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At Insite we often hear from frustrated manufacturers and distributors who have finally thrown up their hands and admitted that their previous eCommerce initiatives have failed. And unfortunately it’s not just a conflux of isolated incidents.  In fact, some B2B experts estimate that the rate of failure for initial B2B eCommerce projects is somewhere between 75-85%.

More and more manufacturers and distributors are learning the hard way that the complexity of B2B commerce simply isn’t suited to the majority of software solutions on the market.  At Insite, it’s frustrating to see so many high performance organizations consistently failing in this area.  The fact of the matter is that companies within the B2B commerce market (and solution providers like Insite) are constantly battling misconceptions, broken promises, and in some cases, a complete lack of business understanding.

It’s not merely that organizations are choosing the wrong technology platform, or the wrong partner for that matter. Many companies are simply confused by vendors attempting to get in on this trillion-dollar industry with software that is based on architecture shortcuts, and not built for B2B commerce. For that reason, we’ve outlined the three biggest software “fails” we often see manufacturers and distributors making. Read on to learn how to avoid making decisions that could lead a project down the wrong road.

  1. Building commerce on top of CRMs or CRM-based solutions.

    One of the biggest misconceptions we’ve encountered is that companies think they can build their commerce solution on top of an existing CRM, or a CRM-based solution. This is possibly one of the worst decisions manufacturers and distributors can make in terms of commerce strategy. CRM and commerce have extremely different goals; a CRM is built to manage the customer. Commerce is designed to sell the company’s goods and services.  A commerce solution needs sophisticated functionality for search, custom catalogs and a host of other features required by the people of B2B to do their jobs. To us, a CRM is really just a Rolodex on steroids, and hardly suited to handle the complex transactions within a B2B buying cycles.  Commerce software built on CRM software, no matter how well known the brand, is not commerce technology. It’s merely “CRM-plus” and in the long run, it won’t survive the complexity of B2B buying and selling use cases.

  2. Choosing a provider focused on building eCommerce for B2C.

    Another common mistake is directly attributable to the excessive number of B2C eCommerce solution providers who have entered the B2B market, lured by the “trillion-dollar industry” bait. These companies typically sell potential customers on flashy front-ends that have very little to do with the complex needs of the B2B buying cycle. Although it’s true that the user experience needs to mirror what B2B professionals have come to expect from their personal purchases, that’s where the similarity stops. Hybrid commerce solutions with their roots in B2C rarely understand that the purpose of a B2B eCommerce solution is not just the transaction; its goals also involve increased efficiency and increased customer engagement. The typical bells and whistles of a flashy, retail-like frontend are in reality rarely used in a B2B eCommerce environment. B2B eCommerce environments require complex integration with backend systems, custom catalogs, unique pricing, multiple location delivery management, and countless other B2B commerce requirements that are far beyond the capability of built-for-B2C eCommerce packages. The shopping cart features may be pretty, but the massive customization required is guaranteed to be an ugly endeavor.

  3. Expecting ERP Storefronts and PIMs to serve as fully functional B2B eCommerce

    B2C-based commerce solutions, and CRM partners are not the only core functionality on which failed B2B systems may be incorrectly based. In some cases, manufacturers and distributors will attempt to use their ERP to drive eCommerce. Frankly, the information in ERPs was never meant to be external-facing. ERP data is full of unique ID’s and custom navigation that means nothing to an outside customer. Onboarding typically fails miserably the first time a buyer or researcher attempts to search for products as they become lost in a sea of unfamiliar information. The same problems can happen when the PIM system becomes the core of eCommerce. We recognize that product and catalog information is important to a successful eCommerce solution, however there is way more to it than that. Like an ERP, the PIM is designed specifically to manage product information. While that is a critical part of eCommerce it is only one piece of the puzzle. The ability to manage commerce is not an afterthought, it is the core to making digital commerce successful. When technologies start as something else, and migrate into commerce, the commerce is never fully core to the solution. Though, we must add that quality B2B eCommerce platforms need to be able to integrate with backend office systems to synchronize the data into the commerce platform.

Whether it’s commercial software based on the wrong application, or an attempt to add on to an existing enterprise solution, projects are failing because companies aren’t recognizing that they can’t customize existing software for commerce and expect it to work. They’re not really using B2B eCommerce technology –  they’re using technology that’s built for something else.

No one buys commerce software to run their ERP, nor do they expect a CRM to be able to operate back office tasks.  For a B2B eCommerce initiative to succeed, the system needs to be based on actual commerce technology, with robust, built-in B2B capabilities that arrive right out of the box.

Attending B2B Next this September? “Digital Commerce Technology” is one of the four main tracks at the conference this year. Learn about the technologies that deliver the best eCommerce results when you attend sessions under this track. Insite experts would also be happy to share their perspectives on technologies best-suited for the complexities of B2B when you stop by booth 206 in the exhibit hall or schedule a meeting with one of our experts.


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