According to a recent study, the B2B e-commerce market is on the precipice of serious growth. The market hauled in $780 billion in 2014. By 2020, that number is projected to eclipse $1.13 trillion.
For that reason, it comes as no surprise that more and more organizations are launching B2B e-commerce efforts. They want as a large of a slice of the pie as they can get.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t do their due diligence ahead of launching a B2B e-commerce initiative. This results in less than optimal e-commerce platform deployments, ineffectively structured organizations, and missed opportunities – which all create inefficiencies and stifle growth.
By understanding more about common mistakes, you can avoid the common pitfalls associated with implementing B2B e-commerce. That’s the way to generate additional revenue—and faster—while simultaneously reducing the risk of failure. With that in mind, let’s look at five of the most common mistakes companies make when implementing B2B e-commerce—and what you can do to avoid them.
Mistake No. 1: Failing to Define Your Requirements in Detail
All too often, I see companies fail to put in the time required to create a thorough list of requirements for their e-commerce system. In doing so, they drastically increase the likelihood they’ll choose the wrong platform to begin with—which prevents them from being able to take full advantage of the opportunity right away.
Taking the plunge into e-commerce for the first time is an extremely time-consuming process. The last thing you want to do is have to re-platform shortly after launching because you made the wrong choice to begin with.
Because so much is at stake, it is imperative that you choose the right platform the first time—one you can live with for five to ten years, or even longer. The only way you can ensure this is done correctly is by extensively documenting your requirements up front. Be sure to include information about features, workflows, pricing, contract support, flexibility, integrations, and more.
Your company is not an expert in e-commerce, so choosing the right platform from the start can be a tricky and taxing process. Because of that, many companies outsource these responsibilities to companies like Guidance that are experts in the space. Sure, it costs more money, but the ROI and risk reduction make it worth your while.
Mistake No. 2: Underestimating the Importance of the User Experience
Companies also tend to have a knack for putting up e-commerce storefronts as bolt-ons to their existing ERP systems and simply expecting orders to come flowing in. When they don’t, they either blame their customers or figure that e-commerce won’t work for them.
When implementing an e-commerce system, it’s critical to focus on the user experience (UX). If the UX is poor and the resulting web site is difficult to use, how can you expect customers to actually use it?
Keep in mind that business buyers’ expectations are set by their personal experiences in buying from the most advanced e-commerce sites in the world. Retailers like Amazon continue to set the bar extremely high for online retailers—which includes your company, whether you like it or not.
If your site search, navigation, product details, listing pages, shopping cart, and checkout aren’t optimized to meet modern standards, you will lose. Invest heavily in building a desirable UX, and customers will keep coming back.
Mistake No. 3: Neglecting to Involve Your Sales Team
Your sales team is nervous. They hear “e-commerce” and they think competition and lost commissions.
While fear isn’t warranted in a vast majority of cases, many B2B e-commerce efforts are launched without input from the sales team—at least when it comes to planning and implementation. As a result, a ton of value is left on the table.
E-commerce is a force multiplier for the sales team. It allows them to be more strategic in selling while eliminating low value, routine tasks like entering orders or answering order status questions.
Don’t keep your e-commerce initiative isolated to a few top executives or driven solely by the marketing team. Instead, use your sales team strategically. Real unlocks are available when you align sales with e-commerce, which becomes even more powerful when integrated into your CRM system.
Mistake No. 4: Underestimating Organizational Requirements
Lots of people think that e-commerce is so efficient that it’ll just run itself as a virtual cash machine. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
The economics of e-commerce are different. E-commerce can be extremely profitable, but for that to happen, companies need make internal investments. And I don’t just mean one or two roles.
Companies that hope to scale e-commerce to the magnitude that Forrester Research expects it to become need to invest generously in corresponding roles to manage the new channel. Don’t hesitate to spend money on web merchandising, web operations, digital marketing, content creation, creative, technology, fulfillment, and customer service.
No, you don’t have to build a huge team right away. Take a crawl-walk-run approach. Don’t be scared to leverage outsourced resources when it comes to specific expertise—in places like tech, creative, and digital marketing. The right people can help you accelerate your efforts without breaking the bank or incurring exorbitant fixed costs. Planning is critical here, and learning from other companies that have been through the process is very helpful. Consultants like Guidance can also provide you with organizational models to help you structure for profitable growth.
Mistake No. 5: Forgetting to Plan for a Post-Launch Investment
Once you design and launch a new B2B e-commerce platform, you might think your work is done.
A “set it and forget it” approach doesn’t work with e-commerce. To fully capitalize on your e-commerce platform, you need to supplement your efforts with strong digital marketing investments. That’s the way to tap into new markets and capture more wallet share from existing customers.
To drive traffic, you will need to invest in things like paid search, SEO, email, social media, display advertising, marketplaces, and referral partnerships. Continual investment in fulfillment and customer service, new features and updates to your site, and new integrations are critical to grow your e-commerce effectiveness.
It’s a tall order to be sure. And if you don’t have the resources to swing it on your own, an ecosystem of e-commerce partners and employees exist that can assist you in this effort. Invest internally whenever you can, and partner with third parties whenever it makes sense, both financially and tactically.
The B2B e-commerce market is growing bigger every day. Frost and Sullivan projects that 27% of all B2B transactions will be conducted online by 2020. Think about that penetration percentage for your business. Getting the biggest slice possible for your company requires a lot of time and both internal and external resources. Real return on investment exists for companies that diligently plan for and execute on this opportunity. Do it right, and you’ll be eating your pie in no time.