A Forrester Research report in 2017 suggests that B2B eCommerce transactions would reach $1.2 trillion by 2021. There is no doubt the B2B eCommerce sector is growing rapidly, however IT resellers are often wary of making an upfront investment in B2B eCommerce as it presents a unique set of challenges.
Although moving from traditional B2B business to eCommerce is not easy, it is the need of the hour. Adopting an eCommerce model will enable IT resellers to save a lot of money in operational costs, acquire new customers and engage with their customers.
What are the challenges of B2B eCommerce?
You tried it but it didn’t work
A B2B business is a lot more complex than a B2C. Thus, a B2B eCommerce site will have needs different from a B2C site.
Maybe you tried it, you started an eCommerce store, but it didn’t really take off, maybe you think your customers don’t prefer buying online etc., and you gave up the idea entirely.
There could be many reasons why your eCommerce store didn’t take flight. But your IT reselling business not suited to eCommerce ain’t one.
As an IT reseller, you need a customized eCommerce platform to meet the unique needs of B2B buyers. For example, a poorly designed eCommerce store that does not offer a contract-specific catalog and pricing will drive buyers away from your B2B eCommerce store.
If you dig deeper, you may realize that maybe you chose the wrong eCommerce platform, to begin with!
Product Assortment and Filtering
As a B2B business, you have customers on tiered price levels according to the volume of business they do with you. Similarly, your B2B eCommerce platform must be capable of these requirements and filtering your product catalog accordingly.
Unlike in B2C, you cannot treat your B2B buyers equally. Choose an eCommerce platform that enables you to create, set rules and filter your product catalog, promotions, pricing, shipping and payment options for individual customers.
The IT industry has millions of products, and a reseller usually deals with a hundred thousand SKUs. Technology changes are frequent which affect product prices as well.
Staying updated and updating this information on an eCommerce platform is a high mountain to climb. Data quality and consistency need to be maintained as does the taxonomy.
Read our article Product Catalog – The Biggest Pain Point in an E-commerce Business
The key lies in implementing the right technology and an automation solution like VARStreet.
VARStreet has aggregated the product catalogs from 40+ IT and office supplies distributors in the United States and Canada to give its users ONE powerful catalog which offers real-time price and inventory updates, comes with rich content from Etilize, and offers a single-window view to product pricing and deals from multiple distributors.
Sales Reps Feel Threatened
The VAR business is heavily dependent on its sales rep. And one of the biggest challenges in any traditional business model, is staff feeling threatened and insecure about their jobs after you automate processes.
What happens to your sales reps once your customers start buying online? How do you define their targets?
A successful eCommerce business will never let their sales reps feel undervalued. Every B2B company needs sales reps, the way they achieve their targets may change but not their importance.
A sale by the customers assigned to a sales rep should be attributed to them even if the customer buys online. Relationship building, after sales visits etc. all help to retain customers and the work put in by the sales rep should be recognized as such.
Once your sales rep and staff realize that automation will not replace, but aid them, they will get on board with your plans of taking the business online.
Not Implementing the Right Technology
Finding the right ecommerce platform is crucial to the reseller business. The wrong choice of an ecommerce solution can bring the online business crashing down. Popular ecommerce platforms do not support a product catalog of a million products and over. This poses a big challenge for a VAR to start an ecommerce store.
There are companies that provide VAR specific individual software, but what VARStreet has done is developed ONE software solution that combines ecommerce, product catalog, CRM, and quotation software.
Ability to Manage Large Orders
It is not uncommon to see orders worth a hundred thousand dollars. Some IT orders can run in millions too. In a scenario like that, the ecommerce platform you choose should be robust enough to handle these big orders.
The search engine should be powerful, and the checkout process simple and swift. A bulk order form to add products to the cart in bulk simplifies the buying process for B2B buyers.
Multiple and secure payment gateways also facilitate a good buying experience and reduce shopping cart abandonment.
Maintain Client Relationships
Retaining existing customers is the key to any successful business. Wrong products shipped, delays in delivery, damaged products can hamper your business irreparably.
As most of your orders would be dropshipped, partnering with genuine and reputable dropship suppliers will ensure that your orders are shipped on time, are well-packaged and of good quality.
Invest in optimal software solutions for your business. Automation will ensure that there is no room for human error or duplication of orders etc. Integrations between all the software applications you use, like your accounting software, CRM, eCommerce software, etc. will ensure a smooth workflow resulting in minimized errors and satisfied customers.
Your customer service should be top-notch. In the digital age today, bad reviews can break your business. While a few bad reviews are unavoidable, how you handle them speaks volumes about your customer service.
Order Approval Process
In a B2C environment, there is just one decision-maker to procure products. B2B buyers usually follow an approval workflow, a sequence of steps where multiple approvers are involved to accept or reject an order. A lot of businesses also require a PunchOut catalog.
Implementing an approval workflow for online B2B shoppers and finding a PunchOut enabled eCommerce software is a challenge. VARStreet’s ecommerce software is built keeping the needs of value-added resellers in mind, and we are one of the few ecommerce platforms that offer PunchOut as a service to our B2B buyers.
Competing with Amazon-style Marketplaces
Marketplaces like Amazon have changed the eCommerce industry and competing with this online retail giant is not just a major challenge but next to impossible for a VAR.
What can a VAR do in the emergence of marketplaces like Amazon, when competing with them is like taking a bull on by its horns? Sell on Amazon, adapt and embrace. It would be a glaring mistake to ignore marketplaces, as they have a huge audience. Ride the wave, we say.
How? Read our articles for further information on how VARs CAN and should sell on Marketplace.
Reaching out to buyers through multiple sales channels is now a necessity, and B2B business is no different. Resellers often have a hard time making omnichannel selling a reality.
Whether you sell on your own eCommerce site, Amazon or via social media platform, it is important to provide the same information-rich experience to your B2B buyers.
Your buyers may view your products on smartphones, tablets or any other internet-enabled devices. Regardless of the screen size, resolution or channel they use, you must deliver a high-quality shopping experience. To adopt an omnichannel approach for your B2B business, the right software tools and integrating all your sales channels is required, to provide an exceptional buying experience.
Use VARStreet for your B2B Needs
VARStreet provides the perfect B2B eCommerce platform to launch your online store.
We have over 20 years of experience in the VAR industry and have applied the collective wisdom of over 4000+ VARs who have used VARStreet, to develop ONE software solution that addresses ALL the business processes of a value-added reseller business.
VARStreet comes with a wide range of features and functionalities to address the complexities of running your B2B business online.