Leadership

What You Need to Know About B2B Platform Selection

April 17, 2019
Launching your site (or re-platforming) is among the biggest challenges a B2B can face. Many companies don’t get it right because they fail to take a foundational perspective. 
 
Laying the groundwork, that’s what ensures that your site can perform at the highest level both now and well into the future.  To make that happen, you need to consider a few fundamentals:
 

An IT Roadmap For Launching Your Site or Re-platforming

 
  1. Understand Your Business Objectives. It’s very risky to make any sort of investment into an e-commerce platform unless you clearly understand your business objectives and core mission. 

    That means appreciating things from the perspective of your customers: How do they want to interact with your site? Are they looking to compare prices, check order status, research product or find product support materials? Do they want to pay on invoice, establish credit terms, pay with a corporate credit card and submit purchase orders?   

    Companies are often surprised at what their customers want to accomplish digitally. One medical supplier that we worked with never imagined they could sell expensive medical devices online. But when they did a test run (by offering some products online at a lower price), they discovered a whole new market. It’s not just about buying and selling, though, you have to determine how your site helps customers do their jobs!
     
  2. Involve All Business Functions. Call it the “align or die” strategy, but, e-commerce success now depends on more than your IT department. You have to get every aspect of your business (sales, finance, marketing, etc) on the same page. Too often, the sales team gets sidelined. But they are on the frontline with your customers! They can accomplish that by communicating the benefits of e-commerce and encouraging adoption. 
     
  3. Document Your Requirements. This is where you draft a comprehensive list of what you need to do across all of your departments. The more specific and detailed, the better.

    It’s important you look at both your business needs and the needs of your customers. You’ll also want to examine your current system environment and the future one you are shifting to. Many businesses fail at this because they underestimate the amount of work they have to do in order to clean up their product data as they prepare for e-commerce.
     
  4. Objective Platform Evaluation. Here, you’ll be conducting a side-by-side comparison of competing platforms (as well as the companies helping you implement them). Metrics you’ll be considering include financial costs and technical specifications. 

    Questions you’ll be asking during this stage include: Does a solution have the requisite computing resources to meet your needs? Are the tools within your budget? Does the platform offer sufficient flexibility to meet the changing needs of my business?  What level of support is available?  
     
  5. Optimize the User’s Experience. Here’s one mistake way too many B2Bs are making. They assume they can put up a green screen version of their ERP and customers will simply go along. But today’s users aren’t about to type in long SKUs (or struggle with sites that aren’t mobile friendly). Today’s B2B buyers and procurement professionals demand an Amazon like buying experience!  

    So, net-net, your site should be intuitive, easy to navigate, and operating at the speed-of-life. Anything less will have your customers and buyers feeling frustrated and dissatisfied.  
     

Takeaway

 
Many B2Bs are reticent about launching or re-platforming because they find the process daunting. But if you do it right, it will help you increase revenue, boost market share, unlock growth, significantly improve buyer and customer satisfaction rates and can even reinvent your business.
 
The worst thing you can do is let fear of failure paralyze you or do nothing and not embrace digital commerce.  Complacency is no longer a realistic option (unless you are comfortable with irrelevance). Get the help and support you need digital commerce solution partners. There are digital commerce experts who do this every day.  However, you must find a solution partner that understands you, your industry, and e-commerce so you can build a digital foundation that can scale and achieve long-term success.