Creating a successful B2B eCommerce website requires careful planning and execution and is a huge step forward for any business that wants to work with wholesale/B2B customers. Getting all your requirements clearly described and then designing an easy-to-navigate and engaging user experience is the key here. Plan upfront and avoid the gotcha’s later.
I have seen all types of B2B eCommerce sites and I am here to help make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I have seen made and to provide some initial considerations I would have wanted to have been told about the correct way to plan and build the right eCommerce platform for your B2B business.
How To Approach B2B Website Development from a Marketing Perspective
Regarding eCommerce website development, there are many peculiarities but a lot of common business cases you want to consider. At the top of the list is building an initial seamless user experience as you can get and then making sure you leave yourself a budget to support and make updates to the site as you learn more about how your customers are using the site. Listening to your customers, knowing which feedback to listen to, and then carefully planning your later phases based on customer feedback may all be things that you have heard but actually being able to implement them and build upon a successful B2B website is another thing.
That’s why it’s so important to write down your strategy for your B2B website development project upfront, and that starts with understanding your business goals, your must-have features (vs nice to have, move those to Phase 2), and your audiences’ needs. Who are they? What do they want? What are their pain points? Are they used to doing business over the Internet? Once you understand your audience, you can start developing a strategic plan and website that appeals to them and specifically addresses their business needs while hopefully reducing the manual workload or customer service requests your team is fielding.
This means making sure your website is easy to use. It goes almost without saying that users are more likely to convert if they have a positive experience on your website and come back. It also means creating compelling content that speaks to their pain points and offering solutions that get them the info and products that they need.
Finally, don’t forget about optimizing your site for search engines (SEO) from the start. Going through all the steps in B2B website development is pointless if no one can find your website from a Google search once you launch it because you launched with a tag on your site that could be blocking the search crawlers (a painful mistake I have seen). Make sure you’re using the right keywords on a page and in your metadata, you have good internal linking, and that your website is structured in a way that search engines can easily index the pages you want them to index and not index pages like your search results page or your password-protected account pages.
Ultimate Guide for B2B eCommerce Website Development
Are you planning to revamp an existing B2B eCommerce website or build a custom website from scratch? Below we will cover all the key elements of a successful B2B eCommerce website development project that you can use as a guide at each step. If something isn’t clear you can always reach out and ask questions to our team and we will point you in the right direction.
From researching your target audience to designing an effective user flow to development just the right features you need in Phase 1, this list will cover everything that you need to do to make your B2B eCommerce website functional from day one i.e. serve your customers needs while at the same time allow you to gather info on what you need to do next once you have it launched.
Before Implementing a B2B eCommerce Website
The first step is to understand why your business needs a B2B eCommerce website and what are your business goals you want to achieve with the new build. This will help you to ruthlessly determine the features that you need to implement on your website in Phase 1 vs what can be pushed to Phase 2. I always like to tell people to cut out their emotions and be as ruthless as you can here. If you can cut away 30% from your initial feature list and build the remaining 70%, you are on the right track to launching earlier and saving money by potentially not building something that your users don’t need. You also need to research your target audience and write down their needs after you ask them directly about them so you can ultimately share with all members of the team what users need.
Some of the questions that you need to answer before starting the development process are:
- What are your business goals?
- Who is your target audience?
- Who are your competitors and what are they doing well or missing in their offering?
- What are their needs and expectations?
- What type of products or services do you want to sell?
- Do you need to have customer support or sales team to help them?
- Are you incorporating any 3rd party or legacy systems to the new site?
- Have you written down all the features and functionality that you want the new site to be able to do?
- Is there any tribal knowledge you need to write down and share with your design and development team that they won’t know as well as you?
- Do you have the necessary resources for development, such as budget, time, the right team members etc.?
Answering these questions will help you develop a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with your B2B eCommerce website and what are the necessary steps for achieving your goals.
Designing an Effective User Flow
The user flow is the process that your users will go through when they use your website. It starts from the moment they land on your homepage, a product page, or blog article and ends when they make a purchase or complete another desired action (or don’t sadly). Creating an effective user flow is essential for any type of website, but it’s especially important for B2B eCommerce websites.
That’s because B2B buyers are usually very busy and they don’t have time to waste on a website that is difficult to use. If they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, they will leave and look for another website.
To design an effective user flow, you need to understand the needs of your target audience and map out the steps that they need to take to complete the desired action, such as making a purchase. Once you have a clear understanding of the user flow, you can start designing your website accordingly.
I like to do this by taking “Post-It” notes and then writing on the note the name of the page and then putting all the Post-It notes on a white board and starting to organize how they are all connected. If you see a lot of gaps or deadends you know you need to add more or remove pages from your journey. Once you have all the page names written on a number of Post-It notes you can take that list and give it to a designer to tell them about all the screens that you think you will need to be designed and show them roughly how all the screens make up the architecture of the site.
Essential Features for B2B eCommerce Websites
The eCommerce landscape is constantly evolving, and with that, so are the features and functionality that make up a successful B2B eCommerce website. To stay ahead of the curve and ensure that your website can meet the needs of your customers, it’s important to regularly review your site and consider which features could be added or improved.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of essential features for B2B eCommerce websites:
1) A User-Friendly Interface
The first and arguably most important feature on this list is a user-friendly interface. In order for customers to want to do business with you online, they need to be able to easily navigate your website and find what they’re looking for. This means having a well-designed website that is optimized for both desktop and mobile devices.
2) Search Functionality
Another essential feature for any eCommerce website is the search functionality. This is especially important for B2B sites which tend to carry a larger inventory than B2C sites. Customers should be able to easily search for products by keyword, category, SKU, or item number in order to find what they need quickly and without hassle.
3) Detailed Product Pages
Once a customer has found the product they’re looking for, it’s important that your product pages provide all the information they need in order to make a purchase decision. This includes things like product descriptions, multiple high-quality images, customer reviews, and pricing information based specifically on the contract you have signed with the B2B partner.
4) Specific Purchasing and Shipping Options
Specific purchasing and shipping options are a must for any B2B eCommerce website. Options to perform quick reordering, bulk purchasing, sharing of carts with another user, quote management, digital payment options, or creating a PO and quote management interfaces are super important not to overlook. Even some businesses often have specific shipping requirements that need to be accommodated. In order to meet the needs of your customers, you should offer a variety of features that directly address what you selling and how your customers need to be able to buy it.
5) Robust Customer Support
Last but not least, it’s important to have robust customer support in place in order to ensure a positive experience for your customers. This can take the form of live chat, phone support, or even a FAQ section on your website. Whatever form it takes, customer support is essential for keeping your customers happy and ensuring they continue to do business with you.
Post Launch - B2B eCommerce Website
Even after you’ve launched your B2B eCommerce website, it’s important to review and update your site regularly by taking the feedback you get from your business users and determining which parts you should listen to and which parts you can wait on. This will help you ensure that your site always addresses the needs of your customers and you are not building something that customers will end up not needing or using. Here are some more tasks to complete after successfully launching your B2B eCommerce website:
- Check Google Analytics: This will give you a good idea of how much traffic your site is getting, where that traffic is coming from, and what pages they’re spending the most time on. This information can be invaluable in helping you to improve your website and make changes based on customer behavior. A good engineer will help you set up event tracking so you can see more specifically what users are doing on your site once they get there.
- Evaluate Your Conversions: In addition to checking your website traffic, you should also evaluate your conversion rate through eCommerce tracking that you can even set up in Google Analytics or another reporting tool. This will tell you how many visitors to your site are actually converting and doing an action you want them to, whether that’s making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a white paper. If your conversion rate is low, it indicates that something on your site needs to be improved. I sometimes recommend using a software that is easily installed on your website called HotJar that you can use to record the users’ sessions on your website and see where users are getting tripped up along the conversion journey. Seeing how users move around on your site will really help you and open your eyes to what you thought was obvious but wasn’t so obvious.
- Collect Customer Feedback: Another important thing to do after launching your B2B eCommerce website is to collect customer feedback from trusted customers (especially ones who are not your friends or are going to paint a rosy picture just to make you feel good that you have actually launched your site instead of telling you what you need to hear). This can be done through HotJar, surveys, customer reviews, or even social media. Pay close attention to what customers are saying about their experience on your site and use this information to make necessary improvements.
- Monitor Your Competition: Finally, don’t forget to keep tabs on your competition. Keep an eye on what other B2B eCommerce websites are doing to stay ahead of the curve. This way you can quickly adapt and make changes to your own site if necessary.
The Most Popular eCommerce Platforms
There are many different eCommerce platforms available, each with its own set of features and benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular eCommerce platforms and explore what makes them so popular.
- Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms out there. It is easy to use and can be customized to fit the needs of your business. With Shopify development, you get a wide range of features, including inventory management, shipping, and tax calculations as well as integration of 3rd party software on Shopify Plus. They just launched their B2B offering and is something that integrates much better with their DTC offering.
- Magento Commerce is another popular eCommerce platform. It is a bit more complex than Shopify but offers a lot of powerful features. Magento Commerce is perfect for businesses that need a robust platform with advanced features.
- WooCommerce is another popular open source eCommerce platform that has a wide range of features and tools. WooCommerce is perfect for businesses of all sizes, from small businesses to enterprise-level companies that are built on top of WordPress and are supported by a huge community of plugins and developers.
- 3DCart is a powerful eCommerce platform that offers a wide range of features and tools. 3DCart is perfect for businesses of all sizes, from small businesses to enterprise-level companies.
Ecommerce Platform - Spiral Scout Case Study
Spiral Scout was approached by PIB Sales, a global leader in the ball bearings space that was looking to update PIB Sales’ existing B2B site and tech stack in order to scale and make its website easier to manage. Our developers devised a three-step plan to achieve the project aims:
1. Write down all the initial requirements, how the different systems communicated (i.e. how their internal ordering system (ERP) synced with a third-party vendor and PIB’s main site), and design all the major screens and user flows. Our developers achieved this by writing a custom script to connect the two systems.
2. A migration plan for all existing customer order history and data. Our developers used a combination of data mining and manual entry to accomplish this. This ensured that no customer data was lost in the transition and that PIB wouldn’t be fielding a ton of customer service requests.
3. Building a microservice that would be the middle layer that could be used to exchange data between the customer’s application and the main site to speed up the site in general. When we tested the new site after it was released, the product page went from loading in 12 seconds to loading completely in under 2 seconds.
Benefits of Hiring B2B eCommerce Developers with Wholesale Experience at Spiral Scout
Building a B2B eCommerce website doesn’t mean it has to be more complex than a traditional DT2 ecommerce site. There are obviously major differences but as long as the details and feature sets are described, the rest is just properly planning and executing on the plan. An experienced eCommerce development agency should be able to help you with your needs, especially if you are looking to build out your first or build upon an existing wholesale business website.
How is Spiral Scout different:
Skilled and Experienced Developers
Our developers are highly skilled and have extensive experience in building eCommerce websites (even a number of B2B/Wholesale ones) and you can leverage our entire agency’s brain even if you are not working with that specific engineering specialist. We staff projects with engineers who are really interested in your project. They will proactively use the knowledge they have learned and have dedicated time during the week to stay up-to-date with the latest eCommerce trends and technologies. This means that you can be confident that your website will be built using the best practices and latest standards and by engineers who have solved similar challenges in the past.
Transparent Communication During Project Development
We believe in open and transparent communication with our clients. That’s why we keep you updated throughout the project development process and within project management software. We don’t hide behind computer screens. Every member who works on your team will be available to you on calls and emails. We want our clients to treat their engineers like they are a part of their team and know them on a personal basis. Our project managers will provide regular reports and updates so that you can see the progress of your project and we will implement or use your existing project management software so you can follow along transparently, in real time
Cost-Effective and Flexible Hiring Model
With Spiral Scout, a US-based software development company you only pay for the services you need. There’s no need to commit to a long-term contract or pay for unused hours. This makes our services more cost-effective and flexible than working with an in-house team.
If you’re looking for a dedicated eCommerce development team to build your DTC or wholesale B2B website, then we would love to chat to see if Spiral Scout is a good fit for your business. We would be happy to discuss your project requirements and if we aren’t the right team, point you in the right direction.