• 8 Steps to Finding the Right B2B E-commerce Platform

    Feb 09, 2016

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    Over the past few weeks we've reviewed must have featuresemerging trends, and gaps in the changing world of B2B commerce. Hopefully the reason change is needed has become clear and you're ready to take the steps needed to upgrade or replace your e-commerce platform to serve the needs of today's tech savvy consumer.

    When today’s B2B customer visits your site, they expect the best of both worlds. They want the same intuitive and personalized experience that they love about their favorite consumer websites and they want the sophisticated functionality needed to complete a business transaction.

    8 Steps to Finding the Right B2B E-Commerce Platform:

    There isn’t a one-size-fits-all process for evaluating and selecting the right solution. However, it’s worth describing each of the steps in some level of detail and you can decide based on the size of your business and the estimated cost of the project.

    Steps 1, 2, 3, and 8 apply in any scenario. Larger companies looking at a higher monthly fee and professional services dollars should consider following a more formal process to ensure success. Steps 4–7 are optional, based on the size of the company and the anticipated spend. If you anticipate making a big investment, these steps can help to reduce risk and ensure success.

    1. Prepare for the B2B e-commerce selection process. The key to a successful implementation (especially one as large as a new e-commerce platform) is to understand and define your internal resources, strategy, and integration needs before you start reaching out to vendors.
    2. Define your requirements. Create a document that contains each of your requirements and specific examples of what you expect. It’s always a good idea to know what you want and  have your requirements written down before talking to vendors. The level of formality will vary based on company culture and internal processes, but it’s an important step in the process. The clearer you are up front, the more successful your implementation will be.
    3. Set up product demonstrations. Use this as an opportunity to refine your requirements and update them with any features you discovered during the demo. An initial demo is a good time to get an overall feel for whether or not the platform and the vendor have the potential to be a good fit. Good relationships are key to a successful outcome.
    4. Document your requirements in the form of an RFP. Note: RFP steps can be optional, based on company size and culture. A formal request for proposal ensures that all vendors are being held accountable to the same things and it helps take the “emotion” out of the decision. It also helps make sure important features don’t slip through the cracks.
    5. Send the RFP to your top 3-5 vendors. Provide them with a timeline and an opportunity to ask questions. It’s ideal if you provide a template for the responses and ask each participant to provide the responses using your format. This enables you to evaluate the responses more easily.
    6. Collect and evaluate the responses. Include qualitative evaluation in addition to the answers to the questions. Do they seem to understand your business niche? Did they respond in a timely manner? Did they provide a custom reply or a cookie-cutter response?
    7. Narrow the list to the top 2 (maybe 3). Bring them in for a detailed demonstration. The demonstration should include specific scenarios that are representative of how your customers search and navigate your website. Evaluate the ‘out of the box’ results and if there is a gap, have the vendor show you how it would be addressed.
    8. Evaluate the fit and make your selection.

    Next up we'll round out the B2B e-commerce platform selection discussion with guidelines for a successful implementation. Share your thoughts or any questions about the selection process in the Comments section below.