When B2B commerce requires sales representatives, phone calls and fax machines, both purchasing and sales workflows can quickly get bogged down. Yet when market volatility reached an all-time high in the midst of the global pandemic, the process of calling up sales representatives to inquire about product availability became not just inefficient, but unsustainable.
"Prior to the pandemic, companies that used traditional B2B commerce methods would go into an office and talk to somebody, or fax data into an office to get a product shipped to them," said Suresh Devanan, president and CEO of Nish Tech, in a recent conversation with PYMNTS. "But there are more people working from home and not available in the office, and customers started to see that having B2B eCommerce and online ordering is much more meaningful now, compared to the traditional way they were doing it."
While manufacturers, distributors and corporate buyers have accelerated their adoption of eCommerce technologies, sellers don't always have a clear path to launching their online sales platforms. Devanan explained why building up from existing third-party platforms, rather than developing proprietary eCommerce portals, can be the most appropriate method to address the industry's biggest pain points today.
Build Versus Buy
There is an inherent value in building B2B eCommerce platforms from the ground up. Organizations that take this approach have greater control over user experience and customization, both of which are key to fostering lasting relationships between buyers and sellers.
Yet amid market volatility, supply chain disruptions and inventory uncertainty, the costs (and time) associated with building proprietary eCommerce portals significantly outweighed the benefits. According to Devanan, the value in wielding existing infrastructure to launch a B2B eCommerce capability is vast — but today, it lies largely in speed.
With that in mind, Nish recently announced the finalization of its Episerver B2B Commerce Accelerator, a solution that will launch next month. It is designed to enable brands to fast-track their B2B eCommerce journeys — but as Devanan explained, the ability to introduce customization capabilities into such a platform is just as important as speed.
"That will be the main feature, to cut down the costs and timeline of go-to-market," he said. "This is very well in-line with this pandemic situation, where, without compromising features and functionality, B2B customers can enable this Accelerator to go to market quickly."
Many of the features that organizations need in their B2B eCommerce strategies in order to cope with market volatility aren't easily, quickly or affordably implemented in proprietary solutions, Devanan said.
"When you do it on your own, you're building something that is unique to your business," he said. "But you're not going to leverage functionalities that are the industry standard ... If you try to build it home-grown, it can take several years to get these features and functionalities, which is going to be very expensive for companies."
Some of the most important features include ERP integration and inventory management, which can include real-time visibility into product availability at any given warehouse, or the ability for sellers to offer product alternatives when items are out of stock due to supply chain bottlenecks.
Choosing the right third-party platform can allow businesses to implement these more sophisticated features out of the box, which is imperative to supporting a positive customer journey. While many buy-side organizations had struggled to migrate away from legacy B2B purchasing practices, the pandemic has accelerated their need for digital platforms to buy what they need.
Ensuring that corporate customers have the best experience possible is essential to promoting the broader evolution of B2B eCommerce — because when buyers have a positive shopping experience, they're far less likely to return to the old ways of making a purchase.