In today’s society, online shopping has become a staple. Whether it’s in pursuit of the perfect pair of shoes, a new couch, or even the weekly groceries, more people are choosing B2C eCommerce than ever. However, while doing personal online shopping at home (or when the boss isn’t looking) online consumers have come to expect a rich customer experience, which includes vibrant images, engaging content and a hassle-free ordering process. Given that these same people are shopping in the B2B space for work, why wouldn’t they expect to have a similar experience?
If, as a B2B business, you are not thinking like a B2C business, then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to increase both revenue and efficiency. B2B websites can no longer function as simply a marketing tool, but need to be upgraded to function as a sales tool in order to keep up with customers’ expectations. Even though the line between B2B and B2C may be blurring, there are still some significant differences between the two. Different business processes and differences in the length of the sales cycle require a more complex approach to B2B eCommerce than B2C.
As B2B eCommerce sites grow more prevalent, and are accompanied by the need for a flawless user experience, B2B companies are going to need to increase their investment in this area in order to keep up. According to Forrester’s Wave: B2B Commerce Suites report, B2B eCommerce businesses spend “on average 4% of online revenue on technology infrastructure.” Given the potential expense, if you have decided to upgrade your site in order to meet these demands, then surely you will want to utilize your time and resources effectively by partnering with the right vendor.
In order to be considered for the Forrester B2B study, vendors had to meet the following criteria:
- A product that supports complex B2B selling channels
- A significant track record in supporting B2B commerce at large companies
- Interest from Forrester clients
- A minimum of $20 million in annual revenue
The selected vendors represent a range of solution types, however the focus was on the leading commerce platforms for B2B online sales. They were evaluated on 66 criteria that were split into three categories: current offering, strategy and market presence. The evaluations of each technology vendor focused on the B2B commerce feature set, PCM, WCM, and OMS capabilities, and table-stakes commerce features.
One of the B2B companies rated as a champion of the highlighted B2B practices is IBM. As illustrated in the report, they are one of the top technology vendors to meet the B2B community’s need for “robust customer experiences, scalable online and multichannel selling, and deep integrations with critical front- and back-office systems.”
IBM has risen to meet these challenges by acquiring Sterling Commerce and Coremetrics to help expand its eCommerce capabilities. Together, the IBM offerings, which include WebSphere Commerce, Sterling CPO and Sterling Order Management, provide IBM with “robust B2B commerce, order management and CPO capabilities.”
WebSphere Commerce has a number of aspects that elevate their customer’s sites. This includes marketing components that contribute to a more user-centric experience and consistency across all channels, including mobile. Additionally, WCS gives clients more control over their stores. All of these features leverage the IBM middleware platform, which is powerful enough to support large volumes of traffic and supply chain hosting while providing the performance and scalability IBM customers have come to expect.
In addition to the unbeatable features that IBM offers for B2B is the excellent customer service. IBM has a team of over 300 experienced developers for WebSphere Commerce alone, which should give customers peace of mind. The Forrester report even states that the customers they spoke to described IBM support as “excellent.”
Given the complexity of an IBM implementation, the Forrester report also suggests that a successful implementation requires an experienced partner. The most important considerations for selecting a partner are to make sure they are certified and that they have case studies or other content that illustrates their successes. At Briteskies, we have a team of Certified WebSphere Commerce developers that know the process inside and out. As an IBM Premier Business partner with extensive knowledge and expertise in the platform, our team has done everything from executing a varied and complex B2B site and seamlessly integrated with the back-end channel, to launching WebSphere sites with B2B initiative and business growth in mind. In addition, because of our vast experience with eCommerce and ERP systems, we have developed an IBM-approved Smarter Commerce solution specifically for clients whose businesses are running JD Edwards World and WebSphere Commerce.
You can read more about why we like WebSphere Commerce here. We also have an upcoming case study of a B2B company that recently implemented a WebSphere Commerce site and went live in July. They were able to blow their traffic and revenue predictions out of the water even before implementing the marketing engine. Check back for that case study next month to learn more!