The future of your company is just as important as the day-to-day functions. The B2B e-commerce platform you select should be able to cost-effectively scale and grow with you as your business needs evolve over time. Technology should support your overarching B2B business objectives.

Here are four B2B business objectives that a good e-commerce solution will help you reach:

B2B business objective #1: Reduce administrative costs associated with order management and repurpose staff to add more value

How much are you spending per order today? If you’re like most of our customers, it’s probably more than you think.

When handling orders manually, many businesses fail to consider how many hands touch each order placed. Let’s take an order that needs to go through a call center as an example. How many and what types of employees generally touch that order?

  1. One Customer Service Rep entering the order
  2. One Customer Service Rep receiving the order and processing it
  3. One Fulfillment Rep tasked with fulfilling the order and getting it ready to ship
  4. One Shipping Rep
  5. One Finance/Billing Associate to handle billing and Accounts Receivable

Total: 5 (and that’s being conservative)

Each of these employees cost the business money. From things like technology needs to HR training to yearly salaries, even if each employee is only spending a percentage of their day on these orders, the costs associated with processing that order add up fast.

A B2B e-commerce solution can completely automate these processes that sneakily skyrocket business expenses.

Case study: A global cosmetics manufacturer offsets replatforming costs by cutting call center staff

A large, global cosmetics manufacturer came to Sitecore with a problem.

They had a call center staffed by 35 individuals who were completing all orders manually. This manual order entry process drove up the cost of customer service with the expense of unnecessary resources, a large number of manual order errors, and missed opportunities as the reps were forced to spend the majority of their time taking orders, instead of focused on upselling, promotions and attracting new customers.

Sitecore delivered a completely custom order entry solution tightly integrated with their SAP ERP backend. The application allows customer service reps to rapidly enter orders as they’re called in, and for salons to browse, shop, order, and re-order in a self-service manner.

This application has allowed them to reduce their call center staff exponentially, cutting costs and re-allocating resources to new, value-adding positions.

B2B business objective #2: Eliminate order errors caused by the manual ordering processes

Even in today’s digital age, call centers and customer service reps are often inundated with orders, processing payments, and trying to keep track of orders after they are placed. Without modern technology to help manage those orders, errors often occur costing the business time and money.

Here are 5 common ways order errors happen:

  1. Rekeying orders
    Having to rekey orders into multiple systems can dramatically increase the order error rate. Turtle Wax, for example, was experiencing a 6% order error rate with a manual ordering process. Once they implemented a B2B e-commerce solution, they were able to decrease their order errors to less than 1%.
  2. Communication gaps
    Miscommunications often happen when orders are placed over the phone or via email. Lack of customer visibility into order details often contributes to this issue.
    If field sales reps don’t have a good system for placing orders, misplaced emails or purchase orders also often become commonplace, forcing many orders to need to be re-entered at a later date.
    Changes to account information that needs to be done over the phone may not be saved correctly or on time, causing orders to be shipped to the wrong location or person.
  3. Lack of inventory visibility
    Without fully connected systems, product and inventory data isn’t always available in real-time. This can cause issues as field sales reps, unknowingly, communicate old or false information when making a sale. Of course, this leads to unnecessary time spent reworking the order and, oftentimes, a dissatisfied customer.
  4. Product data inconsistencies
    Similarly, outdated systems for managing product data and information can lead to additional errors and inefficiencies. If, for example, sales reps or customer service reps reference printed catalogs for product information, you have to be on top of version control. SKUs in printed catalogs may not match the most up-to-date warehouse data, for example, causing the wrong items may get shipped.
  5. Manual business rules
    When rules and processes aren’t automated, rule-breaking is inevitable. For example, if there is no way to enforce minimum order quantity or shipping fee limits, your staff will be forced to follow-up on orders to make necessary changes.
    Making sure your systems are fully connected with a single source of data truth eliminates many of these challenges. Improving the order capture process and eliminating order errors will help increase your revenue by decreasing costs. It will also allow you to repurpose staff to more value-adding projects.

Case study: ViewSource Technology Group helps manufacturer reduce order errors

A world leading manufacturer of metalworking products came to ViewSource Technology Group with a challenge.

They had 53 retail customers who each sold different portions of the catalog at different prices, and with 150+ product attributes and attribute labels that defined each product.

The manufacturer realized that this process was costly, error-prone and an inhibitor to their growth as errors could occur with version control, manual edits, and more.

ViewSource built a cloud-based Product Information Management (PIM) system called FLEX on Sitecore® OrderCloud® to respond to this manufacturer’s needs, and the needs of future customers. Because Sitecore OrderCloud® is an API-first, headless e-commerce platform, it made it possible to warehouse all product attributes, attribute labels, outputs, etc. and automate the price list generation specific to each of the 53 customers’ requirements, which in turn reduced order errors associated with product management.

B2B business objective #3: Increase the number of customers ordering from you

If you ask any B2B Chief Marketing Officer what their biggest focus is, you’ll hear something about the customer. The customer is at the center of any strong business strategy, and ensuring a strong experience is the only way you’ll see continued growth as an organization.

When it comes to business buyers, “[they] don’t go to work and forget what they do as humans. There’s a new normal that blurs the line between B2B and B2C,” which Brian Solis explained at the 2018 B2B Marketing Exchange conference.

We see that in the fact that B2B buyers have become increasingly mobile:

68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online. In order to keep your buyers engaged, you need to meet them where they are.

60% of all B2B buyers prefer to research their work purchases online instead of interacting with a sales rep. By moving your products and content online, you’re enabling these buyers to find you and engage with you in the fashion that they expect.

The typical B2B decision-making process is 57% complete before a customer even thinks to reach out to B2B providers. Today’s buyers want to complete most of their purchasing process before they engage. Without an online ordering experience, this isn’t possible.

Allowing your buyers to interact with you digitally is the best way to retain those customers and expand to new customer bases.

We won several deals in part due to the technology we have available to our customers. It was a key aspect of several chains re-signing and rolling this out to other parts of their business. It has become a key part of our business development toolkit now. 
Michael Bailey Chief Technology Officer, Diversified Foodservice Supply.

B2B business objective #4: Create process efficiencies that ultimately improve the customer experience as well

Executives love process improvements because improvements in the process means a reduction in costs and an increase in your bottom line.

By moving your ordering needs online, you’ll be able to create many operational efficiencies across the entire business:

  • Reduce delivery times because shippers will have access to the information they need sooner
  • Provide more automated order status updates for these buyers, but also for your internal team, allowing for more accurate and timely reporting for your executives
  • Control catalog visibility and set pricing tiers based on the customers’ contract so they can conduct their own product research and purchases without the help of a sales rep
  • Give sales reps ready access to up-to-date product information and inventory levels to assist in their sales processes
  • Get better data on customers to assist with marketing and communication strategy execution
  • Speed up necessary order approvals by automatically letting the right person know when an approval is necessary, and giving the customer access to information on the status of that approval

Automation will allow you to eliminate many of the manual steps that are a necessary part of your sales process today.

Case study: National paint distributor creates efficiencies for retail customers via a custom ordering experience

A national paint distributor distributes over 300,000 of those paint chips every month to retailers and painters across the country.

They watched these retailers stand in front of the paint chip displays writing down the chip numbers they needed to restock on a notepad and calling those chip numbers into the CSR to order. They knew there had to be a more efficient solution.

They worked with Sitecore to create a digital replica of the retail display that allowed the retail representative to stand in front of the paint chips with his or her mobile or desktop device and see the chip collections represented in the exact order and position that they were in the physical display. This allowed the buyer to quickly move through the collection, adding the chips to the cart as their eyes scanned any physical stacks of chips that needed restocking.

Creating this dynamic product collection digitally, made it easier and less time-consuming for the paint distributor’s retail customers to place the orders. Improving this process increased the number of monthly orders coming in and improved the experience for their valuable customers.

If your e-commerce solution isn’t supporting your overarching B2B business objectives, it’s time to rethink your approach to e-commerce. Your e-commerce or order management platform should not limit possibilities when it comes to ways to create operational efficiencies and to improve your bottom line. Let us know if you need help!