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In an age where anyone can be a content creator and people can get their information from sources ranging from traditional news to social media, it has never been more important to be a critical consumer of information. Opinions disguised as facts. Entertainment presented as information. Salesy white papers and eBooks from biased sources. These are all part of the paradox of information. Having access to information is empowering but can also set people on the wrong path if they make mistakes throughout their consumption.

The clutter of information is present across both consumer-facing and B2B industries. Today more of the customer experience is moving online. Plus, eCommerce vendors who got their start in B2C are consistently moving into B2B to get a slice of the pie. This means that information is more muddled than ever before where B2B eCommerce is concerned.

It’s no secret that manufacturers and distributors need to digitally transform to keep up with evolving customer expectations and fierce competition. If part of that transformation involves eCommerce, you have to make sure you are getting accurate and reliable information so you don’t make the wrong decisions.

Here are five tips for manufacturers and distributors who are embarking on a digital transformation journey:

1. Understand the true importance and value of eCommerce.

Before conducting “best eCommerce platform” searches on Google or scheduling demos, be sure you truly understand why eCommerce is important for your business and how it can position your business for the future. When it comes to B2B, eCommerce is far more than a simple website. If you’re thinking about eCommerce, it’s important to understand that it is just as much about making your team and customers more efficient as it is about generating more sales. Diving into the swarm of information about eCommerce vendors can be inefficient if you do not understand the importance of eCommerce first.

2. Map out your greatest business challenges.

What is it about your business that is keeping you up at night? Are your customers unable to self-serve? Are they frustrated by the lack of online information available to them? Are your sales representatives or CSRs spending time on low-value tasks like checking order status or reordering?  Whether you need to improve the digital experiences you offer, make your team more efficient, drive sales, or connect channels, products and people, eCommerce can help. But in order to find the most reliable information you must know your most prominent business goals so you can validate the information against what you actually want to accomplish.

3. Understand the data and information already available to you.

Digital transformation is about bridging the gap between data and the people that need information. While many companies base their customer experience on data that resides in back office systems, the reality is that customers need access to specific types of information. In the same light, your sales people, customer service representatives and other key internal players, need a different type of data. Understand who needs what data, identify what data you already have, and define what you don’t have. When you uncover the information available to you, it gives you a clear path forward. A caution: try to refrain from seeking out technology until you have clearly defined your data needs.

4. Assess the options available to you based on your challenges.

After you know the value of eCommerce for B2B, have defined goals, and understand who needs what data, it’s time to assess your many options for eCommerce solutions. This can be a tricky part of your research journey as it’s difficult to distinguish between flashy marketing and sophisticated eCommerce that can handle the complexities of B2B. This is where platform comparisons are essential. It’s also important that the companies you talk to take time to understand your business. Can they speak your language? Do they have assessments that align your goals to the functionality and capability of their solutions? At Insite we encourage companies considering doing business with us to complete an eCommerce assessment. Even if they do not end up doing business with us, the assessment can help them analyze other solutions as well.

5. Consult experts in digital transformation.

Turning to eCommerce consultants is another important step to finding the right information. Consult experts who are well-trained and experienced in transformation. Transforming your business requires an outside in approach. Who can help you through that process? Insite, for example, has a vast network of strategic partners who are well-versed in Digital Transformation. Third party analyst reports like The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites Q3, 2018 are also great resources to help you differentiate the leaders in B2B eCommerce from the pack.

Venturing into eCommerce is not an easy task and the research and preparation phase is perhaps the most important one involved in digital transformation. Following these steps will help ensure you are making the best decisions for your unique business.

BONUS: As part of Insite’s ongoing mission to provide reliable, transparent information, we’ve launched a new podcast series called Myths of B2B eCommerce. This monthly podcast breaks down common assumptions about B2B eCommerce to set the record straight. Be sure to checkout the first episode, B2B Cart Abandonment is Not B2C. Justin Racine, Director of Marketing & eCommerce at Geriatric Medical and Surgical Supply joins the podcast to discuss the surprising statistics around B2B cart abandonment.

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