Choosing the right e-commerce solution for your B2B company is an important decision that will affect your organization—for better or worse—for years to come. If you’re new to ecommerce and this is your first ecommerce site, you might be wondering if you can just get away with a basic shopping cart program that plugs into your current site or if you need a more robust e-commerce solution. This article covers five considerations that will help you answer the question, “How do I choose a B2B shopping cart?” and will get you off on the right foot in ecommerce.
Realize that you probably need a B2B e-commerce platform, not simple shopping cart software.
If you’re wondering what the difference is, you aren’t alone. At the outset of an ecommerce project, many B2B organizations are convinced that all they need to do is add “shopping cart functionality” to their current website. This is a common misconception. Unless you are selling your comic book collection out of your garage, you probably don’t need a shopping cart—you need an ecommerce platform. An ecommerce platform will provide you with the B2B capabilities you need to successfully implement business-to-business ecommerce as well as provide integration into your enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer resource management (CRM), and content management (CMS) systems. (Unsure of the difference between an ecommerce platform and a shopping cart? The article, 10 Indications You Bought a Shopping Cart, Not an Ecommerce Toolset, will help.)
Identify what features and functionality you need for your e-commerce store to be successful.
In this department, most B2B organizations fall into one of two categories: They have no idea where to start with ecommerce functionality or they want to be the next AmazonSupply.com. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you fall on, the steps to success are the same. Look closely at your business and identify what your customers need to be able to do online. Create a list of the must-have features and functionality, as well as a list of nice-to-have features. Use this list to help streamline which items should take priority for your site and to help you wrangle your budget. I guarantee, there are always more ideas than money when building a website of any kind! Wondering what type of functionalities your B2B ecommerce site should have? Check out the article, 10 Capabilities Your B2B Ecommerce Platform Must Have.
Consider back-end integration.
In B2B ecommerce, integration is what will make your ecommerce site efficient while you reap significant cost savings. Integration connects standalone systems like ecommerce, ERP, and shipping so that they share information automatically without having to manually rekey the data into each system. Integration eliminates the bulk of human error, increases the number of sales your organization can handle and cuts costs associated with mistakes and duplication of effort. (Still not sure how integration will affect your ecommerce success? Check out this article.)
Interview potential ecommerce partners and ask for references.
These days, it seems everyone has a nephew or a neighbor or a coworker that can build you the ecommerce site you’ve been looking for. The advent of user-friendly web design software means there are a lot of companies out there trying to get your business. Ditto for your ERP software partner—many of them recognized a great business opportunity and launched a rudimentary ecommerce storefront that you could choose to use. Each provider offers a unique list of capabilities—the trick is choosing one that meets your needs. Ask yourself if the provider you are looking at offers the functionality, design and integration you need. Then ask for references—and be sure to check them. Need help on what to ask? Here’s an article that covers three very important ecommerce questions to ask.
Choose the solution that best meets your needs rather than basing your decision on price.
This is a biggie. Everyone is budget conscious these days and with good reason. By all means, cut costs everywhere you can, whenever you can. But don’t buy your ecommerce platform based on price. Of course, price should be a factor in the decision, but rather than comparing sticker prices alone, be sure to do two other things: compare functionality side-by-side and then calculate and compare total cost of ownership for each ecommerce solution you consider. Total cost of ownership will give you a better estimate of what it will cost over the life of the site to use each solution. Doing this analysis can be eye-opening. The results might surprise you! What’s more, the old adage of, “You get what you pay for,” holds true in ecommerce. Sometimes cheap is just that–cheap.