Just as the SARS epidemic of 2003-2003 prompted the rise of eCommerce and the growth of Alibaba in Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of B2B selling all over the world. Many of these changes are permanent and your company needs a B2B eCommerce platform that enables you to do business in a post-pandemic economy. Many of the old ways are gone and they aren’t coming back. A modern B2B seller needs a modern B2B eCommerce platform. If you don’t have one, it may be time to  replatform. Here are the top features of an eCommerce platform for B2B in the wake of COVID-19.

Support for Better Customer Relationships

Customers were already focused on improved buying experiences and relationships at the start of 2020, before the pandemic got underway. The ensuing market chaos only heightened this focus on experience.

Customers will be assessing the experience you provide as a measure of the importance you put on the relationship. Make sure that you provide a digital experience that shows you respect your customer and value their business. 

Look for features that will digitize the Request for Quote (RFQ) and Quote to Cash (QTC) processes. Allow customers to configure the products they need online, submit an RFQ that includes amounts and preferred delivery dates, and receive a response almost immediately. A combination of powerful pricing engines and customizable workflows can make this dream a reality. Your customers get a rapid response and you know that every contract will be priced properly. And when its time to buy, they’ll appreciate the ease of the digital QTC process too. And once onboard, provide custom catalogs, custom price lists, and custom product recommendations. 

In addition, you need a native CRM or an easy integration with your existing CRM. These are invaluable tools for supporting digital and in person relationships. While the buyer mindset might have changed about how they want a relationship (digital versus in person) it has not changed about the importance of the relationship. It’s still important to maintain relationships, except now it’s important to maintain them digitally.  

Support for Customer Supply Chains

Even before the first person was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Wuhan, global supply chains were shaky. Back in 2018, 75% of companies surveyed were already experiencing problems. 

In 2021 and beyond, disruptions in supply chains will likely continue. COOs will continue to evaluate their Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 suppliers and rethink supply chain strategies. It’s easy to get focused on your own company’s supply chain and lose sight of the fact that your company is a link in your customer’s supply chain. Act like it. 

The B2B eCommerce experience you provide your customers must show you want to be a trusted part of their supply chain. Look for a platform that gives buyers visibility in inventory levels, provides estimates of shipping and delivery times, and supports shipping from multiple warehouses.

You need a platform that can support account setup to recognize multiple delivery locations for one billing address. Let customers be in control of their shipping options.

Make onboarding easy so you become part of their supply chain faster. Look for the ability to integrate with business solutions that support credit evaluation, factoring, billing, and collections. 

In a post pandemic world, be prepared for customers to weigh brand loyalty with product availability. 

Robust Content Management

Content will continue to be king. Your B2B eCommerce platform should be ready to serve it up royally.

As multi-media presentations replace trade shows, it will become more and more important to have a content management system (CMS) that can smoothly stream video and audio.

Customers will turn to your website for downloadable product brochures, technical bulletins, user manuals and support documentation. Make sure your eCommerce platform CMS can meet their needs.

It’s clear that today’s buyers have a desire for a self-serve model. That means your CMS must deliver the content they want when and where they want it. 

According to Gartner, a full 45% of the buy activity time is spent working independently. Only 17% of the buying activity time is spent interacting with suppliers. That shows a clear preference for the need to support these self-serve activities with the content buyers and researchers want. 

It’s important the CMS be easy to use on the back end as well. Intuitive interfaces, widgets for call to action buttons, a WYSIWYG content editor, and the ability to preview content right in the editor all make content creation easier so you can push new content out faster. 

Scalability

The pandemic accelerated the move to online buying. This was already a preference for Millenials and Gen X’ers, but Boomers have joined the crowd as well. And marketers have taken notice. 

With buyers and marketers showing a clear preference for online interaction, it’s important that your eCommerce solution be ready to handle an increase in traffic and volume.

Scalability and flexibility are key features of a modern platform solution.  Look for features to support scalability such as unlimited SKUs and price lists. And as you scale up, performance should not throttle down. 

Look for the flexibility to host your solution and data in-house on your own servers or deploy in the Cloud. And for the ultimate in flexibility; look for the capability to move back and forth between the two deployment models. 

As your business evolves, grows, and changes it is certain that your needs to process data will change as well. Make sure the B2B eCommerce solution you buy today will serve you in the future, no matter how unclear, unsure, or uncharted the future may be. 

Support for Multiple Business Models

As business scrambled to survive the pandemic economy, they turned to new markets and new channels. Traditional B2B only companies such as manufacturers have ventured into B2B2C, B2X, and even marketplaces. This requires an eCommerce platform that can support multiple business models and multiple stores from one back end.

Going forward, the only things that’s certain is uncertainty. Companies will continue to have the need for flexibility to pivot from one business model to another. Your eCommerce platform should be up to the task.  

One key feature for the modern platform is the ability to support a modern B2B marketplace. Marketplaces are a favorite way for B2B buyers to handle multiple business needs at one site.

That’s why B2B sellers are creating marketplaces that provide a full spectrum of products and services to their customers. 

Buyers appreciate the increase in choice and the decrease in complexity. Sellers appreciate the ability to profit from every sale, even if it’s not a sale they made.  

So, look for a platform that supports any business model you may create and utilizes a traditional or headless architecture to create any solution you need.