E-commerce Will Continue To Drive Revenue Growth in B2B

Recent surveys show that B2B companies are increasingly relying on e-commerce to drive revenue growth. Due to lingering channel-conflict concerns, many B2B companies still don’t have an e-commerce presence. But 35 percent of companies without these concerns expect 50 percent of their revenue to come from e-commerce. That’s a tremendous amount of revenue generated and tracked without extensive work by grass-roots sales staff.

Which means it’s time to give e-commerce a serious look. Here are some tips for starting your e-commerce initiative:

 

Selecting an E-commerce Platform

Online Market Places: eBay, Amazon

Platforms like these offer businesses a proven, trusted marketplace that can cater to very specific audiences. And these platforms are designed to withstand a burst of traffic without associated hosting costs. Both HP and Apple are known to sell excess inventory on eBay right before introducing new products.

Hosted Shopping Carts: Shopify, Magento Go

Some businesses choose hosted shopping carts to test the market. It is best suited for selling a smaller number of products with simple shipping and checkout process. Generally the cost includes monthly fees plus a percentage of shopping cart transactions.

Frameworks: Magento, Drupal Commerce

E-commerce application frameworks offer comprehensive features out-of-the-box without much development. Leading frame works like Magento offer an attractive “freemium” pricing model that is free for most e-commerce merchants. Many open source and commercial content management systems (CMS) also offer e-commerce as an option. If your organization has already standardized to a specific CMS, this might reduce the initial ramp-up time but could also require additional development time because of each CMS’s limitations.

Custom E-commerce Development

Custom development offers best solution money can buy, however it requires a dedicated team of software engineers to handle ongoing code-maintenance needs. It is the best solution for companies that are devoted to e-commerce for the long term and have unique requirements that cannot be met by off-the-shelf solutions.

 

Configuration, Development and Testing an E-commerce Website

Product Organization and Categories

Finalizing these before designing the website will save considerable time in development.

Buy vs. Build

Mature e-commerce and shopping cart software used to cost thousands of dollars to license, but not anymore. There are many low-cost and open-source solutions that once required hundreds of thousands of dollars in proprietary software and/or from-scratch development.

Complexities in Shipping and Promotional Rules

Shipping and promotional rules are often overlooked until after the site is launched. The complexity lies in combining rules across products and the order of the rules being applied. I once worked with a client that spent several weeks just to work out the details of a very specific shipping rate that involved combining per-item and per-weight class charges. Anticipating and sorting these out up-front is key to smooth development and on-time launch.

Testing Key Functionalities with Detailed Scenarios

The testing process for an e-commerce site with a large number of products, product configurations and shipping rules is challenging but crucial. It’s important to test scenarios with specific parameters such as the number of products and the types of shipping, and validate the results either by hand or by known values. An e-commerce site that is not thoroughly tested can become a lightning rod for customer complaints.

Other Considerations

An e-commerce site has many moving parts, and it’s often necessary to consider how inventory management and website administration workflow are managed. To automate order processing and to optimize workflow, it may be necessary to have the site closely integrate with third party software and services such as shipping and logistics, CRM and ERP systems.

 

Scalability, High Availability and Disaster Recovery

Dedicated Server vs. Shared Hosting vs. Cloud Servers

A robust e-commerce system is essential to successful deployment. Dedicated servers still offer the best performance per dollar. However, physical servers require high up-front cost and are not as scalable compared to other options.

Shared hosting offers the advantage of low up-front cost and low server maintenance, but the performance is highly unpredictable since your e-commerce site may be sharing resources with dozens of other e-commerce sites.

Cloud hosting offers attractive per-usage pricing and instantly scales up and down based on fluctuation in user traffic. However, the flexibility comes with a price: It costs more than dedicated server when you reach hundreds of simultaneous users per second.

 

Customer Acquisition Strategies for E-Commerce

As with any website, it is import to have a solid strategy for traffic building, marketing and sales for e-commerce. But the focus for an e-commerce is simpler: sell.

The entire e-commerce site should be optimized to allow users to easily find a product, add it to the shopping cart and pay for it.

Standard SEO (search engine optimization) best practices applied to e-commerce: each product should have its own unique descriptive URL so it can be easily indexed by search engines. Web analytics should be used to track user behavior and conversions and to optimize e-mail campaigns to help drive repeat purchase.

 

Conclusion

E-commerce can help drive revenue growth for B2B companies. It’s a challenging proposition, but your technology options are mature and more plentiful than ever. If your product is desirable, you too can drive revenue growth through e-commerce – you simply need a solid strategy and a trusted partner.