When it comes to deciding the right platform for your B2B website, it is a decision that can’t be rushed. Your website is the cornerstone of your operations. It needs to be an effective tool that brings in business and gets you the results you are looking for. Choosing any old platform will not work. We want to show you why the Magento platform is what you need for your B2B website. It is powerful and flexible, making it the perfect choice for many businesses.
Magento has some key advantages that mark it out above other platforms, such as extensive native B2B functionality. It’s also an open-source platform, highly customizable and with the ability to be easily integrated with backend systems.
Use this guide to understand more about Magento and why it is the right platform for your B2B website. You will learn about the specifics of the B2B market and what makes it different from the B2C market. We will explain the core Magento functionalities including integration, customization, and scaling. We will run Magento against the specifics of a B2B environment to see how it holds its ground. In the end, you will be able to determine yourself if Magento is the right platform for your business.
The right tool for the job
Searching for the right tool for the job is something man has been doing for millennia, just now the tools are many, and the search can be very confusing and long! When it comes to picking the right platform for a B2B eCommerce business, it is easy to get lost within the multitude of different platforms on offer.
The problem with deciding which B2B platform is right is that many companies claim how their solution is the best, and you can’t really blame them. That’s what companies do, they promote their products.
You must be cautious though as choosing the wrong tool can cost you a lot more than you might be aware of. Even a modest B2B eCommerce business can lose a lot of money, time and energy by going with the wrong platform. In your pursuit of finding the best eCommerce platform, there can be no mistake.
B2B eCommerce landscape – a giant in the shadows
When looking at the eCommerce landscape, people first notice big B2C companies such as Amazon. These companies mainly serve the end-user, the consumer. However, what is usually not noticed at first, is the overwhelming size of the B2B market that is operating in the shadow of B2C giants such as Amazon.
The B2C market started the online shopping revolution, which is why that’s what people think of when they hear the word “eCommerce”. However, the total value of the entire B2B market is much larger. Forrester’s 2015 report shows that the B2B market is expected to be valued at more than $1.1 trillion by the end of 2019, and that’s only for the US market.
What is the difference between B2C and B2B?
The online shopping revolution started because of comfort and efficiency. Customers found it much more convenient to browse through online catalogs and order from the comfort of their own homes. One-click and the item arrive in a few days.
However, you will notice that there is a big difference between ordering a pair of shoes and ordering 100 brand new laptops for your office space. This is the reason why B2B was lagging behind B2C for so long, as the fundamental nature of the two is different.
In B2B, the buying decisions involve more than one individual, the orders are usually of greater value, and carry more risk. Business owners and executives favor using the phone or email over an online ordering mechanism. In this kind of environment, people favor trust and security over comfort and effectiveness.
Some of the traits that the typical B2B market has are:
- Higher and bigger order values for a fewer number of large customers
- Customers need more information and details before completing a purchase
- Longer conversion times
- Greater emphasis on personalized pricing and negotiations which lead to a need to have a quotation mechanism, etc.
There are several platforms that are marketed as being able to support both a B2C and B2B business in one version. As you can see from the above, the two business environments are very different. Therefore, these kinds of solutions are ineffective at best and should not be regarded.
It is important not to use a B2C platform for business purposes. The buying journey is different, the products are different, and the buyers are different.
Magento is built for B2B
Well, some people might say that Magento was originally developed for B2C and hence is inferior to a platform that is made purely for B2B.
Magento was developed for B2C but that was way back in 2007. Today we have Magento Commerce, released in 2016. This is actually a separate software package specifically designed for B2B. Today’s version of Magento 2.3 has many advantages that make it a powerful tool for B2B that we will now explore.
Integration, customization, and scaling
If a platform can’t do any of the above in an efficient way, please do not use it for B2B. All these traits are very important and necessary in a B2B environment. “One-size-fits-all” solutions will not work.
Let’s start with integration by asking the question of how many other systems and software are you using?
Each organization is built and structured in a different way. The ERP can be different, shipping and accounting programs can be different, and marketing and sales tools can be different.
The focal point where those systems connect is your website. It is not only important to have a platform that can successfully integrate with the different software you use but to also do this in a cost-effective way.
Magento passes the test for both requirements.
You can set up an integration with proprietary in-house applications by using developer APIs. Magento integrates natively with third-party enterprise tools. You can also choose different extensions to integrate with social media.
Why is customization important?
Since every organization is different, a single general solution is not advisable. That’s why you need a customizable platform.
Magento is an open-source type of software. There is a large community of Magento developers and a great number of extensions that can be used. Being able to completely customize the platform means having full control over it. Indeed, many developers and business owners agree that this gives them a sense of security and control.
The cost of having a team of developers (since you must have a team to ensure the smooth functioning of the system) is a justifiable cost. It’s more like an investment than a cost. Those who argue that this is unnecessary surely can’t see the value behind it. This is an investment that will provide a significant return as you will achieve exactly what you need from your website in order to achieve the desired results.
The ability to scale is yet another Magento feature that is necessary for a B2B setting. Magento Commerce has the ability to proactively monitor the entire server environment. While doing this it watches for service outages and proactive scaling of production site server resources during unexpected surge events.
A business is never static for a prolonged period of time and it is well documented that Magento can support stores with over 1,000,000 different products. Magento 2 EE has the capability to create a highly scalable architecture that utilizes the benefits of cloud computing. Performance levels do not drop with the increase in the number of products.
We’ve already mentioned how a buyer’s journey can be different. Now we’ll go into more detail about those specifics and see how Magento fares against them.
Multiple Accounts and Restricted Access – Magento permits multiple accounts.
In a business-like situation, you are rarely alone. Perhaps you are a manager who is in charge of an operation that involves frequent purchases. Initially, you would want to negotiate the conditions of the order. However, later you could delegate the repeated actions onto your assistants.
For this purpose, you can create one master account that is labeled in Magento as Admin. From that master account, you can create two or more child accounts that have a more restricted level of control.
In Magento, you can create these accounts on three levels: Admin, Standard and Read Only.
Each level brings with it a different level of control over things such as credit levels or workflows.
Segmentation and Customer Groups – In a standard B2B setting you will have different types of customers. Segmentation is naturally one of the cornerstones of a good business strategy.
Magento allows you to create different customer groups for which you can apply different settings. This approach is necessary and important since their differences will influence the offer structure, price, etc. By being able to customize your catalogs, shipping options and promotions you can more achieve more efficient targeting.
Of all the specific parameters you can set up, catalogs and price levels are among the essential.
Specific Catalogs and Different Price Levels – While already mentioned it has to be outlined that this is a core function. Every B2B eCommerce website needs to have it.
Different customer groups require different pricing strategies. More competitive pricing should be offered to more lucrative clients.
The same applies to products. You need to be able to set up specific catalog lists for different customers. Yet another feature Magento is capable of.
You can choose different catalog management extensions.
Advanced Search Functionality – Magento has the option to allow shoppers to search for products by entering values in a form. There must be a secure and fast way for customers to navigate on the website due to a large number of products and especially if those products are complex.
The form contains multiple fields, so a single search can include several parameters.
Minimum Order Size, Volume Purchase and Bulk Discounts
The Minimum Order Size or Quantity (MOQ) specifies the lowest size/quantity of a certain product that the store is willing to sell. Magento has the option to set a MOQ at a customer group or product level.
Volume Purchase relates to the ability of the store to assign different price levels for different volumes of purchase. B2B customers will usually buy products in bulk. It is fairly easy to do this in Magento with minimal effort.
Ability to configure products – If the product is modular in nature the customer should have an option to configure the product. You can do this in Magento in 6 easy steps.
Quotation and Order Approval Process – In Magento you can create, approve and modify quotes online. In your usual B2B setting, who initiates the purchase and who pays for the product might not be the same person or department. Actually, the buying process might be even more complicated. There might be an additional step in the middle – approval. This is the reason why in Magento you can have an extension that regulates the order approval process.
Multiple Warehouse Support – With Magento you can support fulfillment from multiple warehouses.
Reorder Options – If a customer purchased something from your website and they were satisfied, they will purchase again. This is the main reason why you should have an easy and quick reorder option. Like you do in Magento.
Flexible Payments Options and Tax Exemption – Magento offers flexible payment options. Speaking of which, you should also offer offline methods of payment.
Another feature that can be set up is the tax exemption status for certain goods and customers. In a B2B environment, products might be bought only to be sold later.
Multimedia – It goes without saying that images and videos are impactful just as much as words are. In Magento, you can list product features and technical specifications of different media.
Of course, in the end, the right choice will depend upon your business objectives. If you’re running a really small shop with small growth potential you can get away with other solutions.
For every other type of B2B website, there is no better option than Magento.
Magneto is configured for the 21st century. That means it’s responsive, mobile-friendly has fast load times, is optimized for search engines and is easy to use.
However, having said that, the initial set-up can be difficult since Magento first needs to be integrated with all your systems and adjusted through customization so that it flawlessly fits into your business structure.
There are many features, plug-ins, and extensions so it can be hard to exactly figure out what you might need.
As a digital marketing agency and one of the leading tech partners of Magento in the US we would like to offer our perspective.
Start with your own business strategy and goals. Determine exactly what you need. This is an important and crucial step as it will influence all subsequent decisions. You don’t want to get everything installed and set up only to find out that you missed something important while laying the foundation.
If you’re not sure what to look for we can help you and offer consultation. We’ve had probably seen thousands of different cases and scenarios so at the least we can save you time and energy in figuring things out.
To give an example of how things can get tangled let’s take the “order taking mechanism”. How a client places an order is one of the key components of every B2B eCommerce platform. We need to figure out all of the following:
- To what kind of system are the orders going
- How is that system connected to other systems
- What is the form of the order
- What is the frequency
- Do any additional tasks need to be handled at the receiving end
And this is just the tip of an iceberg.
Our other key takeaway is to always be mindful of the customer’s journey. You need to offer a frictionless buying experience. Customizing the platform means taking into consideration its core functionalities and applying them in such a way to achieve this goal.
You too can capitalize on the awesome power that comes from Magento and is just like other businesses that are right now making over a hundred million dollars a year in sales. We take great pride in helping organizations achieve this. Apart from the set-up and optimization, we have a dedicated team of developers that can help you with migrations, development, maintenance, and support.
Contact us today so that we can start planning your future together.