure your top choices will give your Marketing team the control they need.
As the world increasingly becomes mobile-first, B2B ecommerce must follow suit. The best B2B ecommerce platforms are fully mobile-responsive. That means their designs scale to fit any screen size without cutting of information or creating a difficult user experience for your customers and your employees.
Of course, B2B ecommerce presents special difficulties in mobile-friendly design. On any given screen in B2B ecommerce, there’s generally more information to be displayed than you find in B2C. This is due to the complexity of B2B—contract pricing, minimum order quantities, multiple ship-to and sold-to options, and more. Whatever solution you choose, make sure it has an intuitive presentation of B2B data on mobile. The top platforms will balance B2B data with mobile usability.
OOTB user behavior analytics
As your ecommerce initiative grows, you may find that you need customer behavior data to help guide your efforts in marketing, demand forecasting, and more. When you’re comparing B2B ecommerce platforms, ask about analytics. Google Analytics are easy to set up on any webstore, but they don’t provide the whole picture. Corevist Commerce integrates with Pendo and Fullstory out of the box—which means in-depth insight into user behavior.
Even if you aren’t prepared to leverage user behavior analytics on go-live day, you’ll want them in the future—trust us! Since they’re a core part of our product, you don’t pay anything more for them now or in the future.
Which leads us to the question of scalability.
The best B2B ecommerce platforms are scalable—that is, they’re ready to grow with your business. They don’t restrict your revenue with transaction fees, and they can handle any quantity of order volume that your customers throw at them.
Scalable also means the solution is future-proofed. This is a classic problem for open-source solutions—when you don’t have a vendor conducting centralized updates to the software, you encounter bugs as other pieces of the business puzzle evolve and your B2B ecommerce platform doesn’t keep up. A cloud-based, out-of-the-box solution is generally your best bet in terms of scalability and future proofing—because the vendor stays on top of new developments in the space and keeps their solution working.
One of the most important dimensions of scalability is your ERP integration (typically to SAP). If your ecommerce platform doesn’t present real, live SAP data for contract pricing, availability, credit limits, and more, you’re looking at IT headaches whenever things change in SAP.
Let’s talk about that integration.
OOTB SAP integration on Day 1
This is the sleeper question in B2B ecommerce platform comparison. It’s the one thing that will make or break your ecommerce business. Here’s the question:
- Out of the box, does the solution integrate to SAP in real time?
If it doesn’t, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Best case, you have to run batch synchronizations between SAP and ecommerce just to keep up with changes in product information, availability, contract pricing, credit limits, and more.
Worst case, you’re looking at years of IT projects and a lot of potential for “spaghettiware”—badly architected solutions that will cause more and more headaches as complexity increases. (See Scalable above!)
The best B2B ecommerce platforms will integrate to SAP out of the box—with ecommerce reflecting your SAP data in real time. That’s a fully scalable solution as regards data maintenance. For example, Corevist Commerce is integrated to SAP on Day 1, and we spend the next 90 days tailoring your solution to your unique business needs.
Your IT team will love the real-time SAP integration of Corevist Commerce. They won’t have to focus on data maintenance and bug fixes in ecommerce. Rather, they can go on managing the workload they already have.
The EU’s GDPR law, which went into effect May 25 2018, puts stringent regulations on how companies handle the data of EU residents. The law effects any company with an ecommerce initiative that processes the data of EU residents, even if that company is based outside the EU.
For our part, Corevist Commerce is 100% GDPR-compliant as a critical data processor. For more information, see this post—Corevist’s GDPR Compliance: What We’ve Implemented.
SAP-integrated order management
Somehow, omnichannel order management gets left by the wayside when B2B ecommerce vendors talk about their solutions. Why are vendors so reluctant to bring up this topic? Because their OMS’s (order management systems) don’t integrate to SAP.
As you compare B2B ecommerce platforms, keep this in mind: Any company that has SAP already has an order management system. By definition, this is part of the core value that SAP provides—all order data lives in SAP.
Then why do top B2B ecommerce vendors try to sell standalone OMS’s that require batch sync with SAP?
Because they can’t offer real-time integration to SAP in their OMS. It’s that simple.
Corevist Commerce offers real-time integration, with ALL order data from any channel (phone/fax/email/ecommerce) appearing in one dashboard. We call it SAP eTrack, and it’s a great value-add if you’re considering Corevist Commerce.
Supports CPQ (configure, price, quote)
In markets that sell configurable products, a CPQ solution for ecommerce can put you light-years ahead of your competition. Self-service product configuration within the ecommerce store frees up your Sales/Customer Service staff to work on more complex problems. Compare your options—a good B2B ecommerce platform with CPQ will allow your customers to request quotes or place full orders for configurable products.
Cost/Time to Market
This is the one-time cost of standing up the ecommerce platform.
Annual cost of ownership
This is the annual ongoing cost of owning and maintaining the ecommerce platform. It includes any license costs as well as maintenance and support.
Time to market
This is the typical length of the implementation project. It’s critical to take a realistic view when you evaluate an ecommerce platform from this angle. If you’re launching ecommerce to get ahead of competition (or to keep up with competitors who are already doing ecommerce), time to market becomes a crucial factor in your overall effectiveness. If a digital commerce solution is so complex that it leaves you in the dust of your competition, it’s not the right solution.
Some vendors charge transaction fees as part of their pricing model. That essentially means that costs scale up with revenue. While the fees are typically small, you should study how they will affect your long-term revenue.
For B2B companies, the best platform is one that doesn’t charge transaction fees. At the order volume which our clients process through Corevist, those fees would take a significant chunk of revenue. That goes against our philosophy of providing scalable value, and it’s why Corevist Commerce does not charge transaction fees.
3. 16 essential features of top B2B ecommerce solutions
- Dynamic, real-time personalized pricing governed by customer contracts and/or price breaks by quantity.
- Real-time inventory availability and/or ATP (available to promise) calculations.
- Mobile readiness and ease of use on any device.
- Cross-sell/upsell via related products in the catalog.
- Personalized pick-lists and catalogs driven by ERP data.
- Accurate total order weight in the shopping cart.
- Smart SKU substitution for discontinued or forbidden SKUs.
- Tiered user privileges (for example, separate user types that can 1) build orders without seeing pricing, 2) can place orders without seeing pricing, and 3) can place orders AND see pricing).
- Multiple ship-to/sold-to associated with ecommerce user account.
- Real-time credit status by customer account displayed in the B2B ecommerce solution.
- Fast order entry by SKU for professional buyers who don’t want to bother with a catalog and rich content.
- Upload carts/saved carts so professional buyers can place bulk orders (and repeat orders) with minimal effort.
- Configurable products and self-service configuration screens.
- Visual parts ordering so customers can reorder the right spare parts from interactive exploded diagrams.
- 100% error-free order posting to your ERP system.
- Electronic payments integrated to your ERP system.
While not every business will need every item on the list, these are the kinds of features which top B2B platforms should offer.
Here’s the best part: Corevist Commerce offers all 16 and more. Keep that in mind as you compare top B2B ecommerce solutions.
As you evaluate user-oriented feature sets, consider the big picture, too. How does your B2B platform of choice score on these 2 essential points?
- Flexibility and scalability. Will the B2B ecommerce platform work for all user types—Sales, Customer Service, and your customer segments?
- Internal effort required. Will the B2B ecommerce platform place increased demands on your IT staff? Note that SAP hybris, for example, requires 12 full-time employees to maintain, while 1/3 of Corevist Commerce clients have no on-staff resources dedicated to supporting the B2B platform.
So how do you achieve flexibility and scalability with minimal internal effort?
The #1 B2B ecommerce feature to look for is real-time ERP integration
Direct, real-time ERP integration is the key to a robust, scalable B2B ecommerce platform.
Unfortunately, ERP integration often gets treated as an afterthought in B2B ecommerce solutions, particularly in the marketing materials published by leading B2B ecommerce vendors. While the “integration last” approach may work fine for B2C (the market where many ecommerce platforms got their start), it doesn’t work in B2B. Without real-time ERP integration, you have to rebuild ALL your relevant business rules in your B2B ecommerce platform. When those rules need to be updated, you have to keep them synced in two places.
Don’t underestimate the burden of getting integration to work “after the fact.” Trust us—we’ve seen too many ecommerce projects fail because of it.
If a B2B ecommerce solution is really going to work for global corporations, it needs to start with ERP integration at the very core. (Hint: That’s how Corevist Commerce is architected.)
We’ll talk more about real-time ERP integration below. But at a high level, here’s why it matters. Real-time ERP integration means:
- The B2B ecommerce platform will inherit ERP business rules for dynamic personalized pricing by customer account. It doesn’t make sense to rebuild these business rules in ecommerce, which is what you’ll have to do if you don’t choose a solution with real-time ERP integration.
- The B2B ecommerce platform will display up-to-the-minute inventory data (or ATP/available to promise by customer account). If you depend on batch updates to sync ecommerce and ERP, your customers won’t be able to see real-time inventory.
4. B2B ecommerce platforms: Understanding ERP integration
ERP integration is the #1 hidden obstacle confronting B2B ecommerce solutions. It may be more important than you think:
- Unreliable inventory data is the #2 problem for B2B ecommerce platforms.
- Users need accurate contract pricing that scales by quantity. When you’ve already invested in building those business rules in your ERP system, it doesn’t make sense to rebuild them in ecommerce if you can present them on the web via integration. (Hint: That’s what Corevist Commerce does.)
- Order errors in your ERP system can occur if your integration isn’t well-architected. If that order error now requires manual intervention from a Customer Service representative, your B2B ecommerce solution isn’t doing its job–it isn’t providing 100% self-service to your customers.
This is why your B2B ecommerce platform should start with your ERP system at the core.
Putting ERP at the core of B2B ecommerce solutions
Here’s the hard reality: top B2B ecommerce platforms don’t put your ERP system at the core. Rather, they’re standalone systems that require a 3rd party to integrate them.
Note: Corevist Commerce is different. We start with your ERP system and build out to the web. With real-time integration to SAP, we save you from rebuilding your business rules in the ecommerce solution. Ultimately, that saves you money and keeps you from working with multiple SIs (who’d love nothing more than running up a tab in time and materials as they build a complex integration from scratch).
The best part? The Corevist integration to SAP is already built. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel—we’re integrated to your ERP system on day 1.
Understanding middleware (the alternative to “ERP at the core”)
Most B2B ecommerce solutions don’t put your ERP system at the core. In that case, middleware architecture is the most common way to get ERP and ecommerce to talk to each other.
Middlware works fine for simple scenarios (like B2C), and for situations with low data refresh rates. However, because it introduces a 3rd system to the ecommerce/ERP architecture, middleware can also introduce architectural weaknesses which aren’t present in a direct, real-time integration.
Check out this infographic for more:
The bottom line: B2B ecommerce solutions that rely on middleware will work fine for some scenarios. However, for complex B2B business models, middleware adds an extra layer of potential cost and liability which you don’t encounter with a direct real-time integration. Keep that in mind as you evaluate top B2B platforms.
On a related note, consider the importance of integration and scalability when it comes to global rollouts. If your B2B platform doesn’t integrate to your ERP system, what’s the real cost of standing up B2B ecommerce in multiple geographies?
Let’s talk about B2B ecommerce rollouts.
5. B2B ecommerce rollout methodologies
If you only need one B2B ecommerce store, you can skip this section. However, if you have multiple geographies, sales areas, or brands which need a B2B ecommerce solution, you should consider your rollout methodology.
In our experience, the best B2B ecommerce solutions follow an Agile Rollout Methodology for global ecommerce.
Here’s what that looks like for a sample project, launching Corevist Commerce in 10 global storefronts:
Moving forward: Case study
No doubt about it, comparing B2B ecommerce platforms is a crucial stage in the ecommerce journey. To help you evaluate your options and pick a solution that works for real people, download the case study below. You’ll learn how LORD Corporation used Corevist Commerce to launch SAP-integrated ecommerce and grow their business.