Magento is the undisputed leader in e-commerce solutions. As one of the most flexible and reliable e-commerce sales platforms, it is mainly used to service e-businesses from the B2C market. Meanwhile, the Magento platform is also used as modern and B2B system for online sales.
Why B2B in e-commerce is so important?
Distributors operating on the B2B market usually stayed behind the B2C merchants, taking into account adoption of the new online technologies. According to Forst & Sullivan research, in 2020 the B2B market value will grow to USD 6.7 trillion globally, compared to the forecasted of USD 3.2 trillion for B2C.
Despite this, the share of the e-commerce channel in the B2B market in the United States this year will be only 12%. The low saturation of the B2B e-commerce market is, however, an opportunity that entrepreneurs see.
Nearly 100% of entrepreneurs surveyed in the Intershop E-Commerce Report 2015 report see the opportunity of B2B development in digitizing their sales channels. Of course, this opportunity is associated with a number of challenges, which include choosing the right e-commerce system.
What are the essential requirements for a B2B e-commerce system?
In order to be able to implement long-term goals, e-commerce systems in a B2B environment must meet numerous requirements. The quality and performance of the B2B platform is even more important than the B2C system in the context of scalability.
The purchasing process of B2C and B2B customers differs. While B2C customers can wait for the product they are interested in, in B2B the purchase of goods and services is a critical process. It usually takes place in specific cycles. Delays are a serious threat. B2B e-commerce platform must, regardless of the circumstances, time of day, with high loads (sales peaks) carry out the sales process without interruption.
Requirements related to customer’s shopping experience
The traditional model of B2B customer needs and purchase behavior 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 rights 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.
What does the Magento system for B2B sales have to offer to meet the requirements?
Magento is often underestimated in the context of solutions for the B2B sector, but it perfectly implements two basic goals of online sales in the business to business model. First of all, the speed of fulfillment of the shopping and operational efficiency with consists of adequate information about the product and its availability (extensive warehouse policy) and the quality of the order processing process and after-sales service.
Secondly, a perfect devotion to the B2C sales experience, which is supported by far-reaching personalization of orders, above all in the selection of the product features. This can be achieved by complex system of products types: group, configurable and sets offered by the Magento platform.
Advanced analytical functions of Magento allow for the initial personalization of the offer at the first contact point of the B2B customer with the sales platform based on its automatically recognized location, language and currency used.
Selected 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, with in case of B2B very often are similar. We deal with this UX challange typically in the catalogs 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 a large number of 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 and B2C clients in one system
This is a real case, if we take into account the native features of the Magento platform. One of the features is the flexible policy of client groups, thanks to which we can develop the B2B and B2C customers with a store not only in a separate layout, but also presenting separate prices and categorization of the assortment. To achieve this, we will obviously need to know if the customer belongs to the B2C group or B2B. The most common practice here is to allow retail customers free access to the B2C offer, and B2B customers need to login to get customized B2B layout and features.
Customer groups are just one of the tools that allows Magento to manage knowledge about the behavior of our clients. We also have a powerful analytical tool – the customer segments. This functionality, available in the Enterprise edition of the platform, allows, to conduct an advanced, dynamic promotional policy, based on customer behavior 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 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 fulfillment process depending on the specific B2B business needs and practices. In the 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.
B2B functionalities 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 beed 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 fulfillment.
Advanced e-commerce platforms allow to give the customer full freedom in the implementation of the contract, as well as leaving the employees of the seller full assistance and manual authorization in the process of placing the order by the customer. Another aspect is the possibility of the sales team focusing on advisory activities, building relationships with the living customer and creating an expert image of the seller.