How to solve complex customer models in B2B ecommerce

With the need to manage custom pricing, multiple decision makers, and longer decision cycles, it’s fair to say that the world of B2B ecommerce is complex. 

Here at Williams Commerce, we are seeing first-hand how the world of B2B ecommerce is rapidly changing and the challenges this poses to B2B organisations. New models and platforms are beginning to come to the fore, while established platforms like Adobe are growing and changing to adopt a more enterprise-based approach. As technology evolves and presents new opportunities, our B2B experts have remained agile so that we can continue to provide innovative solutions to clients.   

To explore this further, our panel of industry experts Rob Williams, CEO of Williams Commerce, Tanya Peasgood, Head of Consultancy at Williams Commerce, and Simon Hartley, Managing Director at Cloudfy, hosted a webinar. In the session, our experts explored the current landscape, recommendations for organisations looking to expand or reconsider B2B solutions and their predictions for the future. To help you adapt and thrive, we have summarised the key takeaways below. 

Your panel of industry experts

Tanya Peasgood

Rob Williams

CEO at Williams Commerce

Tanya Peasgood

Head of Consultancy at Williams Commerce

Simon Hartley

Managing Director at Cloudy

What changes have you seen in the B2B ecommerce space?

Our panellists highlighted a notable move towards omnichannel and D2C within the broader ecommerce space. 

When it comes to catering to a variety of customer requirements across numerous touchpoints, omnichannel can reshape customer expectations. D2C is also gaining momentum, as customers can liaise directly with manufacturers. 

Another change highlighted by our panels was the uptake in composable and headless platforms. The benefits and flexibility offered by these solutions are making them increasingly popular in the B2B space. 

Are ecommerce platforms coping with these changes?

SAP Commerce, Commercetools and Salesforce were all identified as powerhouses of enterprise scale B2B, and companies that are making changes to grow and adapt.  

Adobe is moving up the B2B ecommerce chain and was commended by our panellists for its increasing levels of work with larger, enterprise-based brands. 

BigCommerce is also moving into the larger B2B market, as is Shopify. Our panellists noted that Shopify is doing outstanding work with smaller B2B brands but is on an upwards trajectory and will be moving to mid-market in the next few years. Shopify also has the advantage of working well with D2C markets for hybrid brands and fast spin up trial sites.  

Additionally, our panel identified Cloudfy, a leading B2B ecommerce platform powering manufacturing, distribution, and service businesses worldwide, as pairing both B2B and D2C requirements through a truly cost-effective, turn-key SaaS solution.  

What are the biggest challenges B2B businesses face in making ecommerce work for them?

Our panel identified three major challenges faced by B2B business – complex pricing, customer setup, and stock and inventory management.   

With pricing, we often see a legacy of long-term B2B customer relationships, which has seen sales teams selling bespoke pricing to clients for many years. As a result, this has created as many custom prices as there are customer accounts. Additionally, complex product models with custom bundles and configurations are not uncommon within the B2B space. This collectively makes pricing slow to display and hard to index.   

To simplify, our panel encouraged B2B organisations to review their pricing with their sales team. Promotions and service-based pricing can also be beneficial. There are also other ways to achieve pricing results, like promotions. This can come through ERP or a pricing engine.   

The less customisation you have to do on a site, the better,said Tanya. More customisation can often lead to a slow site and problems down the line. When choosing a platform, look at the features and capabilities that align with the needs of your business before making a decision. 


“Prior to Covid, bespoke pricing was very common as sales reps took B2B orders offline and there was flexibility on pricing. This presented a challenge when B2B businesses started to move online, as different customers had different pricing. To solve this, offer variance in pricing but group them in the most common brackets. This means that not every customer will have their usual bespoke pricing. However, it will save time and money through less administration in the long-term.” 

In terms of customer setup, many large B2B companies have multi-tier hierarchies, with different global and regional divisions and offices. These also have complex user workflow needs, with multiple approvers for orders based on rules like value and payment method. Support for customer business rules, like requiring additional validated fields on orders, can also be a challenge. 

Our panelists agreed that good ways to manage customer setup challenges are to:

  • Investigate ways to flatten hierarchies and manage multiple companies. 
  • Ensure the right ecommerce platform or supporting app is utilised. 


These suggestions are important starting points and more helpful than bespoke solutions. 

“Large companies with multi-tier hierarchies – be that global or regional businesses with divisions and offices – can often have differing customer set ups. To combat this, it is advisable to see if there are ways to flatten hierarchies and manage as multiple companies.” 

Issues around stock and inventory management include associating customers to the right warehouse. This may not be in the same country as they are located and, businesses may also operate in multiple regions with multiple warehouses. Additionally, gaining an accurate view of stock on your website when you sell omnichannel can prove challenging, while handling back order and the rules around whether this is allowed or not, creates a further obstacle.  

Ecommerce platforms capable of supporting multi-source inventory offer a strong solution to these challenges. Deferring inventory management to specialist solutions tailored to your site requirements can prove especially helpful here. 

Furthermore, product attributes can be used to support business logic around order availability statuses and managed in different ways for different customers. 

What key factors should be considered when looking to expand or reconsider B2B solutions?

Platforms remain front and centre here. Selecting the right technology based on the needs of your business is a fundamental decision. 

Rather than solely focusing on ecommerce, our panel highlighted the importance of using the right app for the right job. An example would be using Product Information Management (PIM) for managing omnichannel product needs, pricing engines and machine learning search/personalisation. 

The right partners need to be selected for development with expertise in both ecommerce and B2B. Internal challenges around time, integrations and business models also need to be accounted for. 

“Buy in from the client’s team is essential, especially for larger or enterprise B2B organisations,” said Tanya. “It needs to be a process that the leadership team has bought into. You may be able to spin up a Shopify or smaller B2B site in three months or so, but for larger companies, the discovery stage alone may take this long.” 

“The discovery stage is vital to understanding the challenges and needs of the business. It is also really important to involve the customer service team at this stage, as they will understand the customers’ day-to-day challenges.” 

Can an ecommerce platform meet all needs of a B2B customer?

In answer to this, our panel explored the capabilities of a single ecommerce platforms as well as flexible platforms and the use of composable solutions like Flintfox for pricing engine. 

For anyone considering a re-platform or rebuild, our panellists advised B2B customers to look closely at complexities around pricing and customer set up, as it could be possible to simplify. 

What are your predictions for B2B ecommerce in the next five years?

Whether composable solutions will be here to stay remains uncertain. However, our panellists expect to see a shift back to the big platform world. 

In regard to platforms, our panellists believe BigCommerce will strive towards Adobe’s current position, while Adobe switches its focus to the high-end enterprise space. There was a collective view that there are opportunities for Shopify to win more B2B customers. 

Simon added: “At some point in the future, B2B, B2C and D2C will all merge and be sold through the same site and platform. When that will be specifically is yet to be seen, but I feel that is the direction we are moving in.” 

Speak to our experts about your B2B challenges

We hope these insights and predictions have given you plenty of takeaways to optimise your B2B ecommerce. Our team are on hand to help you explore ecommerce platforms and build capabilities to find the right solution for you. Contact us today.





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