Practical Ecommerce

9 Critical Skills to Build a Robust B2B Ecommerce Site

Building a B2B ecommerce site requires a breadth of skills. It’s important to look not just at people or roles, but the expertise to accomplish the job.

In this post, I’ll identify the critical skills that are necessary, in my experience, to build a robust B2B ecommerce site.

9 Critical B2B Development Skills

User experience design involves planning the site navigation, for all devices. In B2B ecommerce, this can involve handling 10,000 products and helping users find the one they seek. A UX designer should produce wireframes and design mockups, and review the site as it is being developed, to provide feedback.

Front-end development. A front-end developer takes the output from a UX designer and implements it with HTML, JavaScript, and mobile-responsive CSS. The focus should be to ensure the pages load quickly, with an efficient use of code and optimized images. Ideally, this developer is familiar with your ecommerce software, to ensure code and design compatibility.

Backend development involves writing code that takes actions from visitors and then interacts with the database, to accomplish a task. Examples of backend development are a “quick order” tool and a dealer locator. Backend development is also used to customize aspects of ecommerce software. For example, adding a step to the default checkout process will require backend development. Backend developers also write code to integrate with other software.

Data analysis. A data analyst will plan where the data will reside and how to structure it so it is usable for what you want to accomplish. The analyst will review your existing datasets — customer details, accounting, content management — as well as the data structure of your ecommerce software. She will then produce a blueprint for how the datasets will connect — considering what source will be authoritative, how to avoid duplication, and how to organize the data for maintenance and search speed.

Digital marketer. A digital marketer will review analytics data and offer ideas for marketing opportunities. This includes how the ecommerce software supports digital promotions and what marketing automation or email tools are necessary for growth. A marketer will work with a backend developer to produce accurate feeds of products to Google for Product Listing Ads. The marketer should thoroughly understand search engine optimization and provide recommendations for high rankings. This includes the preservation of rankings from a re-platform, and the related updating of paid search campaigns.

Hosting. The required skills for hosting decisions depend on your ecommerce platform — whether you are using a SaaS option, if the platform offers a cloud hosting alternative, or if you are hosting at a data center or on premise. Necessary hosting skills could require an understanding of PCI, fast load times, and the setup to support ongoing maintenance and new features.

Technology architect. There are many ways to structure a B2B ecommerce site. It is important to have a senior advisor who can guide decisions to meet project goals and minimize technical complications. Your technology architect will communicate with internal business staff of the implications now and in the future related to various platform decisions, serving as a translator between the business staff and the developers.

Project manager. A project manager works closely with the technology architect. Together, they ensure all parties know their responsibilities and are functioning from a shared understanding. The project manager and technology architect meet regularly with the client or project sponsor, for updates and feedback. In my experience, a talented manager can be the difference between the project’s success and failure.

Tester. It’s essential to test the new site — testing specific functionality across a range of devices and also testing end-to-end order processing through the various integrations. You may or may not have a dedicated tester. This role could be accomplished by other team members, assuming there is a clear plan in place.

Review Your Team

More than once I have seen projects go awry when a B2B development team doesn’t have the needed skills. This can occur, for example, when a company is hired for its design talents, but it doesn’t have data analysis or backend development skills. The resulting site looks nice but is filled with bugs that prevent customers from using it fully.

Lori McDonald

Lori McDonald

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