How to Launch an Enterprise B2B eCommerce App in 8 Weeks

October 17, 2018

Category: Best Practices

Can you launch a B2B eCommerce application for an enterprise client in 8 weeks?

Anyone who works with enterprise-level customers knows that the old saying, “what the customer wants, the customer gets!” is a daunting promise that can sometimes seem impossible to deliver.

But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold true.

When it comes to delivering custom, complex eCommerce experiences for enterprise customers like Starbucks, Chipotle and Verizon Wireless, distributors need the ability to deliver….and fast.

So when one of our customers came to us wondering if we could partner with them to launch a B2B eCommerce application for one of their enterprise customers in 8 weeks, our answer was “Yes!”

You might be asking yourself, “How can you confidently give your customer such an aggressive timeline?”

Here are 3 things that make launching a complex B2B eCommerce application in 8 weeks possible:

  • A headless eCommerce platform to deliver the underlying eCommerce functionality
  • A base front-end application to serve as a good “starter application” for the user experience (UX)
  • Custom modifications to the front-end base application

What’s so great about Headless eCommerce?

Very simply put, Headless eCommerce represents a platform or solution that abstains from defining a front-end by simply not having one. This means that the front-end user experience (what the customer/buyer sees) is decoupled, or removed, from the backend.

On the contrary, traditional, full-stack eCommerce systems leave developers with a number of constraints when it comes to design and the overall development process. Any changes they’d like to see made require editing or changing the database, the code, and the front-end platform, which of course requires a great deal of time and risk of preventing any future upgrades. With headless eCommerce, the back-end data model, business logic and cloud-based infrastructure is delivered via a RESTful API that allows you to define what the front-end experience looks like yourself. This removes all barriers that might get in the way of creating a custom ordering experience.

One drawback that some teams see when it comes to headless eCommerce is that the lack of front-end user experience forces you to create that from scratch. This can be daunting to teams wanting to move quickly in response to customer demands.

This is where the front-end UX base application, or “starter application,” comes into play.

A starter application contains the front-end framework and starter code to deliver on all of the basic eCommerce requirements – things like workflows, permissions, catalogs, approvals, pricing tiers, etc. When developers begin with a starter application which calls a headless eCommerce platform, it gives them the ability to make changes and customizations on an application that is, let’s say, 60% of the way to completion. These customizations can be made without disrupting the back-end architecture because, of course, the starter application is decoupled from the headless platform.

Headless eCommerce Enables Companies like Archway to Roll-Out a New Enterprise Solution in 8 Weeks:

Archway, a leading provider of marketing logistics, fulfillment services and supply chain management solutions works with numerous large, national enterprise customers in automotive, financial services, CPG, food & beverage, pharma and more. By working with Four51, they’re able to respond to new and existing customers’ unique needs and roll-out completely custom, game-changing eCommerce and order management experiences by making customizations to a starter application built on top of Four51 OrderCloud, our headless eCommerce platform. OrderCloud features a complex data model which gives them the ability to automate complex B2B workflows and processes. When they have a new customer start working with them, they can spin up a new front-end experience that utilizes that same back-end but presents the unique front-end experience the customer requires. Because this eliminates much of the development risk that would otherwise come with launching a new application, they have been able to roll-out custom, enterprise solutions for new customers in 8 weeks or less!

Having the flexibility to respond digitally to new and existing customers demands is vital to your future success. Which leads us to our question, Can you launch a custom ordering experience for an enterprise customer in 8 weeks?

If you can’t imagine doing something like this, it’s time to rethink your approach to eCommerce. Your eCommerce or order management platform should not limit possibilities when it comes to ways to create operational efficiencies and to improve your bottom line. A headless, API-first eCommerce platform makes both a completely custom front-end and a strong, secure back-end your reality. And a team with 20 years of experience dedicated to your success almost guarantees game-changing results.