Bolstering B2B Ecommerce Capabilities to Handle the Twists and Turns of an Unusual Holiday Season

Austin Caldwell, Product Marketing Director

September 3, 2020

In a typical year, retailers would have placed their orders by now with manufacturers and distributors to stock up on inventory for the holiday season. However, the uncertainty of the upcoming season has made that difficult. Forecasting demand has been more challenging than ever and the supply chain for any given item can quickly change.  

In order to be ready for sudden shifts, B2B companies need to make sure that inefficient processes are optimized with automation and provide more self-service capabilities to free up resources to react to market changes. There is still time for B2B organizations to make changes to deliver topnotch experiences that improve the purchasing process and save time for buyers as well as make sellers more efficient.

Common B2B Ecommerce Challenges

B2B organizations face many unique challenges beyond what typical B2C retailers experience. Leading up to the holidays, they are more responsible for providing supply and fulfilling demand than getting shoppers into stores. They also need to keep up with replenishment fulfillment throughout the holiday season. Peak selling activities can strain inventory management and increase order processing time, bottlenecking distribution processes. This often puts stress on business relationships as buyers are looking to fulfill demand and generate revenue.

Business accounts are more sophisticated and complex than typical B2C shoppers. They place large orders on credit terms, manage outstanding invoices and are more sensitive to order processing issues. Business accounts also have less capacity to place re-orders and deal with order fulfillment or shipping issues. With all of this additional activity, B2B organizations often struggle to keep up during peak selling season. However, the additional operational stress can be alleviated by optimizing key business processes to complete routine tasks.

4 B2B Ecommerce Capabilities to Address Holiday Demands

Easily Add New Business Accounts

Many organizations have been forced to reassess their business operations this year and are looking to save money wherever they can to preserve cash flow. This will likely result in new entrants looking to join wholesale programs and procure inventory for the holiday shopping season. In order to expedite this validation process, companies can set up an online B2B registration process that includes additional vetting questions like company background or store locations to improve the application process.

By automating this registration process, companies are able to quickly process more wholesale accounts with less effort. Instead of automatically approving new registrations, B2B companies can set up automated checkpoints to hold them in an unapproved status until final approval is granted by a reviewer. This provides better safeguards to wholesale pricing and other sensitive information that may be only available to certain buyers.

Ordering Efficiencies

Since most B2B organizations thrive on high order volume from a select group of buyers, having an efficient ordering process in place can increase customer satisfaction and drive more sales. As buyers stock up on inventory ahead of their busy selling season, automatically applying volume discounts to bulk orders can save both buyers and sellers time and effort. Another big time-saver is being able to convert quotes into sales orders without having to place a separate order. In many cases, these efficiencies eliminate the need to place large orders over the phone or through email exchanges, freeing up sales and operational resources.

Ordering efficiencies are especially important during high volume periods when buyers are frequently re-ordering popular items to replenish inventory. If sellers have to manually apply discounts or buyers have to create separate orders from their quotes, these additional steps hurt conversion rates and result in buyers purchasing from B2B sellers less frequently.

Create More Relevant Shopping Experiences

B2B sellers often need to customize their inventory and pricing based on different buyer types. This is especially true during peak seasons or times during the year where demand for one product may be high. Since most business accounts are unique, personalized product catalogs help B2B organizations customize their buyers’ shopping experience based on specific profiles. Avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach increases engagement and drives more sales.

With personalized product catalogs, organizations can maintain control over their inventory and item availability, so customers only see what they need to see. For example, large volume accounts could see the highest discounted pricing, or an international customer could only see products available in their region. Highlighting a curated set of products creates a more personalized shopping experience and optimizes conversion rates. By eliminating superfluous or incompatible options, B2B organizations see fewer returns and customer support issues.

Improve Customer Satisfaction

No matter what time of year, business buyers would prefer to complete routine tasks on their own without having to contact sales or customer service teams. Merchants should leverage online self-service capabilities to manage their account and complete typical B2B tasks such as viewing and paying invoices, converting quotes to orders and making order changes or cancellations.

Establishing a self-service account management portal improves customer satisfaction and lowers selling costs. When business accounts are able to directly manage their purchase orders and invoices, they can easily restock inventory and pay their bills. As buyers are laser focused on procuring new inventory to meet demands, they’d rather avoid contacting somebody if they can do it themselves. This is especially helpful when checking the status of outstanding deliveries or support cases. For more custom-made items that require one-time quotes, enabling buyers to convert their quote into an actual sales order is a huge time-saver.

The Ultimate B2B Online Experience

Whether it’s peak selling season or business as usual, B2B organizations can optimize their selling processes by providing a better shopping experience for business accounts. NetSuite’s ecommerce solution, SuiteCommerce, natively leverages these must have strategies to create the ultimate B2B ordering experience.

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.