B2B ecommerce is a strange beast — in many ways, it is extraordinarily similar to B2C ecommerce, and in other ways, it couldn’t be more different.
One thing is the same across the board — customers today are savvy, tech-focused, and have come to expect an excellent user experience and customer experience. They’re no longer willing to put up with clunky ecommerce websites, they’re no longer willing to struggle through an ordering process, and they have more options than ever before.
And all the customer service in the world won’t be enough when a customer becomes frustrated or overwhelmed by a system that doesn’t let them simply and easily accomplish their tasks. But… an excellent customer portal that’s set up correctly from the beginning can help ensure that doesn’t happen.
So, when you decide to set up (or update) your B2B ecommerce website, you need to take some things into account. We’ll discuss a few critical items to consider, but you should let a single principle guide you through all of this — it’s better to spend money up front to create a smooth, user-friendly customer experience than to lose money on the backend because your customers are done dealing with your low-quality website.
For a Successful B2B Ecommerce Website, Customize the Customer Portal as Much as Possible — Don’t Treat Your Customers Like They’re Just Another Consumer
When you log into Amazon and other huge online retailers, you get the immediate sense that they are selling to many different audiences, many different consumers, and that they’re kind of OK with you getting a bit lost in the crowd.
The reason for this is simple — Amazon and other large B2C ecommerce websites are relying on sheer numbers to get by.
But, if you’re in the B2B space, things are quite a bit different.
If your customer logs onto your website and finds a generalized experience, they may get lost or confused, they may have to bug you to figure out exactly how they can make the orders they want to make — in fact, if you open up all your products to all your customers, you might run into some serious problems (or simply overwhelm the customer in question).
Plus, it just shows that you didn’t think that much about the individual customer and their needs. A customized customer portal is proof that you’ve thought about the customer, you’ve thought about what they’ll need to have an excellent experience, and you’ve prepared for it before they ever logged in.
It’s a fact of life that people love customization — when something is customized just for you, you feel a bit special, even if it’s just something for your business. It’s nice to feel loved, and in the B2B space, you definitely want your customers to feel loved.
It also makes life easier, for both you and your customers. If your customers are able to log in and check pricing and availability, if they’re able to track orders and make common purchases over and over, if they’re able to only see the pricing structure that you’ve put in place, their ordering experience is going to be streamlined and they’re going to be less likely to bug you about their orders.
Which means you get to save some money on customer service while still providing excellent customer service by virtue of your well-constructed ecommerce website.
In short, you don’t want to give your customers a generic shopping cart — you want to give them personalized order forms.
A Customized Customer Portal on a B2B Ecommerce Website Reduces Data Entry Errors and Frees Up Time for Your Sales Staff
Now, all this customization and personalization is great because it means you save some time in terms of customer service (because your customers aren’t having to bother you for routine purchases), but there’s another added benefit of having your customer input orders themselves that most folks don’t realize — a reduction in data entry errors.
Data entry errors can be a huge problem for many businesses, and they can absolutely be a source of lost sales, and even lost customers.
However, if your customers are able to enter that data themselves, and further, if that data is then automatically entered into QuickBooks, you’ll find that incidents of mishandled sales drop dramatically — saving money, saving sales, keeping customers happy, and saving time.
Your sales team will also appreciate allowing existing customers to enter their own orders. They can then focus on more important tasks, like drumming up new business.
Now Commerce Does All This and More
Not only can Now Commerce provide a customized customer portal that gives your customers the features they need to have an excellent experience every time they log in, but Now Commerce can also integrate with virtually all warehousing systems and supports multiple warehousing locations, which is an added benefit to you that, though your customers may not see it, contributes in its own way to the overall customer experience.
This integration means you’re saving time not just on the front end, with the orders your customers and reps are putting in (that are being automatically entered into QuickBooks), but you’re also saving time on the back end by electronically transmitting shippers from QuickBooks to your warehouse or warehouses.