George Anderson


Making the case for B2B ecommerce

In a recent podcast with Oro Inc., Brian Beck, author of Billion Dollar B2B Ecommerce, talked about the #1 challenge which B2B companies face when launching ecommerce. Brian put it this way: “The first and foremost roadblock is lack of leadership commitment and buy-in to the concept.”

We couldn’t agree more. For B2B companies, especially manufacturers, you must present a compelling business case within your organization if you want to get the maximum value from your web channel. It’s essential to communicate the value of ecommerce within your organization—not only its present value, but its future value, as the B2B ecommerce market outpaces growth predictions.

In this post, we’ll give you 4 simple steps to build the business case for B2B ecommerce at your organization. Let’s dive in!

1. Find Out What Your Customers Actually Want

Brian makes a great point in the podcast. Since leaders at B2B companies often have decades of experience under their belts, it’s easy to think, “We know our customers’ wants and needs better than they do.”

While that vision is crucial for manufacturers’ research and development of new products, it can hold manufacturers back when it’s applied to customer experience.

Here are two surprising facts:

Clearly, the world of procurement is changing. The question is, do you know what your customers want? And are you delivering it? Read more here: Syncing With Customer Needs—What Manufacturers Can Do.

How to make the case:

Conduct a survey of your actual customers and ask them how they’d prefer to buy from you. The results may surprise you—and they’ll help you shape your digital transformation around real customer needs, rather than around hunches. Incorporate the survey results in your presentation to executive leadership to help make the case for ecommerce.

2. Define the Business Goal

It’s not enough to engage in digital transformation simply because everyone’s talking about it. Rather, you should launch a specific digital transformation plan that supports a specific business goal.

So what’s your goal?

If you don’t define B2B ecommerce success, you won’t achieve it. The best way to give shape to your goal is to ask a simple, provocative question: What Percentage of Overall Revenue Do You Want to Flow Through Ecommerce?   

How to make the case:

Armed with your customer survey results, set a target for what percentage of overall revenue you want to get through the web channel. This number can be audacious and aggressive, but it should be attainable, since it’s starting with revenue you’re already receiving through other channels. Factor this number against the proposed cost of your web channel to see what your ROI will look like, and compare that to the cost of taking orders through phone/fax/email. Include these numbers in your presentation to executive leadership to help make the case for ecommerce.

Note: You can use our free ROI calculator to see what your investment would look like with Corevist Commerce.

3. Define the Scope of Cultural Change Required

You’ve talked to your customers. You’ve defined the proportion of your overall revenue that you want to come through ecommerce.

Unfortunately, that was the easy part.

Transforming customer experience doesn’t only affect the “outside” of your organization. It will have a huge impact on your employees and internal operations, too. Moving from phone/fax/email ordering to self-service ecommerce affects your entire organization, from Sales to Customer Service to IT—and everyone in between.

How to make the case:

In your presentation to executive leadership, demonstrate that you’ve thought through all the repercussions of ecommerce. Outline a plan to deal with the concerns of all internal stakeholders. This will help leadership to visualize the impact of your new web channel on operations and organizational culture. Read more here: Curating Culture Change Across Your Digital Transformation.  

4. Find a Solution That Meets Your Customers’ Real Needs

B2B ecommerce must be easier to use than legacy channels like phone/fax/email. If it isn’t, your customers won’t adopt it.

So how do you ensure your solution will meet your customers’ real needs?

Due to the complexity of B2B transactions, we believe there’s one thing that makes B2B ecommerce truly user-friendly: real-time ERP integration. An integration like this allows you to carry all your complex ERP business rules to the web. These are the same business rules which a Customer Service Rep accesses when building an order from phone/fax/email. Information governed by these business rules is essential to closing the sale in ecommerce, too. In fact, the top 3 weaknesses of leading ecommerce solutions are all tied to missing or incomplete information.

A real-time ERP integration overcomes these weaknesses by providing all the information your customer needs to make the purchase or manage their account, right now—no phone calls or emails required:

  • Amazon-style ease of use (intelligent search, detailed product information, related products, and more).
  • 100% accurate inventory/ATP information.
  • 100% accurate contract pricing (including quantity discounts and all pricing rules from the ERP).
  • 100% error-free order posting to the ERP system.
  • Full order history (regardless of channel) with real-time ERP data.
  • Open invoice display and self-service invoice payment.

Corevist Commerce includes all this and more. Our real-time integration to your SAP system ensures your customers get the accurate information they need, right in the ecommerce store.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Want to see what executive buy-in looks like in real life? Download this case study on Mannington Mills. You’ll learn how this leading manufacturer of flooring launched an Amazon-style catalog within their Corevist Commerce implementation and grew web sales 150%.

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