B2B ecommerce capabilities are table stakes for manufacturers and distributors that want to stay competitive. But launching a new ecommerce platform or upgrading an existing one can still be a massive undertaking—and an intimidating one. To discuss navigating the ecommerce challenges B2B companies face, B2BecNews sat down with Chris Kostakis, Chief Technology Officer at Gorilla Group, a commerce experience agency.
Q: What is driving change in B2B commerce?
B2B customers want the ease they’ve come to expect in B2C shopping, even while purchasing for their business. And this is where B2B companies struggle. They rely heavily on close relationships to make sales and selling unique to each customer, often with individualized pricing models. Offering these shopping capabilities online while maintaining that same level of personalized customer service has its complexities.
Q: What ecommerce challenges are manufacturers and distributors currently facing?
In B2B ecommerce, there are early adopters and latecomers—and they are each experiencing different challenges. The early adopters now have aging ecommerce platforms. Many of them want to replace those platforms with more modern technology without doing any kind of research. They might have website features they built 10 years ago, but they don’t know if their customers are using them. They may take that old ecommerce platform and try to fit it into a new one, but they have no idea if that investment is worth the money.
The late adopters are looking at B2B ecommerce, thinking they need every feature the technology offers. But that approach will not set them up for success. They need to get into ecommerce at a basic level quickly, make money, then determine how to grow that channel using available technology.
B2B companies also need to make sure their sales teams understand the value in enabling B2B ecommerce technology, rather than seeing it as a threat.
Q: How can they overcome these challenges?
If a B2B company is going to take on a large endeavor—such as implementing a new ecommerce platform or significantly enhancing an existing one— there needs to be a roadmap and change management plan. They need to answer: Why are we doing this? What are our goals? How will we achieve those goals? And what are our KPIs?
A lot of times, companies take on these endeavors as an IT initiative, but it’s way more than that. It is a strategic business initiative to stay competitive and maintain market share, not someone coding a nice-looking website for you.