6 Best Practices for Selecting Your B2B eCommerce Platform

How to select a new B2B eCommerce Platform? 6 Ways to Plan for Your New Project.

  1. Start with writing a business case. Your business case should include a return on investment based on hard data like site traffic, conversion and average order value and soft data like reduced operational cost and cost per customer call. Use your Business Case to prioritize what you do first and to measure the effectiveness of your decisions.  A business case and a B2B eCommerce strategy go hand in hand.
  2. Understand the components of an eCommerce system: Educate yourself on every aspect of an eCommerce platform. Learn how to create customer experiences, merchandising, promotions and what out of the box (OOTB) means. You will find standard features that span across platforms – things like the product information, shopping cart, and orders. That’s a lot of work I know, so do not do this with 12 vendors.
  3. Get IT and the Business on the same page: To select a platform that is right for your organization, you must balance what you need to deliver with how to construct it. Come together with joint use cases, requirements, and business case.  This should include experience management, merchandising tools (product relationships), and architecture.
    1. To the IT team: Figure out what your business counterparts need, why they need it, and the tools they require. The customer experience does matter, no matter how much of a geek you are.
    2. To the Business team: Regardless of what is out of the box, IT has a lot of work to do to get ready for this type of project on your internal systems.
      Help each other out – advocate for each other, and maybe even work to understand each other. I promise it will go a long way.
  4. Discover which requirements are unique to your business and industry: When developing requirements, the tendency is to focus on where you are unique. While you certainly need to understand these unique needs, it is difficult for any platform to provide all these requirements out of the box.  The use case demonstration will become a race to who can build your requirements the fastest versus understanding what is out of the box and how your organization customizes the solution.  Start your discovery process off by doing these 7 things.
  5. Use cases instead of RFPs: put your money and resources into building use cases. Develop use cases that address common features and a few to help you figure out how to customize for your unique requirements. On the latter, ask one thousand questions:  How did you build that? How was that customized?  Show me.
    Make sure that your team has read and agreed with all of the use cases. Ideally, everyone in the room would have had a hand in developing the use cases and even debated the merits of each. I am not suggesting that you eliminate RFP completely – just build the RFP from the use cases.
  6. Integration, integration, integration: Integration is critical to your success. eCommerce is an ecosystem made up of many back office and front office systems.  You should consider integration with ERP, CRM, Pricing Engines, Order Management, Content Management (CMS), Product Information (PIM), and many others.  Understand how each platform integrates to your back office.  Have a deep dive technical architecture workshop with your vendors. Answer these questions:
    1. Will you use an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), bulk files or all the above?
    2. Do you have data quality issues? Understand each of your integration options and the consequences of integration decisions.  You understand your environment; vendors understand their software.  Walk away from your architecture sessions having explored every option.

A new approach

So, what should you do?

Understand how your eCommerce business should work as a system. Our book Digital Branch Secrets breaks down the seven components to understanding and optimizing your eCommerce business. And how your technology works as a key component in this system.