Forrester predicts the eCommerce market will be worth $1.8 trillion by 2023. The Covid 19 pandemic pushed eCommerce’s share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020.
The tide for B2B businesses is changing to a more online model, with an increasing number of B2B buyers preferring the convenience and ease of shopping online.
74% of B2B buyers responded that they found buying from a website more convenient than buying from a sales representative.
How do B2B businesses meet these customer expectations when B2B processes are a lot more complex and customized than B2C? Seamless integrations of disparate business systems streamline B2B eCommerce allowing businesses to exceed customer expectations with enhanced shopping experiences.
Yet, there are some common misconceptions about B2B eCommerce that have led to hesitancy in eCommerce adoption. Let’s bust these myths before we get to eCommerce integration and how the right integrations will help you tackle these misgivings you may have.
Common B2B eCommerce Misconceptions
B2B customers don’t want to order online.
While this assumption is challenged post-Covid with the world forced to go online for just about everything, it did not hold much water even before Covid as the surge of B2C eCommerce saw a spill-over in B2B eCommerce as well.
A new generation that has been born into a digital age as opposed to adapting to one is now coming into managerial positions, and their preferred method of purchasing is online.
- 44% of millennials are making purchasing decisions at their workplace.
- 33% say they are key influencers in the purchasing process at their organizations.
- Only 2% reported not being involved at all in purchasing decisions.
- 41% say that self-service functionality is one of the top three ways B2B companies could make it easier for them to shop online.
- 73% of B2B buyers say that their expectations for personalized experiences are significantly higher today compared to just a few years ago.
This Heinz and SnapApp study found that while Generation X and baby boomer buyers rely on sales reps for guidance, millennial buyers rely on peer opinions and individual research online in the initial stages of a purchasing decision. Almost 60% said they don’t engage with a sales rep until they’re convinced of the product or service based on their research, online reviews or peer feedback and opinion.
These buying behaviours are similar to B2C buying behaviors where B2C brands must focus more on building a community, trust and educating their prospective buyers before bringing them down the sales funnel.
If you want your business to show up in the search results of your prospective buyers when they are in the research stage, you must have an online presence.
We’ll leave you with this final statistic from a Google survey.
89% of B2B buyers use the internet in their research process and they conduct a minimum of 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site.
eCommerce requires price transparency which does not align with B2B pricing strategies.
B2B businesses have fierce competition, and the profit margins are not very high either. Many B2B businesses keep their prices hidden from the public to safeguard their supply chain and their competition in the dark, so they do not undercut prices to win customers.
Another factor is that not all B2B customers are on the same price structure. Tiered pricing with differentiated mark-ups is common in B2B businesses where large customers have a pricing structure different to smaller businesses, new customers, one-time buyers, etc.
B2B eCommerce platforms that understand B2B processes offer price and catalog upon login. So, only when a customer logs in to your eCommerce store can they view prices customized for them.
Online ordering is cold and there is no relationship building.
Many B2B businesses are family-owned and operated, and building relationships with customers is seen as important. In comparison to personal phone calls, dinners and trips, an eCommerce store can seem impersonal and cold.
It does not have to be. Personalization can be offered as customized store-fronts, customized catalogs, online chat options, etc.
Millennials prefer to chat instead of calling a customer care number, and 24/7 chat features a good way of communicating with them via the means they use most.
It also offers instant resolutions to their complaints or queries, building trust and credibility. The time you take to respond to a customer is equated to personal interactions of the past. Hence, harness the various digital channels through which you can reach your customers and they you.
Streamlined digital experiences are what today’s B2B buyers look for, and when all other factors like price, quality, etc., are equal, the online experience can tip the decision in your favor.
An online store negates custom ordering.
Many B2B customers require customized solutions and products, and procurement departments need formal quotations to approve spending. A common misconception is that online stores do not offer a hybrid selling experience.
eCommerce platforms like VARStreet, also have integrated quoting tools that enable B2B businesses to offer customized ordering and segmented customer groups. The ‘Request for a Quote’ or RFQ feature on VARStreet’s eCommerce platform allows buyers to RFQ online, which the seller can create and upload online on the eCommerce store for the customer to view when logged in.
The customer can then add the items in the quote to their shopping cart and place the order, like in B2C eCommerce.
Now that we’ve got some common misconceptions about B2B eCommerce out of the way, let’s get to eCommerce integrations that will allow B2B businesses a streamlined digital selling experience and enhanced customer experience as well.
What Is eCommerce Integration?
Running a B2B eCommerce business is complex as B2B businesses have various operational needs which require different software and solutions like CRM, business intelligence tools, ERP, accounting software, reporting suites, and many more.
eCommerce integrations connect your eCommerce platform to other business systems like sales, finance, accounting, inventory, marketing, order fulfilment, shipping and customer service.
These integrations ensure consistency in customer data, product information, quotes, orders, invoices, and shipment information. A seamless data integration between all your applications and eCommerce eliminates data duplication, minimizes manual effort, boosts productivity for all your teams, saves businesses time and money, and enhances customer experience.
Benefits of eCommerce Integration
Streamlined B2B business processes
Depending on the level of integration, online shoppers and sellers get a streamlined multi-process experience. Shoppers love a fast, personalized and seamless experience that allows them to view products from their custom catalog, order and checkout without any additional hassles.
B2B buyers can add products to their shopping cart and checkout without making an online transaction if they have negotiated credit terms with the seller.
The orders get routed to the sales team for processing and fulfilment and the accounts team to raise invoices. Integrated inventory management automatically adjusts the product count, enhancing procurement processes as well.
Such lean order management processes improve customer satisfaction, positively impacting retention rates.
Synchronized data between applications
eCommerce integrations with business applications offer businesses greater visibility and an enterprise-level view of their entire business.
Synchronized customer data gives a single view of each customer through various operations of the business. Supply-chain and inventory patterns can be monitored consistently, and finances can be tracked holistically.
Such a consistent view of the entire business leads to better processes, better data and intelligent business decisions. You can provide customers with an enhanced experience across multiple selling channels, devices, and touchpoints in their purchase journey.
Decreased data redundancy and errors
Integrations lead to reduced human intervention eliminating errors resulting from repetitive manual processes and improving productivity. eCommerce integrations with CRM allow you to maintain accurate customer, product, order, and shipping information without repetitive manual data entry. Customer interactions across various touch-points get auto-updated on all the integrated applications reducing data redundancy, duplicity and errors.
Allows better control of your business
Integrating eCommerce gives you better control over your business and helps you manage all aspects like procurement, inventory, orders, quoting, finance, customer relations, and other critical processes from one location. This breaks down information silos, increases employee engagement and productivity and enhances efficiencies across your organization.
10 Critical Integrations for B2B eCommerce
ERP – eCommerce integration
Every B2B business uses an ERP application that contains a wealth of customer, order, inventory, and accounting data. A tight eCommerce and ERP integration enable smooth bidirectional information flow between applications, eliminating manual data entry that results in errors and omissions, streamlining back-office operations and improving overall customer experience.
Some benefits of an ERP and eCommerce integration include:
Better customer experiences. Customers get access to updated information and shipping and tracking information, reducing potential friction and building better customer relationships.
Provide accurate pricing. B2B businesses have complex pricing structures and dynamically changing product prices and inventory. An ERP system centralizes contracts, pricing and invoicing. Integration with eCommerce automatically passes this information to the eCommerce store providing accurate pricing to customers.
Reduced operational costs. Online orders can be directed to the ERP, reducing manual and repetitive processes and unnecessary operational costs.
Eliminate errors during ordering. B2B businesses have intricate ordering workflows dependent on complex processes like contracts, quotations, approval workflows, etc. Integrating eCommerce with ERP unifies customer data and offers personalized experiences automatically.
VARStreet’s eCommerce platform has ready integrations with popular ERP systems like Netsuite, MS Dynamics Great Plains, MS Dynamics NAV, MS Dynamics AX, and e-Automate.
2. CRM – eCommerce integration
CRM improves customer management and retention. In eCommerce, where businesses fear a lack of personalization, CRM integration is important to offer personalized experiences on your online stores.
A CRM application collects customer data and uses that data to build customer loyalty and aids in developing better marketing, sales and customer service processes and strategies.
Integrating CRM and eCommerce aligns the marketing and sales operations across channels and helps storefront activities like order management and shipping.
Some benefits of CRM and eCommerce integration include:
- Accessible individual customer data
- Complete customer visibility across touchpoints.
- Customer segmentation according to online behavior or abandoned carts
- Effective omnichannel and multi-channel tracking.
- Zero order entry errors due to automated sales processes
- Detailed reporting and visibility into the sales pipeline, orders, quotes and conversions.
VARStreet’s eCommerce platform has ready integrations with popular CRM systems like HubSpot, Zoho and Salesforce.
3. PIM integration
B2B businesses have multiple channels of selling, vast product catalogs with customizable products and solutions. PIM or Product Information Management centralizes product management, descriptions, rich content and simplifies collecting, managing, and updating product information, creating a product catalog, and distributing it to their sales and eCommerce channels.
A PIM solution integrated with eCommerce helps sales, marketing, data teams, and management to create and deliver compelling product experiences and upsell and cross-sell recommendations.
Some more benefits of PIM and eCommerce integration are:
- Unify product data and improve product attribution leading to better search results for online buyers.
- Improve customer experience. When products are accurately described and categorized, online shoppers can easily find what they are looking for.
- Establish a single source for product information. A PIM tool is the primary holder of all product information. Any updates to the product data in the PIM tool is applied automatically to your eCommerce website and across any other sales channels like marketplaces, social media and sales quotation tools.
- Go to market faster. PIM tools, like VARStreet, make it possible to manage product data efficiently and in a single location. You can scale your portfolio quickly by adding new product offerings, and they will be reflected immediately on your eCommerce store and other sales channels.
- Improve quality and consistency of product data across all channels leading to enhanced customer experiences and brand building.
Read What is Product Information Management Software and Does Your Business Need One? for more information on PIM solutions like VARStreet.
4. Inventory management system integration
B2B eCommerce businesses have multiple channels of selling, including offline sales. Manual tracking of inventory in such cases is cumbersome, time-consuming and prone to errors due to fragmented data and reduced inventory visibility.
An eCommerce platform like VARStreet comes with a vast product catalog of over 7 million It and office supplies products from over 45 distributors and has direct integrations with these distributors for real-time price and inventory updates.
All your online and offline orders get synced automatically in real-time, making stock management, inventory forecasting, analytics, customization and product configuration hassle-free and accurate.
5. Accounting software
All B2B businesses, small or large, use accounting software to track payroll, cash flow, purchases, sales, etc. Integrating eCommerce with accounting software will centralize all your transactions, ensuring every order, purchase, refund, etc., is accounted for without manual intervention resulting in accurate financial statements and maintaining the integrity of your company’s financial statements.
Some benefits of eCommerce and accounting software integration include:
- streamlined data collection process,
- an accurate view of the company’s financial health,
- reduces time-consuming manual entry of data,
- detailed reports including critical eCommerce metrics like the number of orders, total revenue, average order value, order conversion rate, purchased products, abandoned carts, etc.
- accurate data enables you to strategize better and generate higher revenue and profit for your business.
VARStreet’s eCommerce platform has ready integrations with popular accounting systems like Quickbooks and more.
6. eCommerce integration with payment gateways
To process online orders, you need to integrate with payment gateways. Payment gateways allow you to process multiple forms of payments securely, provide a seamless checkout experience with complete control to offer specials and add-ons to boost sales before final checkout.
When the checkout page is embedded directly in your website, customers don’t need to leave your website to a third-party payment processor to complete the transaction allowing for a frictionless and fast checkout process.
Payment gateways have built-in fraud detection and management and offer secure transactions and PCI compliance.
VARStreet’s eCommerce platform lets you accept all major credit card and PayPal payments through our integration with a host of payment gateways.
7. Shipping integrations
Integrating your eCommerce product data with a shipping solution allows you to auto-calculate freight charges or set rules based on real-time information. You can also override automation and take advantage of free shipping offers by distributors or other freight offers and deals, improving the purchase experience by informing customers of shipping rates while checking out. Customers also get tracking information and updates, further enhancing the trust and credibility of your brand.
VARStreet’s eCommerce platform integrates with all major shipping carriers like FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.
8. PunchOut integration
Many B2B buyers have internal processes and approval workflows for purchasing and use procurement systems to streamline their spending. They require a functionality called PunchOut, where they can access the sellers eCommerce site from within their procurement system, browse pre-approved products, add them to their shopping carts and then pull the shopping cart back to their procurement system to go through their internal processes before a purchase is made.
PunchOut also has many benefits for sellers. They are:
- Offer a streamlined buying experience and increased order accuracy resulting in happier customers.
- Improves customer retention through optimal pricing, intuitive buying experience, and guided buying.
- Provide a shopping experience equal to B2C eCommerce.
A PunchOut integration is a non-negotiable for B2B businesses. Read 7 Benefits of a PunchOut Solution for your B2B eCommerce Business to understand the importance of PunchOut and why your B2B business needs a PunchOut integration.
VARStreet stores come with ready PunchOut integrations with all popular procurement software like Ariba, PeopleSoft, SAP and more.
9. Email marketing integrations
Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels with the highest RoI (return on investment). Integrating your B2B eCommerce store with email marketing tools like Mailchimp or Litmus aids you to generate sales by nurturing your customer and lead data, communicating effectively with your customers and plays a vital role in brand recall.
You can automate welcome emails, birthday wishes, newsletters and other emails to create continuous communication with your subscribers and ensure they receive information about your products, business and any campaigns you run.
Other benefits of email marketing automation with eCommerce include:
- promoting new products,
- offering specials or discounts to boost sales,
- reminding shoppers of their abandoned carts,
- offering discounts on products in abandoned carts to incentivize customers to buy, and
- asking customers for reviews and feedback.
10. Social media and marketplace integrations
Social media and marketplace integrations are the most popular feature of eCommerce websites today. Amazon is by far the most popular marketplace globally, and in 2020 the company’s net revenue was 386.06 billion U.S. dollars, up from 280.52 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.
Integrating your eCommerce product catalog with social media and Amazon or Google expands your customer reach, allows shoppers to buy your products from these popular platforms and share your products on their social channels.
Some more benefits of integrating eCommerce with social media and online marketplaces include:
- expand your reach,
- drive traffic to your B2B eCommerce store,
- engage with audiences online
- increase your social profiles and online presence, and
- provide customers additional channels to communicate with your B2B brand.
VARStreet’s eCommerce platform has a catalog export feature through which you can export your eCommerce catalog to marketplaces like Amazon, Google Shopping, NewEgg, etc.
11. eCommerce analytics integration
Analytics software like Google Analytics allows businesses to track sales, customer journeys, behaviours, popular products, abandoned carts and many more metrics essential to eCommerce success. B2B businesses can effectively track the products that customers add to cart but do not buy, products that are popular, pages customers bounce from, etc. and gain valuable insights into their online business to make timely improvements to drive sales and positively impact the bottom line.
Some more benefits include:
- Data-driven insights to optimize your B2B eCommerce store.
- Capture customer data like demographics, locations, online behaviour, etc.
- Understand which marketing and sales initiatives are working, identify those that aren’t, and improve areas where there is a greater chance for opportunity.
- Improve conversion rates and increase revenue through tracking important metrics like cost per lead, cost per acquisition, etc.
Challenges of B2B eCommerce Integrations
B2B businesses use highly customized software applications unique to their business requirements and processes. While all eCommerce platforms offer some integrations, not all are ready for B2B operations. The plug-and-play widgets that work for B2C are not comprehensive to cover B2B eCommerce
Then there are multiple disparate business systems from different brands that need to seamlessly integrate with each other and eCommerce for businesses to get complete benefits of eCommerce integration. The only way to make B2B eCommerce integration work is to customize it to the business.
Following are few steps you need to follow before eCommerce integration:
- Identify the manual, repetitive and error-prone processes. Where do your employees get stuck or spend excessive time?
- Monitor the customer journey and identify processes that cause friction.
- Review the flow of data between systems like ERP, CRM or accounting. Which processes are interdependent? What is the flow of information between these systems?
- Determine processes, information or systems that require seamless integrations. For example, your product catalogs must be centralized and integrated with eCommerce, sales quoting, inventory management tools, warehouse software. Customer information like company name, contact details, pricing structures, orders, transactions, etc., must be integrated with sales and accounting systems for seamless operations.
- What is your integration strategy? Will you choose a third-party integrator or choose a business management application that handles key sales processes like sales quoting and eCommerce and comes with ready integrations with all other business applications?
VARStreet’s eCommerce Platform is Equipped for B2B Success
Not all eCommerce platforms are equipped to handle complex B2B processes. VARStreet understands B2B operations and is built with the needs of B2B sellers in mind. Their software stack includes sales quotation software, catalog management tool, CRM and an eCommerce platform with ready integration capabilities. All their software applications integrate seamlessly to offer a holistic eCommerce and business solution that aligns and unifies disparate business systems allowing B2B companies to save time, eradicate inaccuracies, maximize productivity and sell more products.
Whether you’re looking for off-the-shelf integrations or need to develop your customized solution, VARStreet will equip you with everything you need for B2B eCommerce success.