This post is the third in a series in which I address common mistakes of B2B ecommerce merchants. It follows from my 10 years of consulting with B2B companies worldwide, including the setup of new B2B sites and optimizing existing B2B sites.
The first post addressed B2B mistakes for catalog management and pricing. The second reviewed mistakes with user management and customer service. For this installment, I’ll discuss mistakes related to shopping carts, checkout, and order management.
B2B Mistakes: Shopping Carts, Order Management
Single product punch back. Many B2B sites allow only a single product to be punched back to the customer’s procurement environment instead of the entire shopping cart. This is a significant limitation. It makes the shopping process cumbersome. The merchant ends up losing business.
One cart per vendor. B2B sites often sell products from different suppliers. Some sites require a separate cart for products from each vendor. This, again, makes shopping inefficient.
No saved carts. B2B orders often go through a long process. Buyers frequently use saved carts to create groups of future orders. Examples are saved carts for office supplies and cafeteria utensils. B2B sites that do not offer saved-cart functionality can lose customers.
Allowing shared carts. Often an institution will share a B2B shopping cart wherein all users from that institution will have a single login to add and remove products. Merchants often allow shared carts, which is a mistake. Shared carts complicate the tracking of order changes and obtaining approval.
Incorrect landing page. B2B buyers often prefer to edit their orders in their procurement systems, which links to the merchant’s cart. But I’ve seen “edit cart” functions that route buyers to the merchant’s home page or a catalog page versus opening the shopping cart. This frustrates buyers.
No support for configurable products. Most B2B sites struggle with supporting configurable products in the shopping cart. The challenge is to accommodate a list of approved configurations. In the absence of such capability, buyers are forced to order configurable products offline, via the phone or direct sales personnel.
Missing lead times. B2B shopping carts should display the availability of ordered products and, importantly, their associated shipping times. But most B2B sites do not display lead times. If they do, it’s often static and inaccurate, such as “This product ships in two days.”
Limited payment methods. Purchase orders are the most common payment method on B2B sites. Often B2B buyers want more flexibility, however, such as payment by credit card, PayPal, or direct bank transfer. By not supporting these methods, B2B sites lose revenue and customers.
No ad hoc shipping addresses. B2B customers sometimes require orders to be shipped to a non-standard location. This can be a challenge as many merchants ship only to pre-approved addresses, to prevent theft. Regardless, merchants should allow ad hoc shipping addresses.
Outdated products. It’s common for B2B merchants to have outdated catalogs on their websites. The process of updating can be complicated — replacing all products and ensuring sure they are backward compatible. It’s necessary, however, as it prevents orders of out-of-stock or discontinued items.
No reorders. B2B ecommerce sites will usually report a customer’s order history. But they do not typically support reordering from that history. This is mainly because a merchant cannot verify the products in the order unless the customer punches back to the merchant’s site, to verify the products and pricing. This makes it difficult for customers to reorder products.
See the next installment: “Part 4: Shipping, Returns, Inventory.”