Traditionally, wholesale businesses have focused on phone orders and in-person sales. Yet more and more businesses are realizing that in order to be successful in the current competitive climate, they need to focus more of their efforts on B2B ecommerce.
In fact, Forrester has predicted that by 2021, B2B ecommerce will reach a total value of $1.2 trillion. Particularly with high value wholesale orders, clients expect the same (or higher) levels of service that direct-to-consumer businesses are able to offer. While the increase in millennials and their B2B buying power facilitates an increased need for a frictionless ecommerce experience, even within the more traditional wholesale and B2B businesses.
The right tools, systems and technologies are crucial for success. Thus, we’re here to share our thoughts on what systems integrations you should use to be successful in your B2B ecommerce strategy.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) & Back Office Systems
To protect margins and succeed in this highly competitive industry, B2B, distribution and wholesale businesses need to have the most efficient back office processes as possible. Things like order fulfillment, invoicing and accounting all need to be streamlined and automated where possible. This is where Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and back office systems are vital for success. They’re able to integrate directly with your chosen ecommerce platform alongside other channels (as shown below), ensuring you’re able to complete sales efficiently via any chosen channel – be it online, phone, EDI, at trade shows, or in the field.
B2B Client Portals
You need to be able to offer multiple different types of sales method when operating a large-scale B2B business. While some of your clients will be happy to buy from you via modern ecommerce platforms, others will still want access to their own self-service client portal, where they can place orders, track orders, make enquiries and even request returns. With the rise we’re seeing in Software as a Service (Saas) and cloud-based solutions within the industry, offering a self-service portal is fairly simple to do. But you will need access to a robust API framework, which ensures your portal can integrate directly with your ecommerce platform or via your back office system.
Point of Sale (POS) Software
Although there is an increase in popularity for B2B ecommerce, there’s no denying that your staff will still be required to be on the road, meeting clients and creating orders in-person from time to time. This is where reliable point of sale (POS) software will keep things efficient. Providing you choose a system that has offline mode and mobile capabilities, your staff will be able to look up products, create orders, create contacts and even invoice orders, all whilst in the presence of the business you’re selling to. But what’s also crucial here is that the POS system is able to integrate with your ecommerce platform, either directly, or via another system like ERP — this ensures your inventory levels are always kept updated, across channels.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Solutions
When selling to larger businesses such as Target or Walmart, there will likely come a time when you will need to implement Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems in order to communicate directly with their own business systems, such as with placing, tracking and shipping orders. Many modern ERP or back office systems will offer this functionality via a robust API framework, while some ecommerce solutions will also be able to facilitate this type of B2B interaction as well.
B2B Payment Solutions
It’s common throughout the B2B and wholesale industries that you should be able to offer multiple different payment types. This stems from many businesses having unique policies when it comes to invoices and payments, and as the seller, you need to adhere to their policies in order to win and keep their custom. Furthermore, reducing friction when it comes to payments also ensures you’re paid faster, which is vital for a healthy cash-flow. Therefore, your ecommerce platform and other ordering systems will need to be able to handle on account transactions, as well as split, invoiced and online payments. This can be done as either a feature of the ecommerce system you’re using, or via specialist B2B payment solution providers that integrate with your ecommerce platform.
Success in today’s modern climate, whether we’re talking about B2B or direct-to-consumer, hinges on a business model that allows you to be where your customers are, provide them with flexibility throughout the buying journey, and offer them the high level of service they expect. Therefore, ecommerce (and the technology and integrations that support that) must form a large part of your current and future B2B strategy.
Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl – a cloud-based back office solution for retailers and wholesalers. Brightpearl allows you to provide a truly world-class experience for your customers, whilst unifying all of your sales channels, inventory, accounting, CRM, suppliers, fulfillment, warehouse management, reporting and POS in one single automated system.