By Stephanie Baird, Senior Director of E-Commerce Strategy and Digital Transformation, Amplifi
Interest in digital commerce solutions may be reaching a fever pitch, but B2B businesses still have a long way to go. Driven by corporate priorities including creating incremental revenue, gaining market insight, and securing brand loyalty, the B2B space is positioned to achieve $6.7 trillion in total e-commerce revenue by 2020, which account for just a little over one-quarter of all sales. Yet, a sizeable segment of B2Bs may not get a piece of the action for one reason: Their e-commerce sites still subscribe to an old, antiquated experience.
Unfortunately, many B2B organizations are unprepared to deliver the seamless, one-stop-shop experience that their customers demand. This reality is especially troubling when you consider the wide range of solutions and business tools that are earning high marks from analysts, technologists, and users. For 15 years, I have heard executives claim that a feature-by-feature comparison is the only way to make the best choice. While their intentions were good, the result was often the same: A vanilla e-commerce site with the bells and whistles that their competitors already have, leaving no definitive competitive edge that differentiates the customer experience from everyone else.
Selecting the right e-commerce solution for the long term isn’t as easy as checking off a list of current requirements, vague future needs, and budget allowances. However, by adding accelerators to your digital strategy, you can jump-start your e-commerce experience with great speed and innovation-igniting capabilities. The investment may not be the size of a portfolio solution, but the results are just as tremendous.
What are accelerators?
Accelerators are starter solutions based on the proven platform and architecture of a larger commerce suite. They provide a ready-to-use framework that delivers the core functionality commonly expected in an e-commerce experience. True to its name, accelerators come complete with working storefront templates and business tools to get the site up and running quickly.
The idea that working storefront templates are key components of accelerators is of particular importance. These prebuilt websites include all of the functions needed to run an e-commerce operation: merchandising, search and guide navigation, web content management, personalization and targeting, search engine optimization (SEO), multicurrency and multilingual capabilities, and, of course, cart and checkout. On top of those basic requirements, they also have a summation tool that helps manage transactions and fraud protection.
By connecting all of these building blocks, accelerators open the door to a digital storefront with every part of this customer experience working, as well as a suite of business tools that takes the pressure off of the technical team to get many core functions up and running. For example, the SEO function of an e-commerce site typically calls for the expertise of a developer. By furnishing the business with the tools necessary to control all of the metadata on the pages and the creation of search-friendly URLs, this part of the process is no longer reliant on the IT team, which is already handling an incredible workload with limited talent.
An opportunity to customize your path to an innovative business model
Although the promise of a quick-start e-commerce tools is enticing, this is not where the value of accelerators ends. To me, the most exciting aspect of this technology is the ability to expand and customize the site to address the needs of your customers and reflect your brand image.
I have seen many accelerators that provide 50%, 60%, or even 85% out-of-the-box functionality. But, I find that they either provide too much flexibility for customization that leads to runaway costs and overwhelmed resources or not enough room to innovate and deliver a one-of-a-kind, hard-to-copy customer experience.
Accelerators are best used as a 70/30 proposition. Out of the box, organizations receive access to 70% of the functionality that can build the foundation for digital commerce. Then, the remaining 30% is where the online experience and business model are configured and extended to create differentiated value for the enterprise and its customers. With this approach, my clients have realized all of the core processes and infrastructures they need to run a digital commerce operation while still creating a customer experience that is distinctively their own.
Delivering commerce functionality that is uniquely B2B
When choosing an accelerator, B2B executives must understand that not all accelerators are created the same. While they all provide a comprehensive set of e-commerce best practices, some accelerators are pure-play B2C commerce technologies.
For this reason, I encourage technology decision makers to seek out accelerators that support:
- Self-services for customers: Reduce sales administration costs by empowering customers to manage their organization, financial obligations, and spend limits while placing orders – from the simple to highly complex – without having to contact a sales rep.
- Complex pricing and ordering: Support complex pricing models, manage individually negotiated price lists, and facilitate the purchase of bulk orders and complex, multidimensional products.
- Enterprise-wide synchronization: Help ensure that all purchase information and orders are processed and shared across all channels, no matter how complex the purchasing workflow.
- Efficient global fulfillment: Give your customers the convenience of choice in how they receive their purchases by catering to preferences including click and collect, partial delivery, multi-warehouse shipping, and returns management.
While there are many more functionalities to consider, these four capabilities set the foundation for future business model innovation. Accelerators that are responsive unite B2C experiences with the complexities of running a B2B allows your business to evolve with customers – no matter how they choose to engage your services. And by starting your e-commerce strategy with this accelerator secret, you’ll lower the total cost of ownership and accelerate operational flexibility to add more capabilities as customer needs change.
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