What are buyers demanding from B2B ecommerce in 2017?

By:  Dann Anthony Maurno

It is hardly news that ecommerce platforms are “table stakes” in selling to retailers, distributors and manufacturers. What is new, and continues to evolve, are the demands that those buyers place upon sellers.

Jason Dias, a solution architect for the retail industry with Hitachi Solutions America, will describe those demands in the MSDynamicsWorld-hosted webinar, “E-commerce with Microsoft Dynamics” on September 28 (click here to register).

Microsoft Dynamics’ native B2B commerce capabilities are rather limited, says Dias. “In terms of a distributor, you have Dynamics 365 doing all of your warehouse management, and fulfillment of the sales orders. But what Dynamics doesn’t do is provide an ecommerce portal for customers to place orders, or for the sales orders to come in, as well as a portal where customers can view their invoices which are raised in Dynamics 365.”

B2B ecommerce can never be too streamlined or easy to use, as far as customers are concerned. The more integrated and streamlined the checkout, the more the seller is rewarded with high conversion rates, posits Hitachi Solutions, which offers an ecommerce platform that integrates with the entire Dynamics line.

Dias describes the expectations of customers, between self-service portals and ease of checkout.

“In the B2B ordering process, unlike B2C, I’m not shopping in a catalogue,” he says. Customers instead expect a product detail page, with for example options of size and color for apparel in a grid view. There a customer can enter quantities for multiple sizes and add them to a cart in a single order.

Customers as well prefer additional ordering capabilities, using lists which they set up once; a click of a button transfers everything to the shopping cart.

B2B customers who are familiar with a seller’s offerings might prefer as well to enter item codes on a form, and bypass shopping on a grid.

“Then comes the checkout side of it,” says Dias. “A checkout most likely would include shipping one order to multiple addresses. So if I had three stores and I’m ordering some shirts, I can place one order and have some go to store A, some go to Store B and some to Store C.”

As opposed to B2C shopping, wherein customers select based on speed of delivery, B2B customers typically prefer to use their own shipping accounts, wherein they enter their own UPS or FedEx accounts.

Interestingly, “In the B2B industry, speed of delivery is not that big a deal” compared with the ability for buyers to use their own shipping account, says Dias. “A good example is that the main supplier could be a smaller company, whereas his end customer is a much larger company that would like to ship on their own account with their own negotiated shipping prices.”

Of course, there are two businesses in any B2B transaction; with sophisticated ecommerce, the seller benefits as well, and beyond higher conversation rates. “Where the customer’s credit terms are coming back from the ERP, we’re also doing credit checks to see if the customer exceeded these terms; then the order won’t be placed, but will if the customer is within his terms,” says Dias.

In addition to customers’ demands for streamlined checkout and self-service portals, Dias will coer:

  • gaining oversight into each of several online stores’ activity; and
  • operating at the highest level of security with PCI compliance.
About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).