So, you’re considering implementing a B2B eCommerce site. It can be intimidating for sure and there are a lot of moving parts, but if you plan the project well it can be a straightforward process. While the project may not be a piece of cake, we’ve found that breaking it down into a few crucial ingredients is a great way to whip up a successful B2B eCommerce site. Here is the next installment of our 13 ingredients for B2B eCommerce success. (Be sure to check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five as well.)
Review Order to Cash System
As we mentioned before, implementing eCommerce and expanding payment methods can really shorten your order to cash cycle. Information flows faster, payments are received sooner, and you can accept orders around the clock instead of just when sales representatives are available. All of this can drastically change the volume of orders you’re receiving. Additionally, orders can be somewhat spontaneous since your customers aren’t necessarily talking with a sales representative before placing an order.
Another aspect contributing to the order speed is the fact that, for the most part, human interaction is eliminated. This typically means errors are reduced, including missed or incorrect shipments. This quicker, more agile process can be a huge benefit as long as you’re prepared to handle an increase in orders.
Identify Secure Forms of Payment
As a B2B commerce organization, you’re most likely already accepting payments from your customers. But when it comes to B2B eCommerce, there are new forms of payment to keep in mind and prepare for.
Credit cards are a gamechanger for B2B, and as much as they can simplify your customer’s ordering and payment process, there are quite a few things for you to consider when implementing credit card payments.
The first thing to consider is fraud and PCI compliance. Security is a key concern for online shoppers, making PCI compliance a complicated necessity for merchants. Becoming PCI compliant is a marriage between the enterprise-wide PCI requirements and the assessment of a CISSP. With 12 different requirements protecting all aspects of stored cardholder data, it can be difficult to keep up with all of the nuanced stipulations. Luckily, many eCommerce platforms, including Magento, make achieving PCI compliance easier.
Another thing to keep in mind when accepting credit card payments is the changed relationship with your ERP processes. Currently, your ERP system is most likely sending out invoices for orders. With credit card payments available, your ERP system will need to accept orders already paid for. This shortens the cash cycle with orders being paid for sometimes even before the order has shipped. While your ERP system should be able to handle this change, it’s important to pay attention to it and make sure you have everything squared away.
Rebates and Store Credit
One thing that a lot of B2B companies tend to ignore is store credit. While it isn’t the most common option, it is available in the eCommerce realm. We strongly suggest that you consider accepting some form of credit; even introducing a loyalty program with rewards. It’s an underutilized strategy that can be helpful in your B2B business.
Confirm Sales Tax Regulations
Sales tax is a confusing variable in all of this. Most B2B customers are tax exempt, but not all. Before your eCommerce site goes live, you need to determine where you have nexus so you know who you need to charge sales tax and in which states.
With any sales tax situation, the first step is knowing where you have nexus, or a relationship with a certain jurisdiction that requires you to collect sales taxes. In general, if you have nexus in a state, you will be responsible for collecting the right rate of sales tax for that state on any sales to customers within that state. If you’ll be implementing credit card processing, you will probably want a sales tax calculating tool so you can calculate the various tax rates at your customer’s time of purchase.
We won’t sugar coat it for you: tax exempt certificate management can be a nightmare. In the United States, sales tax is only charged to the end user of a product, not wholesalers or retailers, which includes many B2B organizations. Additionally, some states charge sales tax on services while others don’t. Keeping your tax exemption certificates organized and up to date will help clear the fog on some of these issues.
Long story short: bring in your accounting department early and often. Miscalculating or ignoring sales tax will not only cause you an accounting headache, it will more than likely land you in trouble with the government.
Evaluate Customer Communication Practices
We’re in the home stretch of this project and it’s time to add something fun that keeps your audience coming back for more. Just like sprinkles or chocolate shavings might draw in a potential recipe tester, your customer communication will help bring your customers back for more.
Your CSR will handle the traditional order placing processes, leaving more complex issues up to your sales team. But, just because so much of the sales process is automated through eCommerce doesn’t mean you need to cut down on your communications with customers. It just means you may find new ways to keep in touch. Emails, chat functions, and SMS can all be helpful in defining the sales process and retaining customers.
The easiest way to integrate these strategies is to use an eCommerce platform that is already optimized for them. For example, Magento has transactional emails available out of the box. These communication points serve as the voice of your company. Whether it’s an order update, password reset, or newsletter, you can automate these emails to further improve your customers’ experience.
These points of contact can go beyond simple transactional emails. Do you have customers purchasing consumables? Why not send them an email reminding them to order a replenishment shipment? Or have your customer sign up for SMS updates on their order progress. Touches like that can make all the difference in your relationships with customers.
Another beneficial communication method is chat. From a quick question to product recommendations, chat is an easy way for your customers to get in touch at a time that is convenient for them. Keep in mind, however, that this option will require staffing to maintain it and respond to queries.
Just because you don’t have sales representatives talking directly to your customers every step of the way doesn’t mean you are shut out from them. Using these alternate forms of communication can maintain that contact in ways that are more intuitive to your customers’ everyday lives.
There's more to come! Stay tuned for the final installment of our B2B eCommerce Success series.