Don’t Miss the Boat: Develop an eCommerce Strategy

December 16, 2015

Category: Best Practices

Fail to take advantage or avail oneself of an opportunity – this is the primary definition of the expression to “Miss the Boat.”   If your business is not already heavily involved in B2B eCommerce, you’re going to “Miss the Boat” in 2016!

Forrester has been aggressively publishing reports and statistics over the last year or two about the size and breadth of the B2B eCommerce space.  How the B2B market is twice the size of B2C, how penetration is still low for robust, user-friendly, B2B eCommerce sites, how B2B sales representatives are going to be out of work or have their jobs change dramatically, and how B2B go-to-market strategies are evolving and becoming more B2C like.

At Four51, we are hearing directly from our customers and partners that the time is now for an eCommerce strategy.

We are seeing more B2B eCommerce requirements and requests for proposals, we are being asked for more consulting services on how to help our customers succeed with B2B eCommerce, and our partners are seeing tremendous opportunities for growth in their own businesses due to the focus on a B2B eCommerce strategy.

What does all of this mean to you?

There are growth opportunities for UX/UI design firms, custom web application development firms, and firms that focus on integration between front-end commerce applications and back-end ERP systems.

If you are a professional services organization that focuses on eCommerce strategies & services and you have not created a practice that focuses specifically on B2B eCommerce, now is the time.

All of you have existing customer relationships where there are obvious opportunities and many not-so-obvious opportunities. Obvious opportunities include customers who need to replace obsolete or unsupported existing applications – many times referred to as “re-platforming.” These are great opportunities to be consultative with your customers and determine how new technology solutions can help them upgrade their systems to reduce the number of orders that go through inefficient call centers or help enable customers to enter their own orders, see order history, and easily place reorders. Another obvious solution is when your customers need to keep up with the competition.  You can help them evaluate their competition and offer better solutions.

Some of the not-so-obvious opportunities that are classic B2B eCommerce ordering situations include processing “no charge” orders or sample orders.  Many companies have antiquated, manual systems for ordering samples, internal use, and other items not for resale.  While these order types don’t necessarily have to have credit card processing available as a payment option, there are many other levels of complexity that are perfectly suited for B2B eCommerce, such as assigning cost centers, no pricing listed, having different price schedules for different users or order types, creating approval rules, and tracking these orders for compliance purposes.

How do you go about getting on the boat in 2016?  There are several things you can do now in order to take advantage of all of the opportunities that are out there and will continue to be out there for the next several years.  You can continue to educate yourself on the issues and market.  There are great sources of information out there, including Forrester, Internet Retailer, and the Four51 website where you will see many of the stats I referred to above and where we highlight customer use cases.  You can also contact us to learn more about the specific solutions that Four51 has developed that can help you grow your business.  And, most importantly, you can talk to your customers about business problems they are having where a B2B eCommerce solution can help them grow their business, run their business more efficiently, or keep up with their competition.

If you want to grow your business, form a tighter relationship with your customers, and differentiate your business from your competitors by including B2B eCommerce in your offerings, don’t miss the boat!