Last updated: B2B portal: Benefits, examples, and software selection tips

B2B portal: Benefits, examples, and software selection tips

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A customer B2B portal for sales and support has become a top priority for many companies as orders increasingly move online. More and more customers want to handle as many processes as possible digitally and independently, making an in-house self-service B2B portal essential.

However, companies unfortunately don’t always get the results they want. In many cases, customer acceptance and adoption of B2B portals is low and slow and falls behind expectations. To achieve profitable growth, this trend must be reversed.

Time is of the essence: According to a study by management consultancy McKinsey, 75% of all customers now prefer digital self-service over interpersonal interaction.

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What is a B2B portal?

A B2B portal is a digital platform that enables businesses to connect with other businesses to buy, sell, and support products and services. It provides a central place for a B2B company to serve its customers 24×7.

Core functions allow customers to order items, track orders and deliveries, receive quotes, request support, and manage their account. Other features can include personalized catalogs and pricing, maintenance alerts, and payment processes.

Customer self-service portals are one of several sales channels in the B2B environment, with an increasing share of the total business for manufacturers or wholesalers.

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.

11 B2B portal benefits for manufacturers

According to Customer and Service Portals in B2B Commerce, conducted by SAP partner B4B Solutions in collaboration with ECC Cologne, there are many benefits associated with B2B portals. The study surveyed 259 managers and executives in manufacturers and wholesale companies.

Benefits cited by survey respondents include:

  1. Cost and time savings through optimized and automated processes (46%)
  2. Improved customer experience (40%)
  3. Optimized data analysis (39%)
  4. Increase in customer loyalty (36%)
  5. Better marketing (32%).
  6. Fewer error sources in processes (29%)
  7. Increased employee efficiency (28%)
  8. Centralized information (28%),
  9. Better data management (28%)
  10. Support international expansion (23%)
  11. Enhanced cross- and upselling opportunities (20%)

But what’s the best approach to such a portal to ensure customers take advantage of all its possibilities?

Software selection and criteria

The study found that 64% of companies already operating a B2B customer portal use a best-of-breed solution, which combines various individual solutions from multiple providers.

This, according to the authors, is a “logical consequence of a historically grown system landscape.” However, it can bring unforeseen problems such as missing interfaces or difficult-to-overcome data silos.

“When selecting new software for a customer and service portal, the software provider and system integrator should also be carefully chosen. They must be able to implement a convincing end-to-end scenario with the necessary interfaces,” the authors advise.

For 76% of survey participants, the most important criteria when selecting software for a B2B portal is the feasibility of the project, followed by the scope of functionality (75%).

However, the ability to make flexible adjustments at any time also plays a significant role for more than two-thirds of respondents (71%) in deciding for or against a particular software solution.

For most B2B companies, the initial implementation is only the beginning. They plan on a continuous expansion and ongoing development of their customer portals.

Manufacturer portal provides proactive, personalized service 

Food machinery manufacturer MULTIVAC, located in the Allgäu region, decided to refresh its customer portal at the end of 2018.

Although the previous solution was well received by customers, the old on-premise system, which mainly relied on information from SAP ERP, was more or less self-contained. It lacked the abilities commonly associated with modern cloud architectures, such as being open, communicating with other systems, and promoting data exchange.

MULTIVAC prioritizes the availability of its machines and offers comprehensive support to ensure this. This includes an IoT infrastructure with various non- SAP applications, running on Microsoft Azure Cloud.

To integrate all components optimally, the midsized company relied on longstanding SAP implementation partner Sybit and SAP Commerce Cloud for the new customer portal. Additionally, it implemented SAP’s CRM solution and SAP Field Service Management (SAP FSM) to connect service technicians at the customer’s site to the portal.

With this architecture, MULTIVAC offers its customers smart services in the form of IoT applications that visualize, process, and even transmit machine data in real-time in the cloud, allowing for configuration changes, for example. All information regarding their “installed base” machines in operation, current service orders and maintenance contracts, technical documents, etc., can be found easily in the protected account area.

One of the main goals of the new customer portal was to tailor the service offering to people working onsite at the machines. For example, the machines can indicate the need for a wear part early via the portal if a failure is imminent based on measurement data.

In the future, proactive notifications will also be automatically sent from the portal to customers through their preferred channels such as WhatsApp, SMS, or chat.

Optimizing the procurement process

Originally launched as an information and service page for the company’s tool holders, the iXshop of machine tool manufacturer INDEX has evolved into an established equipment portal for machining companies with over 8,000 visits per month.

Currently, more than 80,000 items including tool holders, spindle reductions, and machine spare parts are available on the portal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Business customers also can purchase products from partners via the B2B portal, all in a one-stop shop.

On iXshop, customers can see individually valid prices, request offers, and place orders around the clock. The “My Account” section provides the current status of offers, orders, and service notifications. Customers also can download all available 3D models.

With this B2B procurement portal, based on SAP CX technology, Index provides a cutting edge, holistic digital platform to their customers.

Connected systems boost CX, e-commerce revenue

thyssenkrupp Materials Services, a top global supplier of materials and services for automotive, construction, mechanical engineering and aerospace industries, embarked on a digital transformation with the goals of improving customer experience and growing their online business.

Using SAP Commerce Cloud, the company updated its e-commerce capabilities by developing a B2B customer portal for order placement and account management and a portal with product and content catalogs. SAP Integration Suite connects the digital channels to the company’s ERP, providing seamless interaction between front-end and back-end functions.

thyssenkrupp Materials Services’ omnichannel approach bolsters the ability of its sales teams to work with customers and gives customers options for engaging with the company.

The results have been outstanding:

  • 20% increase in e-commerce revenue
  • 12,000 customers using the B2B portal
  • 6,400 customer quotes delivered per month

Better experiences, efficiency + growth

By establishing a digital self-service portal for B2B customers, companies can improve customer experience and drive efficiency for new equipment sales, spare part sales as well as for customer support and field service.

Tailoring the portal based on customers’ needs is key for driving adoption and success of the portal.

Find out how top B2B sellers give buyers the speed & convenience they expect. Get the report HERE.

 

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