B2B e-commerce that does not break the bank

Covid-19 forces a dilemma for many B2B retailers. They realize that a robust e-commerce presence is crucial to long-term viability. But they are hesitant to spend money in the middle of the pandemic on meaningful digital upgrades.

However, it does not have to be one or the other. B2B salespeople can invest in e-commerce and preserve cash.

The following are five ways to improve B2B e-commerce without breaking the bank.

Affordable B2B e-commerce

1. Use built-in functionality. B2B e-commerce platforms have matured. Sophisticated, built-in functionality has long been available to B2C sellers. B2B salespeople can now enjoy many of the same features – avoiding development time and cost.

For example, it has historically been expensive and time-consuming to integrate a B2B e-commerce platform with existing backend systems. No longer. Many platforms now have standard integrations or access to third-party contacts. The result is more cost-effective integrations in less installation time.

2. Keep the design simple. Design templates off the shelf have gone mainstream. Most are easily customized to your brand, resulting in an attractive, highly functional website without starting from scratch. In my experience, merchants who want to control costs should first choose a theme or a pre-built template based on user experience features. Then add your company logo, fonts, images and colors. It provides a quick and affordable launch, which easily improves over time.

3. Limit the scope. The best way to keep B2B e-commerce projects on a budget is to limit the scope. Don't try to do everything from the beginning.

What is the highest priority? It might improve the brand and user experience. Or maybe it makes it possible to order online – in four weeks. Defining the priorities helps your development team meet deadlines and budgets.

When considering priorities, ask:

  • What features would improve revenue?
  • Which products are the most important?
  • How many orders will you process in one day?
  • How often does pricing change?

A smaller set of products and related data is easier to get on your website. Your developer can use scripts to move the information if it is migrated from another system. Limiting migration (for example, less order history) can lower costs.

It is possible to refrain from integrating a new e-commerce platform with backend software and instead place orders in the backend manually. It can also speed up the process. Integration decisions usually depend on order volume, pricing complexity, and whether you replace an existing website or launch a new one.

Trying to satisfy all stakeholders can cause a project scope to explode, which increases costs. To control the timeline and budget, ask someone in charge of your cross-functional team – developers, managers, sales staff, customer service – who can coordinate feedback and focus on the priorities.

4. Discounts and incentives. In the wake of Covid-19, e-commerce platforms offer incentives and discounted prices. Investigate your options. If a platform does not offer discounts publicly, request them. Many platforms also experience revenue reductions and are eager to get customers.

I have seen offers like three months free licensing as well as discounted flat rate packages to get started quickly with a limited scope. Taking advantage of special offers would limit your costs in advance. You can then reinvest the revenue from your new site into upgrades and new features.

5. Sell directly to the consumer. E-commerce enables B2B companies to sell directly to consumers, not just to other companies. The interference from Covid-19 is an opportunity to take the leap.

Quick start

With the right reach, it is possible to launch a meaningful B2B e-commerce site in a month or less. The key is to go live, make some money and add features over time.

Editor's Note: Lori McDonald presents "Lessons from High-Performance B2B E-Commerce Sellers," a Practical E-Commerce Webinar, June 16. Free registration. >

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