The biggest challenge business-oriented e-commerce operations face now is the increasing expectation of their customers when they visit their sites. The functionality and usability of sites has not really kept pace with B2C e-commerce sites and the customers experience is not sufficiently good.
Irrespective of whether we are at work or not, we are all consumers at some point and the vast majority of us regularly use online retailing for purchasing items for ourselves, our partners or our children. These B2C sites are very user friendly and give us a great shopping experience. However, this is not the case with business-based sites.
Whilst B2C ecommerce sites have significant investment and quickly adopt and deploy new technology, the same cannot be said of B2B. Too many sites are driven by old Enterprise Resource Planning systems for their back-end and these simply cannot support the developments that B2C routinely deliver. This means that customers get a poor shopping experience.
There are a small number of possible options available to B2B ecommerce sites:
This is a reasonable option but it will be limited in the possible improvement. The older your ERP software and most companies typically upgrade these systems every decade or so - you will only be able to deliver limited improvements. If your sector is competitive then you will be quickly left behind in this channel.
This is a slightly better option and will improve the shopping experience. However, it will still be limited by the ability of the Enterprise Resource Planning platform to deliver more quickly and more flexibly. This, by itself will inevitably necessitate more investment over time.
This is the best option. It will allow your site to become more nimble and up to date. It will also give built in future flexibility as the architecture is already in place to allow faster deployment of developments. It will keep you at the forefront of your sector and allow greater share of online shopping channels.
This is not an option we would recommend. If you've decided that e-commerce is an important sales channel then investment and development is essential.
The integration between these two systems is critical for a fully functioning B2B online store now and in the future. It allows for a great user experience equivalent to the B2C sites we all know and use - and allows for future development too. If an online channel is important to your business then this is something you must address.