or years Magento has been positioning itself among the leaders in the e-commerce solutions market. One of the most flexible and reliable sales platforms is mainly associated with serving companies from the B2C field. Meanwhile, Magento is also a reliable sales platform, offering many functions that help to develop business and increase sales in the B2B sector.
For many years, B2B distributors have been lagging behind B2C merchants, taking into account the use of new technologies supporting online sales. Already in 2017, Frost & Sullivan predicted in its report that in 2020, the value of the B2B market will grow to USD 6.7 trillion worldwide, compared to a forecast of USD 3.2 trillion for B2C. The data indicated a huge potential for the sector's companies.
There is no doubt that B2B consumers want to buy online - senior B2B managers around the world choose the digital channel primarily for two reasons: the ease of digital purchasing and the lack of need to wait for contact with a sales representative (source: B2B Ecommerce 2018, eMarketer).
According to the American B2B Ecommerce Market Report - 75% of manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers who did not have an e-commerce service in 2018 were planning to launch it within two years. Meanwhile, the need to implement the B2B e-commerce platform increased even more in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
B2B e-commerce is the only chance for many companies in the B2B sector to sell, and of course this opportunity is associated with a number of challenges, including choosing the right e-commerce system.
What to remember when choosing B2B e-commerce platform?
In order to achieve long-term goals, the B2B e-commerce system must meet many requirements:
B2B customers' shopping habits have changed in recent years - according to Forrester Research, 93% of B2B customers prefer to shop online rather than directly from the trader. For B2B customers, the ability to buy goods and services at any time is of great importance. B2B purchases usually take place in specific cycles, and any delays are a serious threat to business. Therefore, the B2B e-commerce platform must, regardless of the circumstances, time of day, or peaks in sales enable purchases to be made smoothly.
Requirements related to customer’s shopping experience
The traditional model of B2B customer needs and purchase behaviour is slowly becoming a past. Now we are dealing with a new type of B2B customer who, through private experience and high requirements acquired in interaction with sophisticated B2C systems, expects exactly the same from the B2B e-commerce solution. The possibility of providing B2B customers with a shopping experience at a very high level, corresponding to the quality of B2C sales channels, is a guarantee of success.
An extensive, configurable set of functions determines the effective implementation of individualized B2B processes that apply to both suppliers and buyers.
One of the most important functionality should be the ability to manage and define roles and competences for several users of the client account, as well as assigning individual pricing rules to the account. For international clients, currency and tax differences must be taken into account.
Another important aspect that determines the quality of service and thus affects the shopping experience of a B2B customer is the transparency of the ordering process. All its elements, such as payment, delivery, logistics, must always be visible in the customer’s profile to understand the process
It is worth mentioning the document management function, i.e. import / export capabilities to popular Excel spreadsheets, which simplifies the B2B customer’s work, and the role of configurators and shopping assistants to help the user to search more quickly and accurately.
Can the Magento e-commerce platform for B2B meet these requirements?
Yes! First, the Magento B2B system allows you to develop and scale your business to meet market requirements and customer needs. It allows to open up new sales channels (omnichannel) and introduce products to new markets faster. Moreover, it gives great opportunities to support sales. It allows, among others, to display appropriate and personalized product recommendations, as well as enables cross-selling and up-selling.
Magento's advanced analytical functions allow for the initial personalisation of the offer at the first moment a B2B customer contacts the sales platform on the basis of an automatically recognised location, language and currency.
Selected Magento B2B functionalities
The quality of product presentation straight from B2C
One of the determinants of a good UX design in the B2B is a presentation of the offer designed in terms of the speed with which the user is able to accurately assess the retail differences between products, within case of B2B very often are similar. We deal with this UX challenge typically in the catalogues of companies distributing articles such as machine components, specialized tools or electronic components, differing in important but small details.
The frequent practice of B2B is presentation in the form of a miniature in the table format. The form of the table, especially enabling the sorting of products according to the contents of the columns, allows easy comparison of selected features of many products. This type of presentation can be easily achieved using the native functions of the Magento platform, which allows the end customer to switch from traditional B2C view to grid view to view product categories in the table style, configurable by the system administrator.
B2B & B2C clients in one system
This is a real coincidence if we take into account the native features of the Magento platform. One of the features is a flexible policy of customer groups, thanks to which we can develop B2B and B2C customers with a shop not only in a separate layout but also present separate prices and assortment categorization. To achieve this, we obviously need to know whether the customer belongs to the B2C or B2B group. The most common practice is to allow retail customers free access to the B2C offer and B2B customers have to log in to get a custom layout and B2B features.
Customer groups are just one of the tools that allow Magento to manage knowledge about the behaviour of our clients. We also have a powerful analytical tool – the customer segments. This functionality, available in the Commerce edition of the platform, allows, to conduct an advanced, dynamic promotional policy, based on customer behaviour and their purchase history. The combination of this functionality with the possibilities offered by groups of clients allows, of course, the use of individual promotional policies for separate customer groups – B2C and for B2B groups.
Seamless integration with ERP systems
Each of the company operating in the B2B area has a unique ERP system that allows to track stock levels, orders, customers, sales process. Only well-prepared integration with the e-commerce sales platform guarantees success and trouble-free sales process. Magento is prepared for this, it enables integration with any ERP systems using well documented and efficient API.
Simplified order processing and invoicing
Magento also provides great control and flexibility when it comes to the order management process. It allows user-friendly orders to view and management. In addition, it allows the user to go through the entire order history, from sales, payment, up to order processing, It is also possible to completely adjust the statuses of the order fulfilment process depending on the specific B2B business needs and practices. In Magento version 2.0, the checkout process has been further simplified by reducing the number of steps necessary to place an order.
A multi-level pricing system
Any company selling products in large quantities, certainly would like to be able to differentiate prices, so that for customers with large orders the price of products is lower. Magento handles such cases. In addition, it allows different grading of prices for different customer groups. In the version 2.1 will be available a long-awaited option to negotiate pricing conditions and preparing price offers per customer.
Responsive Design & Mobile Experience
Magento, due to its flexible front-end and architecture, is one of the best e-Commerce platforms in the context of RWD. Businesses from the B2B sector are looking for the same mobile facilities and experiences that are available for B2C representatives, and Magento can provide them.
Managing administrator privileges
Magento allows you to manage access rights to the administration panel (ACL – Access Control List), so that store staff have access only to selected functionalities. Administrative users receive specific permissions, including one to define prices and promotions. They are managed in groups or individually, also at the level of individual storefronts.
Add to cart on the basis of SKU
B2B customers can quickly add products to the cart by entering the product SKU number without having to visit product pages. This helps in handling large orders and makes it easier for the customer to import them, for example based on a printed product catalog SKUs.
Magento gives the possibility to restrict access to part of the product catalog for selected clients (the private sales model). You can create an invitation to events in the on-line store, such as sales time limited promotion (so-called Flash sales). We can also enable clients to invite their friends to the events with limited access. This feature works well in B2B and increases sales.
Magento B2B in practice
The practical example of using many technological solutions in Magento, ensuring high system efficiency and failure-free B2B customer service is our case Obsessive. As for non-standard elements (extending the scope of Magento functionality), which have been introduced into the system for B2B purposes, it is primarily:
- support for multiple accounts of company representatives working under one corporate account. In such a case, each representative can work on his own account, and all orders are collected as orders of one company anyway.
The scope of rights and access levels for a representative can be freely configured.
- We have also extended the mechanisms for calculation of discounts, which can be broadcast both at the level of the representative and at the level of the entire company. As a result, orders placed by many representatives are used as a whole to calculate discounts for the turnover made.
All the B2B functional changes are also included in Magento API mechanisms for communication with an external systems. This makes it significantly easier and accelerates integration with the ERP system.
- Among the dedicated B2B functions we have also developed a mechanism presenting settlements, whereas the ERP system is responsible for calculating settlements. On the Magento system side, the data is integrated through API functions and presented on the client account.
- An additional B2B customers convenience we have prepared the ability to mass add products to the shopping cart.
- An extensive registration form has been prepared, since the B2B platform is not available for every company, which makes it easier to make decisions once starting the cooperation.
In practice it looks like this. If the customer already has an account as a wholesaler, he logs in directly to his account and sees his orders. If he does not have an account, he completes the registration form, which allows him to load verifying files. In addition, such registration is combined with the built-in communication mechanism of newly registered clients.
- We have also developed extensive B2B checkout with many methods of delivery and payment.
The checkout includes the integration of 4 payment methods and 6 delivery methods with shipping options for almost the entire world. We have modified checkout by shortening the native 5 steps to 4. In addition, we have developed an extensive module for managing e-mails per method of payment and delivery. Each e-mail has different content depending on how the customer pays and what shipping method has been selected.
Magento is an efficient, scalable and secure B2B e-commerce platform. Such a system will relieve sales workers from tedious procedures of the sales process itself, collecting order content, calculating prices and discounts, deadlines and forms of payment, etc. It is a process that not only results in acceleration but also reduces mistakes and costs of incorrect order fulfilment.
Advanced e-commerce platforms give the customer full freedom in the execution of purchases, as well as make it easier for sellers to authorize orders placed. Moving B2B business to online allows merchants to focus on consulting, building customer relationships and creating an expert image of the seller.