The Five New Rules of eCommerce

Linda Taddonio, Chief eCommerce Strategy Officer & Co-Founder, Insite Software, looks at how you can re-engineer your business for successful B2B sales in the digital era.

Is your organization is still mired in discussions of channel conflict, sales rep conflict, or beliefs that your business is too complex to be executed online? There is significant opportunity to re-engineer your business to drive top line revenue and operate with increased efficiency by incorporating business to business (B2B) eCommerce strategies into your business plan. Imagine if you could wring 5 to 10 percent or more of the cost out of the equation for each order processed?

And imagine if, as a result you could reallocate the time and energy of your staff to create relationships with 5 to 10 new customers? This is the power of B2B eCommerce. 

While many still associate eCommerce as a business to consumer tactic, its adoption is growing rapidly in the B2B world. Industry analyst firm Forrester estimates the B2B eCommerce market is expected to reach $559 billion by the end of 2013.  The opportunity has been recognized by Internet heavyweights Amazon and Google, who have recently ventured into the B2B eCommerce arena. 

So what is needed to incorporate B2B eCommerce into your business?

If you presently have a first-generation shopping cart eCommerce solution or no eCommerce presence whatsoever, it’s time to get busy reengineering your business model for the digital era.

While this may seem overwhelming, the important thing is getting started. To this end, here are some basic rules companies should follow to succeed in bringing their businesses online: 

Rule No. 1: Map out the journey

Seek out a B2B eCommerce partner that understands the strategic elements of this landscape, and that will collaborate with executive leadership to plan the journey -- a “land and expand” approach. This allows the core elements of a B2B strategy to be “landed” quickly to take advantage of the low hanging fruit that often exists for an organization or to meet immediate buyer demands. During this process, additional opportunities will emerge and can evolve. 

Rule No. 2: Integrate eCommerce to back end systems that run and drive the business

eCommerce is an extension of your business. Therefore integration with multiple systems, especially core systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), or content management system (CMS) applications is essential. In 2012, Forrester estimated that the average number of integrations to support web requirements was 10 to14, and predicted that in two years that number would rise to 20+.  

A key characteristic of an eCommerce platform versus an ecommerce product is the architecture to support multiple integrations in a plug and play type of environment.  

Inefficiencies, upset customers, and revenue loss are just a few negative outcomes businesses face without an integrated eCommerce platform.  

Integration bridges the gap from one system to another and ensures that each operates with the most accurate information available in the system as a whole. Information captured on the eCommerce site, if integrated, streamlines operations and reduces order turnaround times and overhead costs all the while honoring your existing or improved business process.

Rule No. 3: Build your eCommerce initiatives to be flexible and scalable for the long term

Being “boxed in” by a platform that isn’t agile and flexible can put you at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace, especially as your competitors add certain functionality, go mobile, segment their markets, etc.

When choosing an eCommerce foundation, make sure it’s flexible to support your requirements today and in the future.

Rule No. 4: Make your eCommerce content stand out from the crowd

Product listings now include images, detailed descriptive copy, attributes, and the specifications and technical details for each product. This increase in information keeps buyers from having to guess that what they are ordering is actually what they want and should provide the ability to easily compare products. Buyers expect an easy to use, highly informative and visually appealing experience where it is easy to find what they need and make those purchases.  Robust search is mandatory, especially for high SKU count sites, along with relevant product filtering based on product attributes.  

Rule No. 5: Don’t forget about customer service

Driving customer loyalty will be a key topic as the B2B experience is integrated into the overall strategy of a business. As you weave eCommerce into your business processes, you can begin to extend the online experience into the organization. Authorize your customer service and fulfillment team members to do what it takes to delight each customer.  

Strengthen every engagement, and go beyond expectations to ensure the current sale and future loyalty stays with your organization.

As you know, customer loyalty depends on reliability, expertise, and responsiveness to customers’ needs, and exceptional customer service is an excellent way to solidify your customer relationships.

eCommerce will help you succeed in increasing revenue within your existing client base through expanded purchases or introduction to new items using up-selling and cross-selling techniques, and aiding your efforts to reach out to new potential customers, resulting in new streams of revenue and relationships. What’s more, it can greatly improve your brand visibility and make it easier to do business with your organization. 

If you haven’t begun to think about implementing eCommerce, there’s a good chance your competition has.

As the old adage goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so my advice is to start formulating your strategy today to ensure your business is engineered for success in the digital era. 

Linda Taddonio is Chief eCommerce Strategy Officer and Co-Founder of Insite Software. She can be reached at ltaddonio@insitesoft.com. Learn more about Linda's upcoming webinars and speaking engagements here.

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