Developing Your B2B E Commerce Strategy Part 2In yesterday’s blog post, I covered the first four questions you should ask yourself when developing a B2B ecommerce strategy. Today, I’m going to share five more questions that you should ask yourself to round out the results of your strategy setting session.

What is your three-year ecommerce plan? Ecommerce is not “set it and forget it” technology. Once a site goes live, it actually takes on a life of its own, and to keep the project manageable, a phased approach is recommended. Multi-year funding is essential for funding your phased approach to ecommerce, which leads to…

What is your budget for ecommerce? This is a good question to hammer out before you get started. Invariably, the first answer is, “As inexpensively as possible,” but this sort of thinking will get you into trouble over the long haul. Why? Simple—you get what you pay for and the option that appears low cost on the front end often has a dramatically higher total cost of ownership over the life of the project. Remember our phased, three-year approach? You’ll need funds and resources for each of those years. A good rule of thumb is to budget 75% of your initial budget for year two and 50% of the initial budget for year three. This is probably more than you thought you’d spend originally, but trust me—you’ll be glad you did!

Who should you partner with for ecommerce? No doubt you will need to align your organization with a variety of internal and external partners during an ecommerce initiative. How should you choose your partners? Start by choosing an ecommerce platform that supports your goals for the site and that will work with you to make sure that you get exactly what you need to be successful. When considering any partnership, ask yourself if the partner’s values and vision align with those of your organization. Make sure that your partners have experience with other ecommerce projects that are similar to yours in size, scope and back-end integration. Feel free to be choosy when choosing partnerships. The reality is they can make or break your project.

How will ecommerce change your business? If you just thought to yourself, “It will bring in more sales,” you’re right, but ecommerce will do more than simply boost your bottom line. If you thought to yourself, “Nothing,” in response to this question, you’re in for a surprise. Ecommerce is the one technology initiative that will touch every area of your business, including where data is housed, how those day-to-day exceptions are handled by your customer service team, how sales interacts with marketing and works with your IT staff. Ecommerce will speed up your sales engine and while this generates revenue, it will also expose any gaps you have in the fulfillment process as well as expose any process-oriented inconsistencies that exist.

What is your competition doing? You should spend some time looking into you’re your competition is doing and finding ways that you can differentiate yourself from them as well as improve on their approach. Let me go on record as saying that I am not recommending you go out and observe the competition with the intent to copy what they are doing. While imitation might be the highest form of flattery, this “me too” approach won’t set you apart from the pack. Spend time figuring out what they are up to and then improve upon it—or go in a completely different direction if you think they are on the wrong path. No matter what your take, you must know what the competition is doing in order to compete with them.

The Conclusion

Ecommerce is a powerful tool for the B2B organization, but can quickly become unmanageable from a time and/or resources perspective without a holistic ecommerce strategy in place. Developing a B2B ecommerce strategy ensures that your project will best meet your customers needs and drive growth throughout your organization.