B2B eCommerce Guide

In B2B eCommerce, digital initiatives are on the rise. Wholesalers, manufacturers and service providers are turning to B2B eCommerce. In the coming years there will be a 70% increase in B2B sales made online.

According to a recent study, the B2B eCommerce market will be worth 17.8 trillion in 2027. It is therefore important for B2B companies to have a good webshop so that customers experience an optimal eCommerce experience.

Why invest in B2B eCommerce?

In business-to-business, online sales are becoming an increasingly important part of the sales strategy. This is because business customers increasingly expect easy and fast online ordering methods. These expectations are driven by private experiences. According to the American research bureau Forrester, it is consumer platforms (B2C) that determine what happens in the B2B market. What a customer experiences when making private purchases is also expected at a business level.

  • Increase Sales

    A B2B webshop will help to increase turnover. Products become visible online, new markets can be discovered, and it is possible to grow internationally.

  • Meeting B2B Customer Expectations

    Business customers have different buying needs than consumers. Yet B2B customers expect the same convenience as in B2C purchases. It is therefore important to respond to their wishes with a B2B webshop.

  • Work more Efficiently

    With a B2B webshop, selling products will become more efficient. By automating processes, the chance of errors is reduced ensuring a smoother sales process. Customers will also be able to place their orders more quickly and easily.

the benefits of implementing b2b commerce solutions

Differences Between B2C and B2B eCommerce

There are considerable differences between B2C and B2B eCommerce. B2C and B2B buyers have different motivations for buying products, they have different buying behaviours and different expectations. In order to meet the wishes of the customer, it is important to pay attention to these differences in B2B eCommerce.

B2B customers expect more from B2B eCommerce than B2C customers, particularly in functional terms. The characteristics of traditional personal one-on-one sales should also be represented online.

  • Extensive product catalogues
  • Complex price lists
  • Prices with and without VAT
  • Price agreements with customers or customer groups
  • Repeat orders
  • Quotes
  • Account management for different roles
  • Technical product information

By choosing the right B2B eCommerce software, all wishes of the B2B customer can be met.

Hanand Falco at MAdia

How to choose the right B2B eCommerce software?

The foundation of B2B e-Commerce is the software you choose for the B2B platform. It forms the basis on which your teams and your customers will interact. The software must work well for both parties. But what do you look for when selecting eCommerce software for your online portal?

Step 1: Detailed Analysis

Every B2B eCommerce process starts with a critical analysis of the current environment. Look at the current infrastructure for B2B sales and try to answer questions such as:

  • What does the sales workflow look like?
  • Which teams are involved?
  • Where is product information managed?
  • What customer data is held?
  • Are there price agreements with customers or customer groups?
  • How are orders delivered?
  • What communication is there with the customer?

Make an overview and determine what you want to see in the new B2B eCommerce suite. Also, determine in which areas improvements can be made.
Set clear goals: what do you want to achieve with your new B2B e-commerce platform?

Once you have a clear picture, you can draw up an RFP (Request For Proposal). In this document, you lay down exactly what you are looking for. Based on your wishes, solution providers and implementation partners can make a proposal for your new e-commerce environment.

Step 2: What options are available?

There are many different ways to get started with B2B eCommerce. But which one suits you? If you classify the various options, there are roughly 2 ways: build it yourself or outsource it. Most B2B companies do not have an in-house full-stack development team and therefore choose to outsource the creation of the webshop.

Next, it is important to choose the B2B platform that fits best.

1. A SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform
2. Commercial Open Source Software

With a SaaS platform, you have a subscription to a webshop platform. You get access to a platform with only standard functionality built in. The advantage is that not much has to be built. Unfortunately, it also means that you cannot change much. A SaaS platform is therefore usually not the best choice for a B2B eCommerce platform.

An open-source variant, on the other hand, is a good option. For this type of platform, you pay an annual license fee. Open-source platforms contain much standard functionality and can also be adapted as desired. In this way, the B2B platform can scale to your business processes.

Step 3: Selecting the Right B2B eCommerce Software

Once you have decided which platform best suits your B2B eCommerce needs, you can start looking for software. Pay attention to what standard functionality the platform offers, what adjustments can be made and what connections are possible with other software (e.g. CRM, PIM and ERP).

Contact various B2B eCommerce software providers to get a good idea.

Step 4: Find the Right Partner

When you have found a B2B software package that suits your needs, you can look for an implementation partner. You will work with this partner to develop a B2B platform. When making your choice, pay attention to the following issues:

– Does the company have an official partnership with the software?
– How much experience do they have with the software?
– What knowledge do they have of B2B commerce?
– Can you get in touch with B2B companies in the portfolio?
– What services are offered in addition to the implementation?

After a careful selection of a partner, the implementation can begin.

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Migrate or Start from Scratch?

Perhaps you already have a B2B eCommerce platform running, but you want to modernise or expand it. In that case, you should also follow the steps described above. However, it is good to check which data can be transferred from the current platform. Include this question in the RFP to avoid surprises later.

B2B eCommerce Functionality

When researching B2B eCommerce platforms, you may also want to know what you can expect from them in terms of functionality. Therefore, check whether the following items are present:

  • Scalable Product Catalogue

    Manage a large number of products based on categories for easy accessibility.

  • B2B Price Lists

    Compile price lists for customers or customer groups based on price agreements.

  • Shopping Lists

    Store products in multiple order lists to promote a fast ordering process.

  • Quotations

    Add a request for quotation as an option or set it as a standard step in the B2B order workflow.

  • Account Management

    Link several buyers to one customer profile. Set access rules per user.

  • Content Management

    Content modules ensure easy management of the product catalogue. Here, you can enrich products with photos and optimise SEO.

  • Comprehensive Report Engine

    Create reports with data from the platform and gain insight into key metrics.

  • Integrations

    Integrate software such as Exact, SAP, Akeneo PIM and more.

  • Flexibility and Scalability

    Flexible architecture that adapts to new requirements when your business grows.

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B2B eCommerce Platforms

There are various B2B eCommerce software packages on the market. However, many of the platforms that claim to be suitable for B2B originated in the B2C market. Think for example of Magento, Woocommerce and Shopify.

Although these platforms have been around for a long time, it does not automatically mean that they are also suitable for B2B. These products often lack functionality for B2B, which means that a lot of customisation is required. This is costly, both in development and maintenance.

Fortunately, over the past few years platforms have come onto the market that have been developed for B2B eCommerce specifically. After a careful comparison, we have chosen the open source platform OroCommerce.

OroCommerce is a robust B2B solution which contains everything that is needed in B2B eCommerce.

The platform has the following advantages:

  • Less customisation than B2C platforms
  • Flexible and scalable workflows
  • Internationally deployable
  • Built on the latest technology
  • Easy to integrate with other platforms
  • Fixed licence price

Choose a platform built for B2B and gain more freedom, flexibility and less costs.

B2B e-commerce development: the process

What to expect from a B2B e-commerce project? Of course, you would like certainty about the price, quality and duration of the project. Therefore, it is important that the development phase is clearly defined.

Through regular consultation with the development partner, goals and priorities are set, progress guaranteed and work assessed.

  • Discover

    During this phase, we discuss what you are looking for in detail. We organise workshops with stakeholders to get an overview of your business such as in which markets you are active and what goals you have in mind.

  • Advise

    We make a recommendation based on the workshops. We may also come up with new ideas that will positively impact your sales. We look at which platform fits best, which integrations are needed and what the architecture will look like.

  • Discuss

    We combine our eCommerce expertise with your market expertise. How are we going to make something that fits your industry and your vision? We make adjustments if necessary and turn it into a workable plan.

  • Prioritise

    Rome was not built in a day. Therefore, we start with the development of functionality that is needed for the webshop to work. We rank tasks according to customer interest, internal processes, development time and value for the main objectives.

  • Test

    We extensively test every new functionality in the B2B webshop. Together, we take a critical look at the results, make adjustments, put new ideas on the backlog and discuss which follow-up steps can be taken.

  • Restart the cycle

    A B2B webshop is never ‘finished’. Because the B2B eCommerce world is subject to change, we keep thinking about how we can further develop your B2B webshop.

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Minimum Viable Product

A solid B2B webshop is built in phases. This is why we recommend working with an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. The MVP is part of a strategy in which the first version of a new webshop contains all the components needed for the webshop to function properly. From there, new functionality is added step by step.

What are the costs of a new B2B webshop?

The costs of starting a B2B webshop depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The amount of standard functionality
  • The amount of custom functionality
  • Integrations with other systems
  • A standard B2B template or a custom design
  • The number of languages in which the webshop must be available
  • Data migration from existing systems
  • Complexity of the workflows

The total cost is made up of implementation costs, licence fees for the software, hosting costs and then costs for maintenance and further development.

Want to get a complete picture of what a B2B eCommerce platform will cost? When requesting a quote, don’t only ask for the implementation costs, but also about the costs after delivery.

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