Ready to Scale Your B2B Business? You Won’t Get Far Without an Ecommerce Portal

Nov 13, 2020 | B2B, Business to Business

If you’re in the business of selling to other businesses, you probably know just how old-fashioned the process can be:

You have a team that takes calls, negotiates deals, checks availability, and updates orders and stock. You’ve got business owners haggling for better prices, salespeople typing in the wrong data, and customers wasting their time calling in about products that are out of stock.

But while the SMEs of the Business-to-Business sector have spent years ploughing on through clumsy processes, the rest of the online shopping world has moved on without them.

Online consumer shopping has been a smooth experience for years. And as these seamlessly automated and integrated websites become more affordable and accessible, even the smallest of product-based business are finally getting the chance to compete.

So if you’re a business that sells to other businesses, it’s time to jump aboard – because getting a dedicated online portal is easier than ever before.

What is a B2B portal?

A B2B portal is an online system that lets you sell your B2B (Business to Business) products directly to your clients and customers through a dedicated website.

In those basic terms, it doesn’t sound so special. But when you start to think about other similar tools – and how those tools have already revolutionised the way businesses sell to consumers – we can start to see how much of a game-changer a B2B portal can be.

Before ASOS came along, shopping for clothes was a day-long experience of travelling between stores and rifling through rows of hangars. And before places like Amazon came along, smaller businesses were spending all day taking sales calls, updating their stock, and negotiating deals.

So if you want the real definition of a B2B portal, it’s this:

A B2B portal takes all of the benefits of modern consumer shopping – and brings them over to the world of selling to businesses.

Why would my business want a B2B portal?

If you’re running a business that sells to other businesses, you already know how much of a headache it can be.

You might even have heard of B2B Ecommerce already. But if you’re running a smaller business, the thought of building an entirely new website (and paying for it!) was probably enough to put you off.

But times have changed – and B2B portals are more accessible than ever.

In fact, if you’re already thinking about one of the top-tier inventory software systems (like DEAR, Unleashed, or Cin7), you can get a powerful B2B Ecommerce portal as an affordable add-on to your normal subscription.

So now that we know how easy and accessible a B2B portal can be, let’s dig into exactly how it helps your business:

B2B Ecommerce is a huge time-saver

When your B2B clients can log in and shop online, you don’t need a dedicated team taking calls.

There’s no back and forth while your salespeople check your stock, no missed calls or making appointments – and no chance of haggling from your customers, either.

Your teams don’t need to manually update your inventory levels, get approval for a discount, or process every order and check the details – it’s all done automatically through your dedicated Ecommerce portal.

(In practice, it’s a bit like you’re moving to a self-service shopping experience – but don’t tell your customers that!)

It’s integrated and automated – which reduces your errors

When you leave the boring tasks to a human worker, you’re bound to run into trouble at some point.

Two salespeople can make a sale at the same time, double-selling the last of your inventory and disappointing your customers. Or they might make a slip-up after too much double-entry, misquoting your prices or misreading the availability of certain items.

But when you use a B2B Ecommerce portal for all your sales, it’s fully integrated with your other systems. When your customers complete an order, that means your stock levels, shipping details, and sales records are automatically adjusted with complete accuracy.

(And if you get your B2B portal through your chosen inventory software, you can have these integrations up and running from day one without any effort.)

A B2B portal makes tracking data easy

If you’ve ever had to manually track your sales records, you’ll know just how tedious it is.

(And if you’ve ever had to manually calculate your analytics, you have our sympathy.)

But with your real-time sales linked up to your other software systems, you can get accurate data and analytics at any point in the week – helping you to stay on top of your progress and targets, and react quickly to any dips or disasters.

But what about my B2B customers?

You might think that an online approach to sales means an impersonal experience for your customers.

But in reality, it’s the opposite:

A B2B portal gives your customers a more personalised experienced than ever before.

Once your customers log in to the Ecommerce portal, they’ll instantly be able to:

  • See the customised prices and discounts tailored to their business
  • Browse through a list of recommended products, based on their own needs and past orders
  • Access their order history, with an option to re-order the same groups of items again
  • And shop for items and place their orders exactly when it’s convenient for them.

And the result?

Your new B2B portal is helping your customers to save time. It’s making it quick and easy for them to find their products and place their orders, so they can get back to working on their own businesses.

With a B2B Ecommerce portal, you’re making their lives easier – and that’s the sort of thing that makes them more likely to buy from you in the future.

What should I be looking for in a B2B portal?

There’s a huge number of different options out there for B2B Ecommerce portals. And that means there’s a huge range of differing features and functions – both the ones you don’t need, and the ones you might be missing out on.

But luckily, most B2B businesses have a lot in common when it comes down to what they need. So no matter which portal you’re looking at, there are a few main features that you should always be paying attention to:

1. Complex pricing

One of the biggest differences between B2B and B2C (Business to Consumer) is that you won’t always be offering the same prices, deals, and discounts to every buyer.

In a B2C market (like Amazon or ASOS), there’s hardly any variation. With the exception of loyalty discounts or student discounts, every customer usually pays the same.

But when we’re talking B2B, you need a higher level of control over your pricing.

You need to be able to tweak things like:

  • Bulk-buy discounts
  • Location-based pricing
  • Deals for regular repeat orders
  • Minimum order amounts
  • And rewards for frequent buyers.

But this isn’t just about offering the best deals and maximising sales. It’s also an important part of another essential feature you need to look out for:

2. A personalised shopping experience

When you make the switch from a traditional sales team to an online portal, you need to be able to offer the same kind of personalised buying experience you had before.

And without a conventional sales team taking calls, your chosen B2B portal needs to fill the gap itself.

So what does that mean in practice? That means you need a portal that can:

  • Make it easy for your customers to set up a regular supply of the items they need
  • Show your shoppers their ordering history and habits, and let them quickly re-order previous groups of products
  • Let your shoppers browse through only the products they want to see – whether that’s by category, purpose, brand, or department
  • Make recommendations for useful extra products that they hadn’t thought of – especially when that’s based on their specific buying habits and the needs of their business
  • And create personalised discounts, deals, and promotions for each customer – based on their shopping history, their loyalty, or the type of business they’re in.

3. Integration with other systems

This one is so important that we wish we didn’t have to say it – and the chances are that any Ecommerce portal you’re looking at will already have some kind of integration with another useful system.

But when it comes to integrations, it’s not a simple case of having them or not having them.

You’ll need to find a B2B portal that:

  • Has integrations with the specific software your business uses (e.g. Xero, Cin7, Quickbooks)
  • Receives regular updates for new integrations with upcoming pieces of software
  • Makes it easy for software developers to create new integrations with unsupported apps
  • And has integrations for the software that your partners use (like your logistics and fulfilment companies).

So what’s the best way to find the right B2B portal?

We’d love to say there’s an easy, one-size-fits-all answer. But every business is different, and that means every business has different needs.

But what we can say is that there’s a natural first place to look:

If you want a B2B portal that gives you a smooth and seamless experience for your customers and your staff, the best place to start is with the inventory software you already use.

(Or the inventory software you’re likely to end up with.)

Most of the premium inventory apps come with their own dedicated B2B portal. In most cases, you can get them up and running just by adding a small monthly fee to your normal software subscription. And that means you’ll get:

  • A full-featured and advanced B2B Ecommerce site
  • A B2B portal from a vendor you already know and trust
  • Instant integration with the inventory software you’re already using
  • And the same level of customer support and updates that you get with your inventory app.

And when you compare that monthly fee to the thousands of pounds you could spend on a custom-made portal website, it’s really a no-brainer.

So if you’re looking to take your B2B sales to the next level – with fast and easy ordering, less time wasted, and a personalised experience for your customers – a B2B portal from an inventory software vendor could be the most painless way to get there.

(And if you want an expert opinion on which inventory app is the best fit for your business, you’re in luck – you can book a free call with us and we’ll give you a complete recommendation.)

Click here to download the PDF version of ‘Ready to Scale Your B2B Business? You Won’t Get Far Without an Ecommerce Portal’

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