15 Key Factors for Choosing a B2B E-commerce Platform in 2024

B2B E-commerce Platform

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Choosing the right B2B e-commerce platform is critical for success in 2024 and beyond.

With so many options available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the selection process. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve identified 15 essential factors to consider when evaluating B2B e-commerce platforms this year.

From advanced product catalog management and powerful on-site search, to must-have integrations and scalability considerations – this guide covers all the key areas you need to assess.

Plus, we dive into the importance of delivering an exceptional user experience and highlight additional evaluation criteria like security, API coverage, and vendor expertise.

Whether you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler, or distributor, understanding these core B2B e-commerce platform capabilities is crucial for driving online sales growth and operational efficiency.

Let’s explore the 15 factors that should be top-of-mind as you navigate the B2B e-commerce platform landscape in 2024.

Key B2B e-commerce platform features to prioritize in 2024

  • Essential features to look for when selecting a B2B e-commerce platform
  • Advanced capabilities that drive efficiency, sales growth, and customer satisfaction
  • Invest in a platform that can scale with your business needs

In 2024, B2B e-commerce platforms need to offer a range of advanced features to meet the evolving needs of businesses and their customers. As you evaluate potential solutions, prioritize platforms that provide the following key capabilities:

1. Advanced product catalog management

B2B e-commerce often involves complex product catalogs with numerous variations, bundles, and kits. Your chosen platform should be able to handle these intricacies with ease.

2. Handle complex product variations, bundles, and kits

Look for a platform that allows you to create and manage product variations based on attributes like size, color, and material. It should also support the creation of product bundles and kits, enabling you to group related items together for easier purchasing.

3. Bulk import/export and real-time inventory sync

To save time and ensure accuracy, your platform should facilitate bulk product data import and export via CSV or Excel files. Real-time inventory synchronization across all sales channels is also crucial to avoid overselling and maintain customer trust.

4. Flexible pricing including customer-specific pricing

B2B pricing often varies based on customer relationships, order volumes, and contracts. Your e-commerce platform should accommodate this complexity, allowing you to set customer-specific pricing, volume discounts, and tiered pricing structures.

5. Powerful on-site search and filtering

B2B buyers often know exactly what they’re looking for and need to find products quickly. A robust search and filtering system is essential to provide a seamless user experience.

6. Faceted search and filters to quickly narrow results

Implement faceted search and filters that allow users to narrow down results based on relevant product attributes, such as category, brand, price range, and more. This helps buyers find what they need with minimal effort.

7. Ability to search by SKU, dimensions, specs

Many B2B buyers search for products using specific SKUs, dimensions, or technical specifications. Your platform should support these search methods to cater to the unique needs of your customers.

8. Relevant search results and recommendations

Ensure that your search engine delivers relevant results based on user queries and behavior. Implement intelligent product recommendations to suggest related items, alternatives, or frequently bought together products, enhancing the user experience and driving additional sales.

9. Self-service customer portal

B2B buyers increasingly prefer self-service options for account management, order tracking, and payments. Provide a dedicated customer portal to meet these expectations and streamline operations.

10. Account registration and management

Allow customers to easily register for an account, manage their profile information, and control access permissions for their team members. This empowers buyers to self-serve and reduces the workload on your customer support staff.

11. Order tracking, history and reordering

Enable customers to view their order history, track current orders, and quickly reorder previously purchased items. This transparency and convenience builds trust and encourages repeat business.

12. Invoice payments and credit terms

Integrate invoice payments and credit term management into your customer portal. This allows buyers to view and pay outstanding invoices, request credit, and manage their account balances, streamlining financial processes for both parties.

13. Optimized mobile experience

With the growing use of mobile devices for B2B research and purchasing, it’s crucial to offer a seamless mobile experience.

14. Fast-loading, responsive design

Ensure that your e-commerce platform is built with responsive design principles, adapting to various screen sizes and devices. Optimize page load speeds to minimize frustration and abandonment rates.

15. Touch-friendly navigation and checkout

Design your mobile interface with touch-friendly navigation, large buttons, and simplified forms to facilitate easy browsing and purchasing on smartphones and tablets.

Access to full account functionality

Provide access to all essential account features and functionalities on mobile devices, allowing buyers to manage their orders, invoices, and account settings on the go.

By prioritizing these key B2B e-commerce platform features, you’ll be well-equipped to meet the evolving needs of your customers and drive long-term success in the competitive digital landscape. Remember, your platform should not only serve your current requirements but also be scalable to accommodate future growth and changing business needs.

Must-have B2B e-commerce platform integrations

  • Seamless integrations boost efficiency and data accuracy
  • Connecting key systems provides a 360-degree view of operations
  • Integrations enable personalized experiences and informed decisions

In today’s fast-paced B2B e-commerce landscape, a platform’s ability to integrate with existing systems is crucial for streamlining operations and delivering exceptional customer experiences. Let’s explore the essential integrations that every B2B e-commerce platform should offer in 2024.

ERP and accounting system integration

Integrating your e-commerce platform with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) and accounting systems is a game-changer for B2B businesses. By enabling automated data synchronization between these systems, you can ensure that inventory levels and order statuses are always up-to-date in real-time. This eliminates the need for manual data entry, reducing the risk of errors and saving valuable time for your team.

Benefits of ERP and accounting system integration

  1. Improved inventory management: With real-time inventory updates, you can avoid overselling and stock-outs, ensuring a smooth customer experience.
  2. Faster order processing: Automated data transfer between systems allows for quicker order fulfillment and shorter lead times.
  3. Accurate financial reporting: Seamless integration with accounting systems provides a clear picture of your business’s financial health, enabling informed decision-making.

PIM integration for enriched product data

Product information management (PIM) integration is essential for B2B e-commerce success. By centralizing your product data in a PIM system and integrating it with your e-commerce platform, you can ensure that your customers always have access to consistent, accurate, and up-to-date product details.

Advantages of PIM integration

  1. Improved product findability: Rich, well-structured product data enhances search engine optimization (SEO), making it easier for customers to find your products online.
  2. Reduced data inconsistencies: Centralized product information management eliminates discrepancies across different channels and touchpoints.
  3. Faster time-to-market: With a PIM system in place, you can quickly update and publish product information, accelerating new product launches.

CRM integration for 360-degree customer view

Integrating your customer relationship management (CRM) system with your B2B e-commerce platform is crucial for gaining a comprehensive understanding of your customers. By connecting these systems, you can access a customer’s full interaction history, including past purchases, support inquiries, and marketing engagement.

Benefits of CRM integration

  1. Personalized experiences: Leverage customer data to tailor marketing messages, product recommendations, and sales approaches for each individual.
  2. Upsell and cross-sell opportunities: Identify potential upsell and cross-sell opportunities based on a customer’s purchase history and preferences.
  3. Improved customer service: Equip your support team with complete customer context, enabling them to provide more efficient and personalized assistance.

Payment gateway integration for secure transactions

A reliable and secure payment gateway integration is non-negotiable for B2B e-commerce platforms. By partnering with trusted payment providers, you can offer your customers a wide range of payment options while ensuring the safety of their sensitive financial information.

Key considerations for payment gateway integration

  1. PCI compliance: Choose a payment gateway that is PCI-compliant to protect your business and your customers from data breaches.
  2. Multiple payment options: Offer a variety of payment methods, such as credit cards, ACH transfers, and purchase orders, to cater to different customer preferences.
  3. Tokenization and encryption: Implement advanced security measures like tokenization and encryption to safeguard customer data during transactions.

Shipping and logistics integration for efficient fulfillment

Integrating your B2B e-commerce platform with shipping and logistics providers streamlines the order fulfillment process, ensuring that your customers receive their orders promptly and with minimal hassle.

Benefits of shipping and logistics integration

  1. Real-time shipping rates: Provide customers with accurate, real-time shipping rates based on their location and order details.
  2. Automated order tracking: Keep customers informed about their order status with automated tracking updates.
  3. Efficient returns management: Streamline the returns process by integrating with reverse logistics providers, making it easier for customers to initiate and track returns.

These must-have integrations are essential for creating a seamless, efficient, and customer-centric B2B e-commerce experience. By connecting your e-commerce platform with key systems like ERP, PIM, CRM, payment gateways, and shipping providers, you can unlock the full potential of your online sales channel and drive long-term success in the competitive B2B landscape.

Scalability Considerations for B2B E-commerce Platforms

  • Ensure your platform can handle growth without performance issues
  • Segment customers and customize pricing at scale
  • Adopt headless commerce for greater flexibility and future-proofing

Ability to handle large SKU counts

In the past year, B2B e-commerce platforms have made significant strides in their ability to efficiently manage large product catalogs. Leading platforms now offer optimized database structures and indexing techniques that enable them to handle thousands of SKUs without compromising on performance or speed.

This scalability is crucial for B2B businesses that often deal with extensive product ranges and need to accommodate future growth. By investing in a platform with robust catalog management capabilities, companies can confidently expand their offerings without worrying about system limitations or slowdowns.

Case study: Manufacturer doubles SKU count without performance issues

One industrial equipment manufacturer successfully doubled their SKU count from 5,000 to 10,000 products within a 6-month period using a scalable B2B e-commerce platform. Despite this significant increase, they experienced no notable decrease in site speed or performance, allowing them to seamlessly serve their growing customer base.

Support for multiple customer groups and price lists

Over the past year, advanced B2B e-commerce platforms have enhanced their capabilities to segment customers and customize pricing at scale. This allows businesses to efficiently manage complex B2B pricing structures, including contract pricing, volume discounts, and customer-specific price lists.

Customer segmentationTailor experiences and pricing based on customer type or tier
Contract pricingAutomatically apply negotiated prices for each customer
Volume discountsIncentivize larger orders with tiered pricing
Custom price listsManage unique pricing for individual customers or groups

By leveraging these features, companies can automate the application of custom pricing based on predefined rules and customer attributes. This streamlines the ordering process for B2B buyers and reduces manual workload for sales teams.

Looking ahead, we can expect B2B e-commerce platforms to further refine these capabilities, making it even easier to manage intricate pricing scenarios at scale. This will be especially valuable for businesses with expanding customer bases and increasingly diverse pricing requirements.

Headless commerce capabilities

Headless commerce has emerged as a key trend in the B2B e-commerce space over the past year. By decoupling the front-end presentation layer from the back-end commerce engine, headless architecture offers unparalleled flexibility and agility.

This approach allows businesses to rapidly adapt to changing market dynamics and customer preferences. With a headless commerce platform, companies can easily integrate new touchpoints and technologies as they emerge, ensuring they stay at the forefront of innovation.

Moreover, headless commerce enables B2B businesses to leverage best-of-breed services for various aspects of their e-commerce ecosystem, such as content management, personalization, and search. This modular approach helps companies create highly optimized and tailored experiences for their customers.

As we move into the next 12 months, the adoption of headless commerce in the B2B sector is poised to accelerate. Businesses that embrace this architecture will be well-positioned to:

  • Adapt quickly to shifting buyer expectations
  • Enhance their e-commerce experiences across multiple channels
  • Future-proof their technology stack

Choosing a B2B e-commerce platform with the best user experience

  • Prioritize platforms with intuitive navigation, detailed product pages, and bulk ordering features
  • Look for flexible checkout options that accommodate B2B-specific needs like PO numbers and credit terms
  • Ensure the platform offers a seamless user experience across all devices and screens

Intuitive navigation and categorization

A well-designed B2B e-commerce platform should make it easy for buyers to find the products they need quickly. This starts with a logical category hierarchy and product groupings that reflect how B2B buyers think about their purchases. For example, an industrial supply company might organize products by application (e.g., safety, janitorial, office) and then by product type within each category.

Prominent search functionality is also crucial. Look for platforms with advanced search capabilities like autocomplete, synonym matching, and the ability to filter results by key attributes like brand, price range, or technical specifications. Breadcrumbs and contextual links throughout the site can also help users orient themselves and discover related products.

Detailed product pages with key B2B info

B2B buyers often need more detailed product information than B2C shoppers to make confident purchase decisions. Choose an e-commerce platform that lets you build robust product pages with:

  • Technical specifications and downloadable documentation like datasheets, manuals, and certifications
  • Information on compatible parts or accessories
  • Tiered pricing tables showing volume discounts
  • Real-time inventory availability by warehouse location
  • Estimated lead times for out-of-stock items

Bonus points for platforms that let you display customer-specific pricing and catalogs based on contracts or negotiated terms.

Convenient bulk ordering and quick reorder options

Many B2B orders include dozens or even hundreds of SKUs. To make large orders more efficient, look for e-commerce platforms that offer:

CSV upload ordering

Allow users to add multiple products to their cart at once by uploading a spreadsheet with SKUs and quantities. This is a huge time-saver versus manually entering items one-by-one.

Quick Order Pad

A Quick Order Pad is a form where users can type in SKUs and quantities to rapidly build their order. It’s great for buyers who have a list of product codes handy and don’t need to browse.

Saved Carts

With a Saved Cart feature, buyers can store frequently purchased items in a named cart for easy reordering later. Some platforms also let buyers edit and duplicate saved carts to make recurring orders even faster.

Flexible checkout accommodating B2B scenarios

B2B payments and fulfillment tend to be more complex than B2C. Your e-commerce platform’s checkout should be able to handle:

  • Purchase order numbers for invoice payments
  • Requesting terms or lines of credit
  • Applying buyer-specific discounts or negotiated pricing
  • Shipping to multiple addresses with different quantities per address
  • Collecting additional info like cost centers or accounting codes

Self-service payment and credit applications can also help streamline checkout while reducing the workload on your finance team.

As more B2B buying shifts online, providing a modern, intuitive e-commerce experience is becoming table stakes. By prioritizing platforms with robust search, navigation, and checkout designed for B2B use cases, you can create a site that delights users and drives higher conversions and average order values.

Additional B2B e-commerce platform evaluation factors

  • Look beyond basic features and consider security, integrations, workflows, and vendor expertise
  • Ensure the platform can handle complex B2B processes and scale with your business
  • Prioritize vendors with deep B2B experience and a strong product roadmap

When evaluating B2B e-commerce platforms, it’s crucial to look beyond the basic features and consider additional factors that can significantly impact your business success. These factors include robust security and compliance, extensive API coverage for integrations, configurable workflows to match your unique business processes, and the vendor’s B2B expertise and track record.

Robust security and compliance features

Security and compliance are top priorities for B2B companies, as they often handle sensitive customer data and large financial transactions. When selecting a B2B e-commerce platform, ensure that it offers:

PCI compliant payment processing

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance is essential for any business that accepts credit card payments. A PCI compliant e-commerce platform ensures that your customers’ payment data is securely processed and stored, reducing the risk of data breaches and financial losses.

Customer data protection and access control

B2B e-commerce platforms should provide robust data protection features, such as encryption, secure data storage, and granular access control. This allows you to safeguard sensitive customer information and restrict access to authorized users only, minimizing the risk of data leaks or unauthorized access.

Audit trails and versioning

Audit trails and versioning are critical for maintaining transparency and accountability in B2B transactions. Look for platforms that log all user actions, changes to product information, and order history, allowing you to track and review activities for auditing and compliance purposes.

Extensive API coverage for integrations

B2B businesses often rely on a variety of software systems to manage their operations, such as ERP, CRM, and inventory management. To ensure seamless integration between your e-commerce platform and these systems, look for:

Well-documented APIs for key B2B functions

A robust API (Application Programming Interface) allows you to connect your e-commerce platform with other software systems, enabling real-time data exchange and automation. Ensure that the platform offers well-documented APIs covering key B2B functions, such as order management, inventory sync, and customer data management.

Pre-built connectors for popular 3rd party systems

Some e-commerce platforms offer pre-built connectors for popular 3rd party systems, such as SAP, NetSuite, or Salesforce. These connectors can significantly reduce the time and effort required to integrate your e-commerce platform with your existing software stack, enabling faster deployment and time-to-value.

Webhooks for real-time data syncing

Webhooks allow your e-commerce platform to send real-time notifications to other systems when specific events occur, such as order placement or inventory updates. This enables instant data syncing between systems, ensuring that all stakeholders have access to the most up-to-date information.

Configurable workflows to match business processes

B2B businesses often have complex and unique workflows that involve multiple stakeholders, approval processes, and business rules. To accommodate these workflows, look for a platform that offers:

Customizable approval rules and routing

The ability to set up custom approval rules and routing based on order value, customer type, or other criteria is essential for B2B businesses. This ensures that the right people are involved in the decision-making process and that orders are processed efficiently.

Automate manual steps like credit checks

Automating manual steps, such as credit checks or sales tax calculations, can significantly streamline your B2B processes and reduce the risk of errors. Look for platforms that offer built-in automation capabilities or integrate with 3rd party services to handle these tasks.

Set role-based permissions

Role-based permissions allow you to control access to specific features, data, and actions based on a user’s role within your organization. This ensures that users only have access to the information and functionality they need to perform their jobs, enhancing security and reducing the risk of errors or unauthorized actions.

Vendor’s B2B expertise and track record

When evaluating B2B e-commerce platforms, it’s crucial to consider the vendor’s expertise and track record in the B2B space. Look for vendors that have:

Experience with similar B2B use cases and industries

Vendors with experience in your industry or with similar B2B use cases are more likely to understand your unique challenges and requirements. They can provide valuable insights and best practices to help you optimize your e-commerce strategy and avoid common pitfalls.

Proven ability to implement and scale B2B

B2B e-commerce implementations can be complex and time-consuming, requiring significant resources and expertise. Look for vendors with a proven track record of successfully implementing and scaling B2B e-commerce solutions for businesses similar to yours.

Strong B2B focused product roadmap

A vendor’s product roadmap provides insight into their future plans and priorities for the platform. Look for vendors with a strong B2B focus in their roadmap, indicating a commitment to continuously improving and expanding their B2B capabilities to meet evolving market needs.

Total cost of ownership (TCO)

When evaluating B2B e-commerce platforms, it’s essential to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO), which includes not only the initial licensing or subscription fees but also ongoing costs such as:

Implementation and integration costs

Implementing and integrating a B2B e-commerce platform can be complex and time-consuming, often requiring significant resources and expertise. Consider the costs associated with platform setup, customization, and integration with your existing systems when evaluating TCO.

Maintenance and support fees

Ongoing maintenance and support are critical for ensuring the smooth operation and continuous improvement of your e-commerce platform. Factor in the costs of regular software updates, bug fixes, and technical support when assessing the long-term TCO of a platform.

Scalability and infrastructure costs

As your B2B business grows, your e-commerce platform needs to scale accordingly. Consider the costs associated with scaling your infrastructure, such as additional server capacity or bandwidth, to accommodate increased traffic and transaction volumes.

By carefully evaluating these additional factors, you can select a B2B e-commerce platform that not only meets your current needs but also provides the security, flexibility, and scalability required to support your long-term business growth and success.

What is a B2B e-commerce platform?

  • Specialized software for business-to-business online sales
  • Handles complex B2B pricing, ordering, and fulfillment processes
  • Essential tool for manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers

Definition of B2B e-commerce platforms

A B2B e-commerce platform is a software solution designed to facilitate online sales transactions between businesses. These platforms provide the necessary tools and features to create an online catalog, manage a shopping cart, process payments, and handle customer accounts. B2B e-commerce platforms are built to accommodate the unique requirements of business-to-business sales, which often involve complex pricing structures, custom ordering, and specific fulfillment needs.

Unlike B2C e-commerce platforms, which focus on providing an engaging and intuitive shopping experience for individual consumers, B2B platforms prioritize efficiency, automation, and integration with existing business systems. They enable companies to streamline their sales processes, reduce manual workload, and improve customer service by providing self-service options for their business clients.

How B2B ecommerce platforms differ from B2C

B2B e-commerce platforms are designed to handle the distinct challenges and complexities of business-to-business sales. While B2C platforms focus on creating visually appealing and user-friendly experiences to drive impulse purchases, B2B platforms prioritize functionality and efficiency to support longer sales cycles and ongoing business relationships.

Accommodating complex B2B sales processes

B2B sales often involve multiple decision-makers, custom pricing, and lengthy negotiations. B2B ecommerce platforms provide features such as:

  • Tiered pricing and volume discounts
  • Custom catalogs and product configurations
  • Quote requests and approval workflows
  • Contract management and automated renewals

These capabilities enable businesses to streamline their sales processes and reduce the time and effort required to close deals.

Supporting B2B payments and fulfillment

B2B transactions often involve higher order values, payment terms, and specific shipping requirements. B2B e-commerce platforms offer:

  • Multiple payment options (e.g., credit lines, invoicing, ACH)
  • Integration with ERP and accounting systems
  • Bulk ordering and split shipments
  • Dropshipping and third-party logistics integration

By automating these processes, B2B e-commerce platforms help businesses improve cash flow, reduce errors, and fulfill orders more efficiently.

Types of businesses that use B2B e-commerce platforms

B2B e-commerce platforms serve a wide range of industries and business models. Some common examples include:

  1. Manufacturers selling directly to distributors or end customers
    • Industrial equipment and machinery
    • Electronic components and semiconductors
    • Chemical and raw materials
  2. Wholesalers and distributors selling to retailers
    • Consumer packaged goods (CPG)
    • Apparel and fashion
    • Auto parts and accessories
  3. Suppliers selling to businesses, institutions, and government
    • Office supplies and furniture
    • Medical and dental supplies
    • Maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) products

By adopting B2B e-commerce platforms, these businesses can expand their reach, reduce sales costs, and improve customer satisfaction. For example, a study by Forrester found that B2B e-commerce sales are expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2024 in the US alone, accounting for 17% of all B2B sales.

Choosing the right B2B ecommerce platform

Given the diverse needs of B2B businesses, selecting the right e-commerce platform is crucial for success. Key factors to consider include:

  • Integration with existing ERP, CRM, and other business systems
  • Customization options to match unique business processes
  • Scalability to handle growth in products, customers, and transactions
  • Security and compliance features to protect sensitive data
  • Support for multiple languages, currencies, and tax rules for global sales

Some leading B2B e-commerce platforms to evaluate are:

  • Total One
  • Magento Commerce
  • SAP Commerce Cloud
  • Oracle CX Commerce
  • BigCommerce B2B Edition
  • Shopify Plus
  • Netalogue
  • Adobe Commerce

Investing in the right B2B e-commerce platform can help businesses streamline operations, reduce costs, and drive growth in an increasingly digital marketplace. As B2B buyers continue to expect the same level of convenience and self-service they experience as consumers, companies that embrace e-commerce will be well-positioned to compete and thrive.

Choosing the Right B2B Ecommerce Platform

Selecting a B2B e-commerce platform is a critical decision that impacts your company’s growth and success in the years ahead. The 15 factors we’ve covered—from advanced catalog management to headless commerce capabilities—provide a comprehensive framework for evaluating your options.

As you embark on this journey, remember that the ideal platform will align closely with your unique business requirements and growth objectives. Look for a vendor with deep B2B expertise and a strong track record of helping companies like yours scale their online sales channels.

At TotalOne, we understand the intricacies of B2B e-commerce and have designed our platform to cater specifically to the needs of businesses like yours. Our robust features and customizable solutions ensure that your company can thrive in the competitive e-commerce landscape.

Armed with these insights, you’re well-positioned to navigate the e-commerce landscape and find a platform that will drive your business forward. TotalOne is here to support you every step of the way, providing the tools and expertise needed to elevate your B2B e-commerce game.

Ready to take the next step in your B2B e-commerce journey with TotalOne? Book a free demo today!

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