• How to Prepare for the B2B E-commerce Selection Process

    Feb 05, 2016

    E-commerce diagram structure

    Selecting the right B2B e-commerce platform is critical for success and there is a lot to consider before you sign on the dotted line. Before we dive into the selection process and guidelines, let's take a quick look at the macro-trends that are driving the adoption of modern B2B e-commerce solutions:

    • Changing buyer expectations and behavior —Millennials have eclipsed Baby Boomers in the business community and believe it or not, they already play a key role in B2B transactions. By 2025, Millennials will become 75% of the global workforce and they want things to be fast, simple, accurate, and accessible around the clock.
    • The rise of Mobile —Mobile is a reality and needs to be at the forefront of any organization's digital strategy. Mobile devices are used during every step in the purchasing process. Delivering experiences that are omnichannel and responsive to any device is critical.
    • Third-party marketplaces are a reality —According to a study by Acuity Group, nearly half of B2B buyers have used Amazon Supply to make a purchase. Forrester says, “B2B execs should prepare for a marketplace-influenced world by meeting with the major third-party marketplaces and own-site marketplaces vendors to explore marketplace options.” 
    • The B2B market is two times bigger than the B2C market —By 2020, the B2B market is expected to be worth over $1 trillion. In order to seize the opportunity, B2B businesses must deliver a digital experience that meets or exceeds consumer expectations.

    Preparing for a Successful Selection Process:

    E-commerce search functionality can be difficult to evaluate because many solutions—including those that are part of a platform—look the same on the surface.

    The key to a successful implementation (especially one as large as a new e-commerce platform) is to understand and define your internal requirements before you start reaching out to vendors with a request for proposal (RFP). It’s amazing how many differences of opinions can emerge when defining the needs of an organization. You don’t want them to come out after the project has started and run the risk of a failed implementation.

    Before you send out the RFP or bring vendors in for demos, take the time as an organization to talk about and come to an agreement on the answers to these questions. It will save you a lot of time and future headaches.

    Pre-RFP Questions: New E-Commerce Platform

    1. Who are your customers and how do they interact with you? Ask yourself how you sell, how you fulfill, and how your customers buy from you. Think about the customer experience and how it might differ in the future as visitors become more and more tech savvy.
    2. How involved do you want to be with the ongoing management of the solution? There are pros and cons to a SaaS vs. the traditional approach to hosting your solution—and the right answer depends on your preferences, budget, and resource availability.
    3. What is your ongoing support strategy? Both SaaS and traditional installations will require support for your e-commerce platform. Evaluate your current resources (both business and technical) and determine how much bandwidth you have for ongoing support.
    4. What systems will require third-party integration? You may currently have third-party applications that require integration so before you send the RFP, put together a comprehensive list and identify solutions (e.g., product reviews, etc.) that may have the potential to be replaced by the new platform.
    5. What are the requirements of your OMS? All too often, the back-end requirements, such as inventory visibility and shipping requirements, aren’t fleshed out in detail until after the project starts and the integration nightmare begins. So be sure to get a head start and make your list ahead of time. Don't forget about making it easy for your B2B customers to place repeat orders!

    After you’ve nailed down the answers to these questions, you’re ready to proceed with defining and documenting the specific system requirements and reaching out to vendors. Stay tuned as we cover more specific selection guidelines in our next post on Tuesday!