Open for business: How out-of-the-box automation can help get your B2B e-store up and running fast

by Bailey Amber
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Have you come to realise the advantages that could accrue if your customers were able to deal with you digitally? If you answered in the affirmative, then join the club.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, scores of B2B enterprises with in-person selling models are looking to invest in e-commerce solutions that will enable their customers to get information about their products and place orders whenever and however they choose.

They’re wise to do so. Research published by McKinsey in October 2020 found that more than 75 per cent of B2B customers would rather deal with suppliers virtually and purchase from them online than have sales reps front up to their premises.  Just 20 per cent of business buyers at the time said they were looking forward to the resumption of in-person sales calls.

There is little surprise that B2B businesses that implement e-commerce solutions tend to see improvements where they matter most – to the bottom line. In the first year after opening an online store, enterprises enjoy at least 30 per cent growth, on average, according to a Sana Commerce research report.

Planning your transformation project

If you’re aiming to get a B2B e-commerce presence up and running this year, you may be wondering what tack is best to take and whether your ICT department is up to the task of creating a fully integrated web store.

Should it be the case that you’re expecting them to perform the bulk of the tasks manually, then the answer to that question will almost certainly be ‘no’. 

Even if your ICT team has sufficient e-commerce nous, they’re unlikely to have the ‘spare’ time to get the work done any time this year or next. 

That’s because configuring a B2B store manually can be an incredibly laborious process. Your website may require redesign; there could be thousands, even millions, of products in your catalogue to upload, and developing the links and workarounds to connect your new store with your ERP and sales and marketing systems can be a slow old game.

Yes, there is the option to contract the task out wholesale to a third-party service provider, provided you don’t mind paying consultancy rates and waiting in line for them to get around to your project. Given Australia’s well-publicised ICT skills shortage, which has sent salaries in the sector soaring since the onset of the Covid crisis, you may be waiting a while.    

Embracing automation

There is another way: adopting technology that does the heavy lifting for you.

Modern, cloud-based B2B e-commerce technology enables you to streamline and automate the most labour-intensive aspects of the configuration process – retrieving product images and specifications from your ERP and Product Information Management systems, building product groupings and, perhaps most importantly, integrating your online store with your ERP system, to create a single source of e-commerce truth.

Modifications to your online store can be made with ease, via Visual Designer – with so much ease, in fact, that any member of your team can be entrusted with the task. 

You’ll also end up with a streamlined set-up that’s less prone to glitches, more likely to reflect your stock levels and lead times accurately and less vulnerable to cyber-security incursions. 

It’s the obvious answer if you’re looking to get your digital doors open for B2B trade economically, securely and fast. 

An online future for your B2B business

Australian business customers have changed their purchasing behaviours significantly since the advent of the Covid crisis, and transacting with suppliers digitally is fast becoming the norm. Keeping your customers satisfied means meeting them where they’re at – online – and delivering an efficient and effortless purchasing experience each, and every time they interact with you.

If you’ve yet to establish an e-commerce presence that allows you to do so, you may already be losing ground to faster-moving competitors with an eye squarely on your customer base. Embracing automation will enable you to catch up and compete in 2022 and beyond.

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