Opportunities for B2B Companies Using eCommerce

Do you know who all your customers are? If you said yes and you don’t have an eCommerce store, then how do you know you’re not missing out on opportunities to grow your business? How do you really know you’re reaching everyone you can? In addition to their traditional customer bases, B2B companies with eCommerce stores can attract new customers in surprising ways.

Anyone browsing the internet could find your eCommerce store. If, for example, he or she happens to work for a small company that can use your services or products, you’ve reached a potential customer! And, in many cases, consumers are also creating an entirely new market for B2B companies.

An article by Paul Demery, “B2B Leaps Onto the Web” in the November 2013 issue of the Internet Retailer magazine, discusses new skills and technologies B2B companies are using for these new opportunities. From managing inventory and pricing, to redesigning eCommerce stores to accommodating additional customer types, to connecting with the new customer markets, B2B companies are taking advantage of these opportunities to grow their businesses.

Some statistics cited in the article from B2B respondents of surveys:

  • 44% said average order values are higher through their eCommerce sites than orders placed by phone, fax, or in person. 11% said their average order values decreased.
  • 24% said they remain the same, and 20% said they don’t know.
  • 52% said their customer support costs decreased for customers who place orders through eCommerce sites.
  • 56% said they profit only if customers use the eCommerce sites without their assistance.
  • 44% said they expect to improve their order sizes through eCommerce, and 43% expect eCommerce to result in more returning customers.

As the article shows, managing and keeping product information accurate and consistent for multiple customer bases, such as other businesses and direct consumers, possibly in multiple countries, is a big challenge.

If you are a B2B company considering an eCommerce store, you could be taking the first step in attracting new business. A system with a central database is crucial. When thinking about your ERP system, keep these capabilities in mind:

  • Recommend related products for more selling opportunities.
  • Make sure customers can search for products and get results quickly.
  • Help your customers help themselves. Let them maintain their own account information, and let them tell you how often they want to hear from you.
  • Provide pictures of your products where possible.
  • If items are backordered, tell your customers when to expect them.
  • Offer personalization.
  • Automatically send reminders when items are left in carts but not purchased.
  • Establish B2B accounts separate from consumer accounts.
  • Keep your pricing structure appropriate for the customer type. For example, don’t sell an item to a consumer for less than what you charge your wholesale customers. Make sure your system accommodates multiple customer types.
  • Personalize your website for each type of customer, presenting information appropriately about your items.
  • Use a single database system with integrated inventory and order management and real-time inventory data.
  • Keep your system flexible and configurable by appropriate management.
  • Provide your customer service reps with the information they need to engage with all your customers.
  • Make reordering easy.
  • Make sure you keep enough inventory for consumers when offering the same items to your wholesale customers.
  • Use reports to monitor your performance.

What are other capabilities needed for B2B companies serving multiple customer bases? What challenges have you met? What opportunities?

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