This is part one in a two-part series. You can read part two here.
Interfacing with customers has always meant creating beautiful brochures and catalogs for your merchandise, both online and off, but that isn’t always necessary with a business-to-business (B2B) relationship.
Many B2B companies have invested their digital dollars into electronic data interchange (EDI) systems instead of more visually appealing B2B catalogs that mirror similar B2C catalogs. Both EDI and B2B catalogs can be good solutions for companies that service B2B companies, but they don’t serve the same purpose.
Even so, with the costs involved in implementing a digital solution for B2B sales, many companies elect to choose only one or the other of these systems. To B2B or EDI, that is the question.
Using B2B Catalogs is Simple
One of the first things any of your customers will notice about the typical B2B eCommerce system is that it looks pretty much identical to a B2C (business-to-consumer) system. Images of your products are prominently displayed along with descriptions and pricing schedules, shopping carts are intuitive and anyone at your customer’s location can place an order with tremendous accuracy. It’s a great system for customers in many ways.
For you, a B2B eCommerce order management system offers even more advantages over EDI. A few of those include:
More opportunities to market products. Depending on your shopping cart configuration, you can take your customer’s visit as an opportunity to market similar products to them as they browse your online shop. The items your shoppers choose can help determine what products they ultimately see, since most algorithms will suggest products that it has decided are related to the initial selection.
Google search. Most eCommerce platforms also allow themselves to be crawled by Google’s robot, meaning that your product descriptions are going to become part of the search algorithm’s results. This is good for you if your descriptions are distinct and solid, since it can result in a massive bump in search rankings. It also means that when customers search Google for a particular item you offer, your company may appear high in the listings, bringing in more search-related traffic.
Access for all size businesses. One of the biggest drawbacks for EDI is the cost of implementation for other businesses. Because of this, your customer base is artificially narrowed since smaller businesses with tighter budgets may be eliminated, depending on the industry. A B2B eCommerce platform allows anyone access. Larger businesses may still prefer to use EDI to speed up their transactions, but if your market is made up of little guys, an eCommerce platform can be a game changer.
In the great debate over the benefits and drawbacks of a B2B eCommerce platform, it would seem that the greatest advantage is giving access to lots of small- to medium-sized businesses. If that’s the market you typically work with, a B2B system may be the right choice for you. Before you make up your mind, though, check out the second part of this two-part series, all about EDI systems.
Source: Multichannel Merchant