It’s impossible to imagine being unable to quickly place orders online – whether it’s ordering a pair of shoes for yourself or business necessities for your organization. Since this isn’t set to change any time soon, you need to see your web store solution as a long-term investment. So how can you make sure that your online sales channel stands the test of time? Here are three things that every future-proof e-commerce platform needs to have.
Great Customer Experience
It was said of Ginger Rogers that she did everything Fred Astaire did – but backwards and in heels. The same should be true of B2B web stores compared to consumer-focused e-commerce sites.
Thanks to the consumerization of professional buyers, B2B online sales portals need to offer additional features to perfectly meet B2B buying needs (more on that later in this blog) while still delivering the same high-quality online buying experience as B2C web stores.
But what does a B2B web store need in order to compete with consumer sites? A solid look and feel is the most obvious answer. Your web store should reflect your brand identity, while adhering to web store design best practices with clear menus and good usability.
It’s also vital that your web store offers great usability and navigation on all devices.
Support for Complex Pricing
A web store offers so much convenience compared to placing orders by phone or fax: browsing entire product catalogs, tracking shipments, and placing orders whenever you wish – even outside office hours.
But despite all these benefits, no one will use a web store if they have to pay more.
If you want your web store to be a viable sales channel for all your clients, it is key that it supports more complex pricing rules such as customer-specific pricing, accurate sales tax calculations, tier pricing, and more.
This might sound like a big ask for a web store, but it can be relatively easy to implement. All this pricing data is already stored in your ERP system. An integration between your ERP and your web store ensures that up-to-date pricing rules are applied to each existing client’s orders.
And when your clients are purchasing from you online, trends in their transaction history can be identified, which opens up the door to better serve them through relevant cross-selling or upselling, or even predictive ordering.
Reliable Customer Service
This isn’t the only way that an ERP integration can ensure your online sales channel is future-proof. After all, even if a web store looks good and gets you the best price, would you continue to use it if directly contacting a sales agent offers better customer service?
A direct connection to the ERP minimizes human error when it comes to order processing, for instance. If your web store can automatically register orders in the ERP, that’s one less opportunity for typos and other unavoidable mistakes to sneak in.
Customer service doesn’t end when the order is placed, of course. Smart ERP integration can also let your clients see if they still have the opportunity to edit the order before it’s processed by your back office. This can save them a lot of hassle placing additional orders, or even having to call your sales department to clear things up.
Finally, once the order has been successfully placed and processed, an integrated web store can let clients track the status of their order. This keeps them up to date on the delivery of what could well be business-critical products and services.
The Connecting Factor: Omnichannel
While these features might seem disparate, they are linked by one trend that has already defined B2C e-commerce and is playing an increasingly important role for B2B.
The essence of a successful omnichannel strategy is delivering the same buying experience across all your sales channels, be it a call to your representatives, a hardcopy product catalog or your web store.
Even as far back as 2012, Google observed that
The best-by date for web stores that can’t deliver this is rapidly approaching. If you want your e-commerce solution to provide long-term support for your organization, make these features a priority, not a nice-to-have.
The Future of E-Commerce
With the unrelenting pace of technological developments, it can be hard to determine which factors should be taken into consideration when planning your own long-term online sales strategy. Our Chief Product Officer, Arno Ham, shares his thoughts on the