We all know the power of B2C ecommerce platforms – the entire global B2C ecommerce market is anticipated to reach $6.2 trillion dollars by 2027. But what about B2B businesses, like manufacturers? It’s currently estimated that B2B ecommerce transactions would reach $1.2 trillion dollars by 2021, which is just a fraction of the B2C market. While trends are indicating that number should grow, we have to ask – why aren’t more B2B companies utilizing ecommerce platforms?

To help your company get a head start, here is a guide to how manufacturers can best leverage B2B ecommerce capabilities.

Why should manufacturers consider B2B ecommerce programs?

B2B ecommerce platforms for manufacturers allows companies to centralize their ordering functions, making life much easier for their customers. Using a computer or even their mobile device, customers would be able to:

  • Download specs about equipment for orders
  • Access tickets for service for goods they own
  • Utilize self-service capabilities for billing or invoices

And because B2B ecommerce platforms integrate with a business’ pre-existing internal systems – think customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems – manufacturers can get a clearer, more holistic view of their operations and performance.

Benefits of B2B ecommerce

Some specific benefits of B2B ecommerce platforms are:

1. Meet constantly changing customer goals and needs

We live in the time of “now.” People expect companies to respond to their needs quickly, and that’s certainly true for manufacturers. With ecommerce capabilities, manufacturers can meet even the highest customer demands 24/7, because customers are able to access self-service capabilities via the ecommerce platform, while businesses can view customer orders instantly via the ERP system that is integrated with ecommerce.

2. Provide seamless ordering experience

Since orders will be placed directly through your ecommerce platform, all customer information is collected and stored for easy reference. This level of service provides a seamless ordering experience for both you and customers – everything is handled and processed by your ERP, CRM, and ecommerce platforms. This helps improve your customer service practices since employees will be able to easily find the information they need — like order numbers, delivery addresses, payment details, etc. — in one platform.

3. Gain new analytics opportunities

Data is incredibly valuable when you’re analyzing your business performance and exploring areas where you can improve. B2B ecommerce platforms allow manufacturers to easily capture and analyze the data that will influence business decisions and offer unique insights into things like:

  • Marketing campaign performance
  • Website traffic
  • Sales effectiveness
  • Customer buying habits and trends
  • Inventory

You can use these insights to better understand your customers, improve your product and service offerings, and home in on the activities that generate the most profit for your company. Together with your existing business systems, a B2B ecommerce platform can give your manufacturing company the leverage you need to expand your reach, reduce operational costs, and improve revenue.

4. Minimize customer-facing costs

B2B ecommerce platforms allow manufacturers to automate a substantial portion of the processes that occur on the customer-facing side of business. Tasks that would normally take a salesperson extended time to complete — like checking inventory or processing a payment — can be done efficiently via online portals without requiring salesperson intervention. And since your sales team won’t be bogged down by as many tasks, they will have time to focus on other revenue-generating business initiatives.

5. Improve and build long-term customer relationships

B2B ecommerce platforms have many features that make life easier for manufacturers, but they also make things easier for the customer and can help you improve that relationship. Online ordering systems allow manufacturers to utilize a number of features that streamline the customer’s ordering process, which can help improve customer satisfaction and ensure that they remain a customer for years to come. Some of the user-friendly features manufacturers can deploy include:

  • Customer-specific pricing based on contracts and volume discounts
  • Multiple payment options in terms, ACH, or credit cards
  • Express ordering via file upload
  • Account balance access
  • Accepting invoice payments via direct debits in an account
  • Customer credit limit checks via the portal, protecting them from overspending

6. Increase efficiency around order automation

Because all orders are completed via the ecommerce portal, this automated process makes sales seamless and efficient. Pricing, inventory, shipping, and even discount data should be readily displayed and accessible to customers before, during, and following the transaction. Without ever having to interact with a salesperson, customers can order the materials or equipment they need, pay for the goods, and know when to expect delivery at their facility. And all of this happens with the click of a button.

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Manufacturing B2B Ecommerce Platform

To meet current needs and grow with you in the future, your B2B ecommerce platform must be agile and scalable. The key to getting the most out of your ecommerce solution is to make sure you do your homework and find a solution that checks all your boxes.

When selecting and implementing a new ecommerce platform for your manufacturing operation, there are a few key things to look for. Ask these questions:

  • Does this platform integrate with my ERP?
  • Are the capabilities sufficient for my operation?
  • Can we have multiple logins for multiple salespeople?
  • Is there a reliable search function?
  • Is the portal responsive, can the users use it on different devices?
  • What will the requirements be for my IT team?
  • Does this solution integrate with my shipping partners?
  • What is the timeline for implementation?

To find the ideal B2B ecommerce platform, it is essential to be sure you are working with an ecommerce solution partner who meets or exceeds your needs in all of the aforementioned areas.

At Hitachi Solutions, we specialize in building customizable and fully scalable B2B ecommerce platforms for manufacturers. Our B2B ecommerce solution will help you expand your customer reach, improve customer service and retention, capitalize on valuable customer data, and ultimately generate more revenue.

To truly give manufacturers a comprehensive view of every aspect of their operations, our ecommerce modules are easily integrated with D365 Finance and Operations as well as D365 Customer Service. With all Hitachi platforms working together, manufacturers are able to offer their customers and their team a completely streamlined experience. Contact us to learn more about our manufacturing B2B ecommerce solutions.