It’s time to talk about B2B eCommerce. The rise and rise of online orders between businesses is becoming harder to ignore, with the industry predicted to be worth as much as $6.6 trillion by 2020.
However, with increased popularity in B2B eCommerce comes increased expectations for a seamless service. To crack this lucrative business, you need an efficient B2B order management process to deal with the complexities and caveats that don’t come with standard B2C eCommerce.
In this blog post, we look at the challenges you’re likely to be met with when working within B2B order management, as well as the benefits your business will reap by having a streamlined order management system in place.
Put simply, B2B order management is a term given to the entire process of tracking orders made by your business’ clients. The order management process doesn’t just end when your client has made a payment for your products or services, or even when said products or services have been successfully delivered and received – it could also cover the potential need to process returns, exchanges and refunds.
To do this and to do it well, you need an order management system – this would be any platform or piece of software that you would use to track your orders, inventory and shipments. The form your B2B order management system takes is situational, but common examples include the backend of a dedicated B2B eCommerce platform such as BigCommerce, a spreadsheet, or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software such as Brightpearl or Oracle.
As mentioned, there are several complex process that come with B2B eCommerce that you wouldn’t necessarily encounter when working purely in business-to-customer commerce. There’s the higher acquisition costs and longer buying cycles to consider, not to mention the fact you may need to incorporate proposal requests and punchouts into your order management process.
Here are some of the biggest challenges presented by B2B eCommerce and order management:
As mentioned, a lot of the increased customer expectations within B2B eCommerce are generational – according to Lead Forensics, 73% of B2B sales are now made by or involve millennial decision makers, who have grown up with the internet merely at their fingertips.
These buyers – especially those within larger companies who are looking to save as much time as possible – expect your order management systems to be able to lock in and communicate efficiently with theirs, and they could lose interest quickly and take their business elsewhere if you hit any snags.
The growth and intensification of global supply chains has in turn spurred on a higher demand for electronic data interchange (EDI) – this refers to the digital exchange of documents between businesses, but in a standard electronic format.
It sounds like a headache, but Mark Morley of Opentext argues that the major benefits of EDI – and overall B2B – integration ‘revolved around enabling the collaborative relationships and entirely new work practices that drive modern supply chains’.
B2B buyers, particularly those within the aforementioned rising population of professional millennials, are on the lookout for an eCommerce experience which parallels that of a B2B purchaser. However, in placing orders with you which are remarkably larger in both size and value, they typically have much higher standards than their B2C counterparts.
If you are not meeting these standards, then you run the risk not only of chargebacks and cancelled contracts, but of word spreading quickly through negative online reviews and tarnishing your business’ reputation.
You need to maintain a streamlined order management system which works efficiently and takes every possible outcome into account. These higher standards also increase the need for data sharing within a cross-channel marketing strategy so that proper protocols are in place to be followed, regardless of who handles each individual issue.
More online orders means more orders to fulfill, but this is where inaccuracies in your inventory can often creep in. If your processes don’t enable inventory updates across all your channels in real time, then you are going to encounter some major problems with managing your out-of-stock products – which subsequently will have an impact on the SEO of your online store – and keeping customers satisfied.
After reading all of that, you may find the concept of B2B order management daunting. However, it comes with as many pay-offs as it does challenges, if not more:
Arguably the biggest benefit of B2B order management, you will have the ability to manage orders across all of your sales platforms. This means that you can accept orders from your customers regardless of the channel they’re using to search for and purchase your products – whether it’s online, over the phone, in person or even through EDI.
Having a multi-channel or omnichannel strategy in place is also a huge time-saver throughout the order process. You can become a much more efficient business throughout the order process – from processing a payment to managing your inventory. Not to mention the ability to set up order and inventory tracking through a single, central platform.
Is your business based across several locations? Perhaps you travel frequently in order to do business with your customers face to face? Maybe you need to be able to take orders while at an event or trade show?
A lot of order management systems are based in the cloud, meaning you can become a more efficient and sustainable business with easy-to-access data and reduced paper wastage.
If your order management system has offline capabilities, you can even take orders during face-to-face meetings, giving instant gratification and peace of mind to your B2B customers.
This is for the more advanced users of B2B order management, but once you become acquainted with maintaining an efficient order management system, you may want to explore some of the avenues in automation.
Automating processes which would be time-consuming if done manually can substantially speed up the process between the customer placing and receiving their order. This means you have more time to process more orders from happy first-time and returning customers.
It’s undeniable that B2B eCommerce comes with its own set of challenges, but with the right order management processes and systems in place, the possibilities are endless for your business.
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