The Overlooked Benefit of B2B Ecommerce

An oft-overlooked benefit of B2B ecommerce tools is the value to internal sales and customer service teams. Both gain efficiencies from digital tools, resulting in happier customers that spend more money.

Ecommerce gives users — internal and external — the ability to help themselves. Moreover, many functions that customers require are the same as sales and service personnel. Data integrations can turn an ecommerce platform into an all-in-one information repository, answering questions of all parties and thus driving efficiency and revenue.

Hence modern B2B ecommerce software increasingly serves dual users: staff and customers.

Common Tasks

Consider the online tasks common to customers and sales and service employees:

  • Search for products.
  • Place an order.
  • Look up order history.
  • Obtain information on how to use products.
  • Process a return.
  • Manage account details.
  • Set spending limits.
  • Access (or establish) the entire product line.
  • Access (or establish) frequently ordered products.
  • Request (or respond to) special pricing.
  • Request (or respond to) a quote.

Sales and service teams traditionally rely on siloed business management software. But a modern ecommerce platform — with robust site search, product descriptions, images, spec sheets — integrated with management software can serve both internal and external users, eliminating duplication and inconsistencies.

To be sure, sales and customer service representatives have unique needs. An ecommerce platform can provide those functions. Examples include:

  • Impersonation or masquerade features allowing internal staff to look up an individual or a company and log in as that user without needing the password. Staff accesses the site as the customer, providing enhanced support.
  • Creating and accessing a list of a customer’s available products. Allowing sales or service personnel to build or edit this list helps customers.
  • Responding online to a quote request. Having salespeople respond through the website can expedite the turnaround.
  • Note-taking. Giving sales and service teams the ability to add internal notes to an order or quote streamlines communication while recording the history.
  • Adjusting prices, discounts. Enabling staff to provide unique pricing or discounts can remove obstacles to a sale, although that functionality typically requires controls or limits depending on the employee role.

Platform Considerations

Not all B2B ecommerce software offers internal-user capabilities. Four platforms that do, however, are BigCommerce B2B Edition, Optimizely B2B Commerce Cloud, Magento, and Oro. (My company is a reseller of BigCommerce and Optimizely.)

If your B2B platform doesn’t facilitate internal functionalities, ask your developers if it is possible to add them. Be careful, however, as platform customizations can increase long-term maintenance costs and complicate future upgrades.

Regardless, modern B2B ecommerce platforms should serve internal and external users, adding capability and flexibility for everyone. The result is happier customers and more sales.

Lori McDonald
Lori McDonald
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