This is a guest post written by Oro Inc.

Top B2B eCommerce platforms for boosting sales in 2020

In 2020, if you want to maximize the revenue from your eCommerce channel, you need a B2B eCommerce platform that creates a frictionless experience expected by customers. A robust platform will also provide the flexibility to grow with your business and adapt to changing markets.

COVID-19 has only amplified eCommerce platforms, causing a surge in online sales. Forrester forecasts the B2B eCommerce market to exceed $1.8 trillion by 2023. B2B buyers start their purchase journey online, and most want a customer experience that lets them seal the deal online too. And buyers are willing to spend up to a 16% price premium on products and services for a great customer experience.

The right eCommerce platform allows your customer to research a product or service, negotiate the price, make an order, and arrange for payment effortlessly. A complete self-serve model, requiring little intervention, provides optimal customer experience. B2B online purchasing has fueled growth in the B2B eCommerce platform arena. But, picking the right solution for your unique business needs isn't always easy. To help in your search, we've put together a list of critical features needed to fulfill your online selling ambitions. And a quick comparison of the top products on the market today.

No two companies do business the same. What works for one company might not work for you. When selecting an eCommerce platform, consider your business model (B2B, B2B2C, B2C), current technology stack, and future growth needs. The right platform for your company will effortlessly accommodate these areas.

Seamless Integration

Consider how well the solution integrates with your existing architecture. Like a comfortable pair of shoes, the right B2B eCommerce platform fits comfortably without unnecessary effort or distress. The platform should integrate with your existing ERP, CRM, PIM, 3PL, and eProcurement systems. Ensure you review available APIs and check integration availability with your current systems before making a final decision. It's a good idea to work with project consultants and partners that have experience integrating with your selected platform. Otherwise, your team will be learning to use the software on the job, which could negatively impact project timelines and budgets.

Fully Responsive

Your website is your best sales representative. So you must ensure it is user friendly and renders flawlessly on all mobile devices. According to Deloitte, site speeds saw consumers spending almost 10% more when site speeds improved by only 1 millisecond. Since 2018, Google has considered page loading speeds as a ranking factor for search engine results. A poor mobile experience negatively impacts SEO and increases the likelihood that customers will leave your site.

Clients aren't the only ones that depend on their mobile phones to utilize your site. Employees often need to implement changes on the go via mobile access to the back-end. That means your mobile site should be easy to browse and make purchases with, as well as perform admin functions.

Room for Growth

Ensure your eCommerce sales are future-proof with a solution that scales to your business growth. Brands must consider several factors, including multiple deployment models that support on-site, cloud, or hybrid implementations. This flexibility allows the solution to grow with your company without re-platforming. Your eCommerce platform should seamlessly adapt as your company expands and changes. Think of your future needs to avoid a short-term fix instead of a long-term, scalable solution.

Intuitive Interfaces for All Users

Businesses must always consider the front and back-end user experience (UX) of their website. Ensure interfaces are intuitive and easy to navigate on both mobile and desktop devices.

Customers should get a personalized experience. When they log in, it should be easy to access their order history, reorder, and search custom catalogs and price lists. Companies often have multiple team members making B2B purchases. Ensure customers can easily set up their own user roles and permissions that align with their workflows and approval authorities. For example, a customer's company could require two approvals for purchases above a set amount. Such permissions should be easily defined in their customer set-up.

Of course, an intuitive interface could mean different things to different people. Spend some time familiarizing yourself and your employees with the management back-end of your eCommerce platform. Creating landing pages, reports, customer segments, and customizing workflows should be straightforward.

Complete Customization

B2B prices and terms of sale are generally negotiated on an individual customer basis. A B2B eCommerce platform needs the same flexibility for complete customization and personalized customer considerations. The experience must be tailored to a customer's specifications, including minimum purchase quantities, prices, and pricing tiers, commonly purchased SKUs, and wish lists. Reordering should be as easy as a simple click. Ensure customization to credit terms and limits, shipping preferences, language, and currency is available.

Robust Content Management System

More and more customers are looking for a complete self-serve model alongside rich product content. They want downloadable PDFs, how-to videos, troubleshooting guides, as well as user and owner manuals. It's essential to select a platform that supports a range of media formats and content.

Support for SMS

Customers appreciate access to a variety of communication and support channels. Text messaging and online chat functions are vital components of eCommerce sites and marketing strategies. SMS has reliable deliverability, ensuring your message always reaches your customer.

Choose eCommerce solutions that support SMS API integrations and plugins. Powerful SMS APIs facilitate bulk notifications, A2P messaging, Two-way SMS, automated messages, and keyword trigger responses. Robust SMS features can be integrated with your CMS platform or CRM, depending on preference and business requirements.

Now that we know what to look for in a platform, let's see how the major players stack up.

OroCommerce

One of the first and only B2B eCommerce platforms that was purpose-designed and built specifically for B2B companies. OroCommerce was created by the same executive team behind the B2C Magento solution. OroCommerce can be deployed on-premise or via the cloud. The front and back end are fully operational on mobile devices. It is open-source, secure, and provides access to a large community of developers and users. The ecosystem includes extensive APIs and a variety of solution partners to customize the platform to your needs. OroCommerce's extensive offerings provide solutions for all business models, including marketplaces, distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers.

Key characteristics

  • Open-source framework
  • Deployable on-premise, on the web, and in the Cloud
  • Easy customization with robust workflow engines, pricing engines, and feature dashboards
  • Average four-month timeframe to install, customize, and launch a website
  • Suitable for SME and large enterprise manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers
  • Used by SaltWorks, Animal Supply, TruPar, and Aldo

Ecosystem

  • Includes an integrated CRM
  • Vast and active community of users and developers
  • Plugins available through the marketplace
  • Solution and technical partners available through Oro or on the open market

Advantages

  • Made for B2B, B2C, B2B2C, and other models
  • Supports headless architecture
  • Extensive API support
  • Flexible content management system
  • 24/7 support

Disadvantages

  • Implementation requires some level of technical expertise
  • The system may be too complex and wide-ranging for some small businesses

HCL Commerce (formerly IBM Websphere)

IBM Websphere was rebranded as HCL Commerce last year. This enterprise-level solution is fully containerized, supporting traditional and headless eCommerce, and can be used for B2B and marketplace applications. It offers a range of essential eCommerce functions such as promotions, catalogs, and merchandising. Several updates are on the roadmap, including UX/UI implementation for faster page response time, the ability to deploy pages on the fly, and improved infrastructure for SEO optimization.

Key characteristics

  • Proprietary framework
  • Deployable on-premise, on the web, or as a hybrid of the two
  • Supports eCommerce, brick-and-mortar, and mobile
  • Includes order fulfillment, management features, and multiple brand/site management capabilities
  • Average six-month timeframe to install, customize, and launch a website
  • Well suited for medium enterprises in manufacturing, business and consumer services, and retail fashion
  • Used by Augusta Sportswear, J.J. Keller, and Lindt

Ecosystem

  • Partnerships with SAP and Oracle for easier integration
  • Company supported user and developer community

Advantages

  • Supports B2B, B2C, and marketplace business models
  • Supports location-based mobile services
  • API driven framework
  • Robust multi-channel capabilities
  • Enables AI-driven customer experiences

Disadvantages

  • As it is wholly containerized, integrators must fully understand the container environment
  • Customizations must be layered using the IBM xC programming model, making this solution more difficult to implement than other eCommerce platforms
  • Not suited for retail or small businesses

SAP Commerce Cloud

A part of the SAP ecosystem, Commerce Cloud connects to SAP Marketing, SAP Sales, SAP Service, and SAP Customer Data. SAP Commerce Cloud supports omnichannel systems and renders on all devices, providing increased customer engagement for B2B and B2C modules. Drag and drop "smart editing" also makes it easy to create banners, pages, and tailored promotions.

Key Characteristics

  • Proprietary framework
  • A Cloud-based SaaS product
  • Highly adaptable and scalable to almost any business model
  • Responsive across all devices
  • Average nine-month timeframe to install, customize, and launch website
  • Well suited for medium to large enterprises in IT, manufacturing, healthcare, and other services
  • Used by Edenhouse Solutions, Lufthansa, Levi Strauss & Co., and Crown Equipment

Ecosystem

  • Part of the SAP ecosystem
  • Over 100 SAP-certified integrations available

Advantages

  • Supports multiple languages, sites, and currencies for global operations
  • Provides solutions for highly personalized customer experiences
  • Robust infrastructure that supports multichannel and omnichannel sellers

Disadvantages

  • Lacks standalone functionality and can only be used with SAP integration
  • Built as an enterprise-only platform, so not suitable for businesses on a budget
  • Fewer automation features compared to other options on the market

SuiteCommerce

This platform is Oracle Netsuite's offering in the eCommerce arena. It is a powerful platform designed to integrate with Oracle's library of solutions, such as ERP and CRM. With multi-channel and multi-location functionality, it is suitable for retailers wanting a unified solution for eCommerce and point of sale. SuiteCommerce supports B2B, B2C, and B2B2C business models.

Key Characteristics

  • Proprietary framework
  • Deployable via the web or Cloud
  • Allows users to work on multiple website versions and schedule deployment
  • Handles B2B and B2C within the same platform
  • Completely responsive front-end
  • Average nine-month timeframe to install, customize, and launch website
  • Suitable for SMB and large enterprises in computer software, retail, and wholesale
  • Used by That's Great News, Cotton Traders, Exostar, and Jade Global

Ecosystem

  • Native integrations with other Oracle NetSuite products
  • Limited number of third-party themes and plugins

Advantages

  • Handles order management and POS functions in addition to eCommerce
  • Built-in content delivery network improves page loading times
  • Supports mobile, web, and in-store customer experience and management
  • Comprehensive support

Disadvantages

  • UI is not intuitive making the product difficult to navigate
  • CMS offers limited editability

Commerce Cloud Digital by Salesforce

Salesforce offers two distinct editions of its eCommerce platform: one for B2B eCommerce and another for B2C eCommerce. Commerce Cloud for B2B enterprise is designed to seamlessly integrate with other Salesforce products. Integrating with Marketing Cloud and Sales Cloud allows better sales management and marketing functionality. The platform also facilitates efficient reorder forms, personalized catalogs, contract pricing, and other features expected from B2B buyers.

SMSGlobal for Salesforce allows users to streamline communications with Leads, Contacts, and Accounts directly within the platform. With automation capabilities and SMS triggers, users can send individual and bulk SMS campaigns to drive engagement and sales.

Key Characteristics

  • Proprietary framework
  • Cloud-based only
  • Suitable for multi-channel and multi-brand B2B companies
  • Fully responsive on mobile
  • Feature implementation doesn't require technical knowledge
  • Average six-month timeframe to install, customize, and launch a website
  • Suitable for SMB and large enterprises in wholesale, business services, computer software, retail, and fashion
  • Used by Univar, Black Rifle Coffee, and Best Choice Products

Ecosystem

  • Native integrations with Salesforce products
  • Extensive API and theme library

Advantages

  • Updated three times a year for consistent product improvements
  • Offers a simple self-serve experience to your customers
  • Replicates the B2C buying experience for B2B buyers

Disadvantages

  • Additional product purchases required for CRM and marketing solutions
  • In-depth customization requires technical support
  • Can only be deployed in the cloud

Magento

Magento is the leading eCommerce platform—initially built for B2C eCommerce.Through years of modifications, Magento can now fulfill B2B operations. It isn't an ideal solution for B2B sellers, lacking much of the functionality required for B2B transactions. But with a vast array of extensions, integrations, and partners available, it is still a popular choice for many businesses.

Key Characteristics

  • Open-source framework
  • Deployable on-premise, on the web, or in the Cloud
  • Easy to adapt with a wide variety of extensions, themes, and APIs
  • Fully responsive on mobile
  • Average five-month timeframe to install, customize, and launch a website
  • Suitable for medium to large enterprises in retail, manufacturing, and construction
  • Used by HP, Tile Giant, and Royal Academy of Arts

Ecosystem

  • Large user and developer community
  • Extensive APIs, plugins, and themes available for free and for purchase
  • Variety of training, solution implantation, and consulting partners

Advantages

  • Extensive support for marketing functions
  • Supports multi-channel and multiple websites within one platform
  • Highly customizable

Disadvantages

  • Not suitable for B2B without extensive modification and customization
  • Costly with the addition of plugins, extensions, and APIs

    As more buyers demand an online shopping experience in line with B2C, companies are moving to robust B2B eCommerce platforms. In 2019, the B2B eCommerce market was valued at $12.2 trillion in the US alone. Even before COVID-19 caused a surge in online purchases, in 2015 almost 75% of B2B buyers said that buying online is more convenient than buying from a sales representative.

    If you aren't currently selling online you will be soon. McKinsey & company has been tracking buyer and seller behavior during the pandemic, and the results are clear. Digital-enabled sales transactions are more important than ever. Whichever B2B eCommerce platform you choose will play a massive part in your online success. You must carefully consider each platform's advantages and disadvantages and how it will fulfill your business' unique requirements.

    When selecting the right solution, it's just as important to look to the future as it is your current needs. The best solution will grow with your company and keep pace with technological trends. By implementing a digital sales experience, you will increase customer satisfaction and limit friction in the purchasing process. While offering an overall digital transformation to your sales strategy, an eCommerce platform will also optimize efficiency and business operations.