How to Find the Best B2B Ecommerce Platform

B2B ecommerce platforms
I'm ready to start building or already have my own ecommerce store.
Try BigCommerce
I have questions and would like guidance from an ecommerce expert.
Talk to sales

The business-to-business (B2B) landscape is changing as it shifts away from the traditional offline territory towards a more online world. 

This shift has been quite rapid, as the B2B ecommerce volume in the U.S. more than doubled from 2009 to 2019, leaping from $3.1 billion to $6.7 billion.

Due to this substantial growth, ecommerce technology has quickly become top of mind for B2B businesses. 

  • 35% of B2Bs say investing in ecommerce platform technology is their top priority in the next 12 months.
  • 54% of distributors are focused on better user experience/adding more B2C features as their top priority.

Typically defined as the sale of goods or services through online transactions between businesses, B2B has transformed online retail by processing orders digitally. This has resulted in increased buying efficiency and effectiveness for all B2B businesses, from B2B2C to wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors. 

There is no better time or opportunity to craft an ecommerce plan. The first step? To provide the right things to your customers, you need to find the ecommerce platform that’s right for your B2B company.

B2B Ecommerce Platform Selection Factors

By reviewing the following factors, you can consider how your choice of B2B ecommerce platform will impact your company: 

Type of B2B business.

Different types of B2B companies will have different needs. When researching a solution, organisations must first understand the differences between them:

  • B2B2C: Business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) ecommerce takes out the middleman, usually between the B2B organisation and the B2C, putting the businesses directly in contact with the consumer. 
  • Wholesale:Wholesale ecommerce is a business-to-business (B2B ecommerce) model where, instead of selling your products individually to consumers, you sell them in bulk and at a discount to other businesses.
  • Manufacturers:Manufacturers produce finished goods on a large scale by utilizing parts and raw materials in combination with manual labour and machines. In a B2B model, the finished goods are sold to other manufacturers, suppliers or wholesalers.
  • Distributors: Distributors work closely with manufacturers to bring visibility to the goods they are producing, to increase sales and move their products along the distribution channel.

Getting sales team buy-in and adoption.

First of all, your team's ability to use your chosen platform hinges on a few things:

  • The platform's user interface.
  • The level of knowledge required to utilise the platform fully.
  • Your team's skill level prior to using the solution.

Each platform's interface is different and tailored to users with a specific level of coding and developer knowledge.

Not every B2B ecommerce software will work for your team — and they're not supposed to. That's why it's important to pick not the best platform but the platform that your team will be able to utilise best.

Having a plan for onboarding customers.

The switch from one ecommerce platform to another — or from an old proprietary platform to a new one — is not always a seamless transition, especially for your customers. 

When implementing a new solution, make sure that you have a clear plan in place for onboarding your pre-existing customers. You do not want to surprise them with a new platform in which they have no idea how to operate. 

To streamline the whole process, some ecommerce organisations provide extensive launch services to ease the transition and provide real-time training for both your customers and your in-house staff still getting used to new workflows. This could be the difference between a long, drawn-out implementation process and one that’s easy for everyone involved. 

Ensure it integrates with business software.

If you’re an organisation that uses many different, essential business software — such as ERP, PIM, CRM, OMS, etc. — then finding a platform that can integrate with them is crucial. 

You do not want to find yourself in a situation where you have spent money and time investing in an ecommerce platform only to find out that it doesn’t work with the software you currently have. That’s more than just a waste of time and effort; it’s a loss of potential revenues as well. 

The most highly-rated platforms out there provide a solution that connects all of your software in one easy package without holding you back

Security.

Security is the number one priority for many customers when selecting a platform. Ensuring that their data is safe is critical to their implementation of your service and its ultimate success. 

An ecommerce platform dedicated to B2B needs to be able to provide security when it comes to:

 

  • Credit card data. 
  • Customer data. 
  • Fraud protection. 
  • Administrative security. 
  • SSL certificates. 

With each of these items dutifully safeguarded, customers will be more likely to select your service. 

If that wasn’t enough, dedicated security programs can help prevent your site from cyber attacks and ultimately, help to increase your SEO ranking. It pays to be secure. 

Cost of the platform.

By cost, we mean not only the monetary cost but also the internal cost of getting the site up and running, maintaining it, etc. One significant differentiator is how software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms like BigCommerce compare to on-premise platforms.

While on-premise platforms allow for an extraordinary amount of customisation, they also require full-time developers to work through the complex nuances of the buildout. In addition, an on-premise solution carries the weight of security and compliance, which can get expensive as well.

With a SaaS platform, many of the extracurriculars that can bog down the process are handled by the third-party vendor — simplifying the process while lowering costs. Furthermore, by using a SaaS platform with a long history, you can better forecast future costs far more easily. 

While there is no easy answer when it comes to SaaS vs. on-premise solutions, the difference in overall costs may end up one-sided. 

Customisation.

Providing a customisable, flexible solution is a must for B2B ecommerce platforms. Long gone are the days when companies could simply release a ready-made, all-in-one solution and have it work for every company and individual. Technology has grown rapidly —specificity is king. 

Ecommerce platforms that provide extensive customisation are more likely to attract merchants and customers. The main reason for this? Scalability. Organisations that experience extreme growth or are preparing for it need a solution that can grow alongside them. 

Businesses across the world have realized this and are offering solutions with increased functionality and designs — without the additional costs. With new methods like headless commerce taking off in popularity, the desirability of customisation appears only to be increasing. 

First-party data and customer data.

Becoming more data-driven is a critical part of maintaining or building success in the modern business world. Understanding the data that you have at your fingertips, while being on the lookout for more sources of information can help differentiate you from competitors and grow your business. 

Through the use of platforms like Google Analytics and the interactions of different online channels, it is easier than ever to understand customer behavior — where they’re located, what they’re interested in and what causes them to convert sales.

An ecommerce platform that leverages itself for success should have extensive strategies for data-driven decision making.

Essential B2B Ecommerce Platform Features

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most essential features to look for in B2B ecommerce websites and platforms:

Ability to sell B2B and B2C on the same platform.

Selling to B2B and B2C do not always have to be separate silos within your business — in the modern ecommerce sphere, the ability to do both within the same platform can save you both time and money. 

This isn’t a feature that all ecommerce platforms have, though, and it is important to do your research when investigating potential solutions. 

Easy to add new channels and/or technology partners.

The omnichannel experience has changed modern ecommerce, allowing businesses to operate in a multi-channel approach, from physical storefronts to online platforms and social media. A unified experience across all channels helps to increase sales and bring about a more pleasant customer experience. 

When researching platform features, finding one that prioritizes omnichannel must be an essential part of the process. With how much the shopping experience has changed in the last decade, being able to sell to customers in every channel they operate in is one of the keys to business success. 

Ability to sell internationally including multi-language support.

The international marketplace is globally accessible in a way that it has never been before. An individual in America can purchase a product in China from Amazon or eBay and have it delivered within a week. 

With how connected the world is, having the ability to sell internationally is critical to long-term and sustained growth — and that first starts with multi-language support. 

By finding a platform that offers internationalization, you’re choosing a service that will grow alongside you and offer the ability to sell into new markets, whenever you choose. 

Access restriction options.

B2B ecommerce businesses are often more complex than B2C ecommerce businesses. Due to the nuances and rules often associated with selling to other companies, you need to be able to manipulate your ecommerce platform to solve for differing buyer experiences, depending on the user.

Because of this, your ecommerce software of choice should give you the option to allow or restrict access to certain parts of your site on an individual basis.

For example, you may want to:

  • Hide your bulk pricing from your B2C customers.
  • Hide pricing altogether (for a variety of reasons).
  • Hide your B2B site entirely from non-registered members.

How to use these options involves taking a look at your B2B buyers' experience and your variety of customers and products. You need to make sure the B2B ecommerce software you choose allows you to make these choices in the first place. Otherwise, you'll run into issues while building out these pathways in the future.

Pricing, payment, and ordering customisation and options. 

B2B businesses have many moving parts. Between customer management tools, fulfillment centers and punchout catalogues, several different systems need to work together to create a unified order management and customisation system.

You need to ensure your B2B ecommerce platform allows for transactional options in one unified solution since having several tools that don’t work together will result in disorganization, confusion and potential problems with inventory management and order fulfillment.

This is particularly relevant if you are a hybrid business offering both B2C and wholesale channels since reducing channel conflict and management are pivotal to your business.

Additionally, you might want to provide your best clients with different delivery options, depending on their tier, location or other factors. 

Heavy focus on user/customer experience.

Whenever brands look to create an ecommerce website, one thing is the most important: the user experience. B2B customers need to resonate with your brand and your site's user experience and user interface (UX/UI) to make their experience more satisfying and enjoyable. 

For example, you could consider automating your ecommerce product videos to generate videos in bulk. Videos are more visually appealing than text, and you are likely to enjoy higher conversions by scaling your volume of creatives.

As more and more B2B businesses move towards an enhanced UX/UI with optimization options, your best bet is to identify a platform with the personalization options you need. You want to find a platform that enables you to create an ecommerce site that's:

  • Easy-to-use and intuitively designed templates.
  • Customisable and brandable.
  • Responsive on various devices.
  • Easy to add tools to — like lead capture forms, personalization plug-ins, and rewards programs.

Why BigCommerce’s B2B Ecommerce Platform is a Top Option

BigCommerce is one of the leading open SaaS ecommerce platforms, internationally known for its low total cost of ownership and highly flexible APIs. 

BigCommerce offers its customers a variety of B2B features and add-ons not found in competing for software solutions to deliver a modern, frictionless ecommerce experience

The BigCommerce platform also makes it easy for hybrid businesses with both B2B and B2C customers to offer different price lists or catalogues to customer groups. In other words, you can provide for both B2B and B2C in one unified solution.

What BigCommerce brings to the table.

What separates BigCommerce from other digital platforms? One word — features. 

BigCommerce B2B Edition’s next-level features make the buying process more manageable and less complex for your customers by providing the following features:

  • Price lists and customer groups: Provide custom pricing down to the SKU level, bulk buying discounts, and promotions.
  • Buy again: Let users view and quickly reorder all previously purchased products.
  • Payment method visibility control: Add, edit, show or hide approved payment options for customers.
  • Set buyer roles and permissions: Enable customers to create a complete corporate account profile and set up multiple tiers of buyers.
  • Invoice portal: Allow customers to easily manage and pay invoices online with multiple payment options.
  • Customer requested quotes: Let customers add items to their cart and automatically request a quote for their order.

Furthermore, BigCommerce offers business the ability to combine the front-end and back-end of their ecommerce store with headless commerce, which offers additional benefits including:

  • Accelerated growth: No limitations or boundaries. Your business growth is determined simply by your ability to scale into multi-territory, multi-language and multi-currency.
  • Future-proof online shopping experiences: Get the flexibility to adapt to technological disruptions and developments.
  • Greater personalization: Create highly customised, modern and personalized front-end experiences on multiple channels.

No other ecommerce platform offers the multitude and variety of features, modules and marketing tools available at BigCommerce. 

To research and compare, other ecommerce platforms include:

  • Adobe Magento Commerce.
  • Shopify Plus.
  • Oracle NetSuite.
  • OroCommerce.
  • SalesForce.
BigCommerce B2B Edition

Ready to learn more about how BigCommerce can help grow your B2B company?

Request B2B Pricing

The Final Word

Now that you know what you should be looking for in a B2B ecommerce platform and you've reviewed the best options, it's time to narrow your choices.

If you have a bit of analysis paralysis, that's okay. Remember, this isn't a decision to be taken lightly.

You should leave with three questions to ponder that should help guide you toward the platform that's right for your company:

  • What do we have the capacity to do with an ecommerce platform?
  • What are our current goals for using an ecommerce platform?
  • What will these goals be three years from now?

If you can answer these questions, you should be able to find the right B2B ecommerce solution with no problem.

FAQs About B2B Ecommerce Platforms

Should retail companies consider selling wholesale?

The answer? It depends.

On the one hand, selling your products wholesale can lead to a massive spread of brand awareness. The case may well be that your wholesale customers expose your brand to an audience you would have never thought to market. Additionally, selling wholesale also opens the door for other business opportunities, such as dropshipping.

What’s more, your wholesale customers will likely become long-time customers as long as you can provide for their needs.

On the other hand, there are some downsides to going wholesale as a retailer, especially if the retailer is selling Direct-to-Consumer (DTC). Here, the main thing to consider is that you stand to lose part of your brand’s identity throughout the process. While your products are still your products, your customers may come to associate your products — and your brand — with the retailers you do business with. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is something to consider.

Along with this, selling wholesale puts a wedge between you and your customers. Since your retail customers engage with the actual consumer, you may not get as much direct feedback as you’d like regarding your products.

What are the benefits of selling on a B2B platform?

With the help of a B2B ecommerce platform, you can achieve the following items:

  • New business opportunities.
  • Improve B2B sales.
  • Lower your overall costs.
  • Reach new markets.
How do I select the right B2B ecommerce platform for my business?

The complexity and size of your company will influence what ecommerce platform is the best fit for your business needs. 

One business may need to ensure your ecommerce platform provider can integrate all digital and physical customer touch-points. In contrast, another might need a B2B ecommerce solution that provides self-service or has significant reordering or SEO capabilities.

 It ultimately depends on your business model and what you are trying to accomplish. There are many B2B ecommerce software options out there that offer partner ecosystems that can meet your online shops' needs.

VIEW MORE
What is the advantage of using a SaaS solution rather than open source software?

With a SaaS solution, all of the technical aspects of running a B2B — from ecommerce website hosting to security and maintenance — are taken care of by the service provider. This means you don’t have to worry about breaches or bugs causing downtime for your site — and it also means you can spend more time focused on improving your website and your business.

Most SaaS ecommerce platforms are continually improved by the developers, with new versions released quite often.

With Open Source platforms, the user is responsible for the installation, management and hosting of an online store. While you gain complete control and flexibility of the platform, the costs associated with hosting, security and development can rack up quickly.

Do wholesalers and distributors need different functionality?

Because distributors are the connection between manufacturers and wholesalers, almost all of their sales tend to be on account and are repeat purchases. Therefore, they need customised pricing, account login and net terms for basically all of their customers.

Wholesalers buy from distributors and resell — they can sell directly to retailers, where they would need the ecommerce features above. However, they will still need to prepare themselves for one-off purchases. This is also where volume pricing and guest checkout would be prevalent.

How can you secure a B2B ecommerce platform?

You can secure your B2B ecommerce platform by implementing one or all of the following:

  • Firewalls, IP restrictions or DMZ.
  • SSL/TLS.
  • Data redundancy.
VIEW LESS

Browse additional resources

Custom Card Thumbnail People Inventory B2B Generic
Article
B2B2C Ecommerce: How to Tap into Economies of Scale
Read Article
Article Thumbnail Ecommerce Cryptocurrency Generic 05
Flexible B2B Ecommerce Payments Are Easier than Ever
Read Article
Article Thumbnail B2B Ecommerce Generic
Article
B2B Companies Who Are Getting Ecommerce Right
Read More
B2B ecommerce overview
Article
B2B Ecommerce

Learn how and why companies are choosing to move the corporate buying experience online.

Learn More