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B2B eCommerce Platforms: Your Questions, Answered

By
Ben Taylor
July 22, 2022

Optimised supply chain

The numbers from last year’s holiday season tell us a lot about what we can expect in 2022. 2021 was a big year for holiday shopping, online and in-store. Shoppers spent more than one-fifth more than they did last year in the UK. After more than two years of struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, shoppers were ready to return to physical store locations, as shown by a 19% increase in in-store shopping over the previous year. businesses want to be busy year-round, but for most organisations, certain seasons, weeks, or even individual days represent huge opportunities and can make or break their year.

The Importance of the Holiday Season

B2B eCommerce platforms allow wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors to manage their website, marketing, sales and operations seamlessly.  

These software applications give B2B sellers the tools they need to manage all transactions between businesses while allowing customers to discover and buy more products.  

It’s important that businesses recognise the significant role these platforms and their tools and features play, not only in enabling eCommerce selling, but in raising sales and streamlining fulfilment. 

So, we decided to put together a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive about our B2B eCommerce platform. Keep reading to get all the answers you’ve been looking for. 

B2B eCommerce Platform FAQs 

What are the different types of eCommerce storefronts? 

eCommerce platforms can look different depending on who you’re selling to, be it: 

  • B2C (business-to-consumer) 
  • B2B (business-to-business) 
  • C2B (consumer-to-business) 
  • C2C (consumer-to-consumer) 

 

What does B2B eCommerce look like in action? 

The “B2B” in B2B eCommerce stands for “business to business.” The term refers to online order transactions between businesses – in other words, businesses selling goods to other businesses, online. While much of the world uses EDI for their B2B sales, eCommerce is becoming a more and more popular option across industries. 

A fantastic example of successful B2B eCommerce is the Amazon Business platform.

Although Amazon is well-known for the B2C side of its eCommerce business, it also plays a key role in B2B eCommerce, describing itself as a professional procurement solution that enables businesses to choose from millions of products. Unsurprisingly, the online marketplace brings in more than 10 billion USD per year in global sales. 

 

There are also several different types of eCommerce solutions: 

  • Licensed platforms – In this use case, a business buys a license to use the software. With this type of platform, you will usually need to renew the license after a certain amount of time. You will be required to install, host, and update the software yourself.  
  • SaaS (software as a service) platforms – This involves accessing the eCommerce platform through the internet. The software is usually hosted in the cloud, rather than on your business’ equipment.  
    • The TrueCommerce B2B solution is a SaaS cloud-based platform. As part of the solution, organisations can benefit from regular platform updates that are rolled out so you can leverage the latest developments in the world of B2B eCommerce, whilst also benefiting from our teams of customer service and eCommerce experts. 
  • Open-source platforms – The eCommerce platform’s source code is publicly available, and you can alter it in any way you choose. You will need to install updates manually and will be responsible for managing security and ensuring your site is compliant with the relevant regulations.  
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service) platforms – This type of platform brings together features of SaaS and open-source platforms. You will have full control over and responsibility for how your site looks and performs, without having to take care of the hosting, updates, security, etc.  

 

How do I choose the right B2B eCommerce platform? 

When it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform, it’s important that you research a platform that will meet the needs of your business.  

When evaluating a B2B eCommerce platform, consider the following: 

  • What are your eCommerce needs? Think about your needs in terms of front-end, back office, integration, implementation timelines, ongoing development costs, customer management, security and scalability. Remember that the features your marketing team needs may not be the same as your IT or supply chain management departments require. 
  • What is your budget? As well as the initial cost of the platform, think about maintenance, transaction and hosting fees. You’ll want to look at the long-term cost and weigh it against the value of the included features. 
  • What type of platform will work for you? Platforms can be self-hosted or cloud based. For most businesses, a cloud-based platform will enable them to operate with the support of an expert B2B eCommerce partner, rather than managing what is often a complex operation in house. To manage a B2B eCommerce platform in house can require consistent maintenance and upkeep that isn’t possible for many organisations. 
  • What features do you want your platform to offer? Think about whether you will need features such as customer self-service options, corporate account management features, content management systems and more. 

  

Once you have established the above, research the different eCommerce platforms available and compare their features. Then evaluate which one is best for you based on your identified needs and budget.  

What should I look for in an eCommerce platform? 

When choosing an eCommerce solution, there are several factors to consider and features to look out for.  

  

The best B2B eCommerce platform features to look out for are: 

  • Configurability 
  • Timelines to implement 
  • Responsiveness and mobile-friendly design 
  • Scalability 
  • Secure payment options 
  • Self-service availability 
  • Platform integration 
  • Vendor expertise 
  • User support  
  • Multi-site capability 
  • B2C aesthetics 

 

We’ve chosen these key B2B features as essential to success because they offer businesses a breadth of benefits, from time to value through to usability and customer experience. Firstly, we know that many companies are hampered by lengthy B2B eCommerce implementations which delay the time it takes to see return on investment – which is essential in any business purchase. Secondly, one of the most common B2B consumer demands is for a similar experience to what they’re used to in their personal lives, by giving your customers a B2C buying experience you can intuitively guide them towards conversion, all whilst improving customer service. Lastly, configurability and scalability are often vital for success in B2B eCommerce, being able to grow and diversify your brands and product lines without the need for expensive development addons ensure that you won’t outgrow your B2B platform.  

One key feature according to Simon Wood, IT Manager at Poole Lighting (which includes the Saxby, Endon and Interiors 1900 brands) was multi-site functionality within his B2B platform. "The multi-site solution has allowed us to diversify our brands. Without the ability to create unique sites for each brand we would have been restricted in the direction that the brands could go in. With the TrueCommerce B2B eCommerce platform we’ve been able to cater for the different type of customer that each brand targets, within the sites themselves.” 

In addition to these must-have features, there are numerous important additional features to keep in mind, including: 

  • Advanced search options 
  • Password protection  
  • Product images  
  • Real-time inventory levels  
  • Live customer support  
  • Order tracking 
  • Product information  
  • Flexible payment portals  
  • Discounts for bulk buys 
  • Request a quote or call back option 
  • Flexible check out  

  

What are the most important factors for success in B2B eCommerce? 

An effective, efficient eCommerce platform is vital for success in B2B eCommerce. If you don’t have an eCommerce platform, it’s impossible to compete online. And, if you don’t have the right eCommerce platform, it’s impossible to meet your customers’ needs and realise your true potential.  

Businesses should look for a solution that’s quick and easy to implement and that has the flexibility to cater for diverse requirements, without expensive development costs.  

Adil Jan, Head of Systems at Bunzl, highlighted that their B2B platform “was configured to deliver customised solutions for each of our different businesses without the need to bespoke and all in a timely fashion. Speed of deployment for such as comprehensive B2B eCommerce solution was a major reason for us selecting TrueCommerce.”  

The Best Choice for B2B eCommerce: TrueCommerce 

The TrueCommerce B2B eCommerce platform allows B2B businesses to quickly connect to both customers and their internal systems. The platform is refined and improved through a rigorous and continual R&D process that adds new features to its configurable platform.  

When it comes to implementation, best- in- class solutions can be set up without the need for hours of development and an army of internal developers. The TrueCommerce solution has been designed from the ground up to be an enterprise-level platform to meet the needs of manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. Your B2B store will have the same look and feel as a B2C storefront but can support super-sized catalogues, volume-based pricing, express ordering and much more. 

Ensure your eCommerce business is at the forefront of the B2B market with the TrueCommerce B2B eCommerce Sales Platform.  

Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help accelerate your B2B eCommerce strategy with one of the best B2B eCommerce platforms available.  

  

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About the Author: Ben Taylor has held a variety of roles on both the vendor and client side under the banner of digital commerce / digital enablement for more than a decade. Currently, he shares his expertise with customers and prospects as Director of Pre Sales, Europe. Ben has deep experience across the procurement, sale and implementation of EDI, master data management, B2B ecommerce and Omnichannel trading solutions, including a wide range of use cases. He's passionate about identifying and installing digital solutions that deliver tangible commercial benefits and oil the cogs of commerce.