Industrial giants are continuing to open channels for online selling. If you are thinking about entering the eCommerce space in 2021 or realize it is time to replatform an outdated or underperforming webstore, here are the top features you will need in your industrial eCommerce platform.
Multi-Level User-Defined Permissions
Manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors of industrial supply products know that purchasing decisions are rarely made by a lone individual. Since multiple people are on the buying team, it makes sense that your industrial eCommerce platform should recognize this reality of how B2B sales are made. Look for the flexibility to offer multi-level user-defined permissions to your buyers. This allows the customer to mirror account permissions to their own internal processes. This functionality is one of the driving forces behind the popularity of Amazon Business. With the right platform powering your digital channels, you don’t have to be Amazon Business to offer this functionality. But you won’t find this capability in platforms that are repurposed from B2C. So, focus your search on purpose-built B2B platforms.
Ability to Handle Configurable Products
Most industrial products are available in a variety of configurations. This may be by size, color, construction material, voltage, or almost any other variation you can imagine. Buyers configure the base product for their needs. If this sounds like the products you sell, you must make sure your eCommerce platform allows for configurable products. Otherwise, you could be faced with hundreds and hundreds of SKUs for the same product. With configurable products, you create a parent product with variants for each attribute. On the front-end, buyers see one product because it has been automatically configured by the back-end. If your customers order batches of the same product with multiple variants (for example 500 brass and 275 nickel widgets or 1,000 110 volt and 700 220 volt electric motors) then look for the ability to offer a matrix grid order form to make it easier for customers to place their order.
Whether you sell in multiple countries or operate in one country with multiple fulfillment warehouses, localization is a must-have for eCommerce in 2021.
Use localization to automatically present website pages in the appropriate language and currency and with the correct shipping options for the viewer. This is invaluable if you operate in multiple countries and currencies. And if the complexity of language and currency has been a restraint on your global ambitions, localization capability frees you of these constraints.
Even if you operate in a single country with multiple warehouses, geolocation services allow you to determine from where an item will ship and automatically give an estimate of the arrival time, transportation method, and shipping cost. The is the exact type of visibility into your supply chain that modern buyers want in 2021 and enhances the customer experience.
Most industrial products are priced by the customer, by volume, and other negotiated terms. Pricing contracts is tedious when done by hand and unfortunately can result in profit-eating errors. Sales reps are forced to either contact the customer to correct the pricing or eat the error.
But with robust pricing engines, even the most complex pricing schema can be automated. This means every contract gets priced correctly every time.
And when a customer logs into their account, their catalog is customized with their negotiated prices. When the pricing process improves, communication and profit are enhanced.
You can even automatically respond to requests for prices and quotes. This further frees the sales staff to focus on much more productive activities.
ERP and WMS Integration
Your industrial eCommerce platform shouldn’t operate as a standalone solution. Look for a platform that integrates with your ERP, WMS, PIM, and any other business solutions in your existing architecture. The platform should slip in and like a chameleon, effortlessly blend in with the surrounding ecosystem.
Look for a platform with great API capability to plug your website in and get up and running. Another measure of the ability to integrate easily is the size of the user and developer community. With a large community, you’ll often find those that have gone before you have created integrations you can use.
Large developer and user communities are generally found with open-source coded eCommerce platforms.
Cloud or On-Premises Capabilities
One thing you know for sure, change is always just over the horizon. Future-proof your webstore by selecting an eCommerce platform that can deploy in any manner.
Today, you may want hands-on control over your platform and opt for servers under your control. This can be on-premises or off-premises servers you own and control.
But, tomorrow things could be different. In the future, you may opt for the additional security and support that comes with a cloud-based solution.
Make sure that you select an eCommerce platform that can be deployed in any manner AND can redeploy easily. If you start on the Cloud, make sure you can move on-premises if your company wants to move in that direction. On the other hand, if you start with an on-premises installation, make sure that a vendor Cloud option is not only available, but that transferring is easy.
B2B eCommerce marketplaces are the wave of the future. McKinsey & Company reports that 65% of industrial buyers are already buying on a marketplace and a marketplace is generally the primary or secondary source for many goods they purchase.
Financial services advisory firm iBe estimates worldwide B2B marketplace sales to be $3.6 trillion by 2024.
There’s a good chance your company will want a marketplace within the next 3 to 5 years. Make sure the eCommerce platform you pick today is ready to create a marketplace when you are ready.
Support Multiple Business Models in Parallel
Along the lines of marketplace capability, you need a platform that can support multiple business models in parallel. This allows you to easily operate multiple websites employing different models with one back-end.
Or, maybe you want to use multiple business models such as B2B, B2B2B, and D2C all with one website.
It’s possible when you select a platform that handles multiple front-ends with a single back-end or can even operate in a headless architecture scenario.
Automation Engines to Streamline Backoffice
Whether your industrial eCommerce platform selection is an individual project or part of a larger business transformation, you must have a software solution that includes an automation engine.
Automation engines allow you to customize workflows in the back office, so you operate more efficiently. Eliminate duplicate data entry and reduce the possibilities of errors.
Automate the RFQ and QTC processes to respond to customers with lightning-fast speed.
Pick a Partner and Pick a Platform
With so many choices in platforms, it is important to find a partner that will work with you to find a solution that meets your needs. Utilize your partner’s expertise in crafting the RFP for the platform. Pick a partner, pick a platform, and create the customer experience industrial buyers are demanding. That’s the recipe for success today.