This article is part of our "Partner Expertise" series designed to help merchants prepare for an unprecedented holiday season and thrive by leveraging the best tools, products, and services available in the e-commerce arena. The content below is brought to you by Robert Rand from JetRails.
As the leading mid-market and enterprise eCommerce platform, Magento powers some famous direct-to-consumer retailers, but in some circles, it’s better known for its business to business (B2B) capabilities. Manufacturers, Distributors, and Wholesalers that sell to businesses have unique needs and requirements that are different from direct to consumer (D2C) operations. As a robust and open-source platform, with a large and B2B user base that’s been building for over a decade, Magento is an ideal platform for B2B brands.
One thing that quickly becomes apparent in the B2B space, is that business rules from one organization to another can be wildly different. This is actually where Magento’s strength and flexibility as a customizable platform stands out. While Magento provides many native features and functionalities, individual store owners will need unique integrations and customizations in order to successfully meet customer expectations and support important business flows.
What are the most frequent topics that draw B2B eCommerce leaders to Magento and its ecosystem of extensions and integrations? Here are the top B2B considerations that we see in the market:
Specific B2B shoppers may need to be provided with unique access to products, pricing, and features in your site. These restrictions and accommodations may vary greatly, so here are some of the most common scenarios:
When a large organization chooses to purchase from you, they may want multiple users to be given access to a corporate account. These users may need to be assigned different roles, such as accounting staff members that need access to invoices and management team members that can approve orders before they’re ultimately placed.
Whether you need to be able to accurately quote freight shipping charges for LTL shipments or give shoppers the option to request items be shipped using their shipping or freight carrier, it’s not unusual for B2B sites to include shipping options that are not available in B2C sites.
B2B buyers are more likely to need to ship items to a variety of locations. Imagine a business with 20 locations needing to purchase new signage. Shoppers need to be able to split orders in the checkout, specifying different addresses for different items.
If your organization supports users in different countries and regions, you may need features to support multiple languages, currencies, payment methods and shipping carriers. In many cases, you’ll want your site to automatically direct users to the correct version of the site or storefront for their part of the globe.
Corporate purchasers don’t always pay with credit cards. You may need to offer some clients Net Terms or integration to their purchasing software through a PunchOut system. Government buyers may require that you accept P-Cards, a form of payment card that not all merchant processing accounts are capable of supporting.
You may also find that being able to put credits on file for buyers is important for some corporate buyers, such as if they want to provide some of their employees with pre-established funds to use toward purchases.
Manufacturers and wholesalers often have PDFs and other product collateral that they need to provide to B2B clients. This can include anything from manuals to sell-sheets to videos. It’s important to have a way to host and display these additional files.
Customer support can put a major strain on any operating budget. Whether you’re supporting B2B shoppers, or their retail customers, having helpdesk features, such as a knowledge base and ticket system, can vastly improve customer success and your bottom line. Whether you need to help shoppers through a return management authorization (RMA) process, or simply need to provide some form of tech support, you’ll want your team to have the tools they need for success.
Progressive Web Apps (PWA) make it easier to provide a fast and efficient user interface, leveraging your eCommerce software to power both fast and modern websites and a wide range of other shopping portals, such as on IoT devices. As a brand, you may find that making shopping more accessible in the right places will greatly improve your sales.
Shoppers that make bulk or frequent purchases can greatly benefit from features that allow them to add items to their shopping cart simply by entering a SKU number, or uploading a spreadsheet with SKUs and quantities that they’d like to add to cart. Another solution is creating grouped products and other matrix products, where shoppers can add many items to cart at once. This is much better for large orders when compared to having to search and navigate to product pages in order to add products to cart one at a time.
Some products need to be custom quoted with price breaks which need to be considered based on the volume of products being requested. Or, perhaps it's simply to verify if you can make good on a particular request or you need to manually address delivery charges. Regardless of why shoppers need to request a quote, your website may need to be able to offer businesses a way to request a custom quote.
Equally important, if you are accepting quote requests, the process needs to be streamlined. Shoppers should be able to add items to a quote request much like they would add them to the cart if they were going to purchase them on the spot. Your team needs to be able to respond and negotiate digitally, and ultimately give the shopper the opportunity to turn the quote into an eCommerce order.
While retail shoppers will often use wishlists, business shoppers that can only purchase items approved by their managers or that frequently purchase the same items can benefit from features such as requisition lists and other solutions that make it easy to quickly order or reorder their favorite products.
Whether it’s your CRM, EDI, ERP, PIM, OMS, WMS, accounting suite, or some other software, Magento’s application programming interface (API) can handle your integration needs. Without integrating key systems in your business, you’d be stuck with manual data entry and import/export tools, which can slow down business operations, tie up key personnel, and leave you open to errors and inefficiencies.
Modern brands often need elastic and autoscaling Magento hosting. Others simply need a team that will customize their hosting environment as-needed, and pick up the phone 24/7 to address any needs. Regardless of your particular expectations, the Magento platform gives you the ability to choose the host that makes the most sense for you, meets your compliance requirements, and provides the maintenance, management, and monitoring services that you need in order to have the stability and reliability that you need when operating an eCommerce website.
Where you store your merchandise matters. Whether you’ll be shipping or allowing pickup from various warehouses, stores, or other locations is important information that your eCommerce platform should take into account for a variety of reasons, including to offer accurate pickup options. In a B2B situation, you may also find that you’re limited to providing certain customers goods that are available out of certain inventory locations.
There are lots of reasons to operate more than one storefront or website. Perhaps you want different sites for different brands that you operate, or different stores to address localization, such as different languages and currencies. You may even want to create unique stores for your corporate buyers. Regardless of the reason, Magento is a long-time leader when it comes to running multiple sites from the same software instance.
While most online stores rely directly on shoppers to walk themselves through every facet of the shopping process, B2B customers often have higher average order values (AOV) and customer lifetime values (CLV). With higher AOV and CLV, you may very well have a sales team that helps these customers, stays in touch with them, and makes sure that you continue to retain their business. If so, it’s important that your sales reps have access to see quotes, orders, and other important information related to the customers that are assigned to them.
B2B eCommerce is all about personalizing the entire shopping journey around processes that make sense for your customers and your team. All of the functionality described in this article can be achieved with Magento if you have an experienced team of Magento developers supporting you.
Robert Rand, Director of Partnerships & Alliances, JetRails
Robert Rand is the Director of Partnerships & Alliances at JetRails, a mission-critical e-commerce hosting service. Robert has over a decade of experience in helping merchants benefit from sound e-commerce and digital marketing strategies, assisting organizations of all types and sizes to grow and succeed via digital commerce. Robert is an Adobe Certified Expert in Magento, a frequent author and thought contributor in the e-commerce industry, and the host of The JetRails Podcast.