Whilst we didn’t pioneer B2B ecommerce, we were pretty close to the start back in 2005. At the time we were lucky to having some innovative customers who could see an opportunity to provide a self service portal for their customers.
With some retail ecommerce platforms available, nothing really catered for B2B, as a result we custom built a B2B solution. Now, more than 10 years on we can look back and consider what’s changed, what worked and what didnt. So here is our list of the top changes and evolution of B2B Ecommerce since 2005.
Whilst ecommerce platforms both open source and paid existed long before 2005, the solutions were simpler and certainly included limited functionality. A favourite amongst many was OSCommerce, and for larger implementations IBM WebSphere.. The B2B industry has historically been a slower adopter of internet technology than their retail customers, and as a result demand was low for B2B ecommerce solutions. As a result most B2B ecommerce sites were custom built, and in our case using Microsoft .net and SQL server. We even have customers running these same sites today with some updating of the front end look and feel. In contrast now there exists many B2B suitable ecommerce platforms for wholesale, manufacturing, distribution and trade businesses to adopt. From the widely used Magento and Magento Enterprise through to Hybris for larger scale B2B requirements, Netsuite, IBM and many niche solutions. In the last year we have seen the arrival of pureplay B2B ecommerce platforms such as OroCommerce and B2BCloud who provide highly optimised B2B platforms uncluttered with retail features.
Today, systems integrated ecommerce is a given, no successful business can achieve any real scale without integrating their B2B platform with their backoffice ERP system. In 2005 whilst this was possible, much more custom development was required to achieve this.. and as a result costs could be prohibitive. Most data was transferred using flat file and FTP and not all ERP systems were capable of exporting and reading data. That said at a minimum stock updates and order processing was incorporated in our early B2B sites with customer, pricing and product managed within the ecommerce platform. Today, all mainstream ERP systems offer systems integration through a number of options. Integration can be real time using system APIs and fully connected customer, product, pricing, stock and order data is the norm. ERP systems have not moved as fast as the ecommerce industry, but some leading platforms such as NetSuite even offer a combined ERP and ecommerce solution almost on a single cloud platform.
Public vs Private
B2B Ecommerce sites in 2005 involved making sure no one except your customer could see your product range and prices. As a result information was limited, maybe a few ‘About us’ pages and a login panel. Over time businesses have become less concerned about what their competitors can see, and more about making life easier for their customers and more importantly working to attract new customers. In the digital age, it’s likely your competitors know your product range and pricing anyway! New B2B Ecommerce sites are often as open and easy to access as a retail site hiding only the specific customer pricing tier which is shown on login. Google has had some influence here as well, the more your customers and prospective customers can see, the more Google can index and the more likely it is you will find new business online.
Customers, any customers now expect their B2B supplier to behave like a retailer online. Next day delivery, real time stock and availability, order status, one click checkout, loyalty points are all featuring strongly in many B2B ecommerce solutions. B2B ecommerce sites with the highest conversions have all this coupled with a great design and usability. Long gone are the private B2B ecommerce sites where you have to go through a one week account sign up before you gain access.
If you still feel like you have a B2B Ecommerce site from 2005, or no B2B ecommerce solution at all.. why not get in touch on 0116 3261116 and find out how we can help.