B2B eCommerce Strategy – where do we start?

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Forrester states that by 2020, B2B eCommerce sales revenue will surpass $1 trillion dollars in the United States. For B2B organizations that want to retain and grow market share, an eCommerce strategy is no longer optional. While this understanding is gaining traction across organizations, the challenge becomes “Where do we start?”

How does an organization successfully build a B2B eCommerce roadmap that allows them to remain relevant?

Let’s start by looking at the top three challenges present in many organizations, while there are often other challenges, these are most common.

• First is tradition. B2B deals have been done with a phone call and/or a handshake, and the perception is that customers want to continue to do business the same way they always have.

• Second, competing interests within the organization are calling for innovation. Marketing, IT, Operations, and Sales all have differing needs and roles, without definition, they will struggle when trying to deliver a solution.

• Third is implementation. The infrastructure, data, content, and legacy systems are often implemented in silos and without considering the digital buyer or ecosystem.

To develop and execute an eCommerce strategy, you first need buy-in. It is critical this buy-in comes from the C-level. Forrester states “74% of B2B buyers research at least one-half of their work purchases online”. Your customers are buying digitally even if it isn’t from you. Leadership must understand that they need to accommodate the digitally evolving buyer, and that constant evolution is not something with a defined end date. It will require ongoing financial, resource, and change management support.

With leadership buy-in, you should begin to build a roadmap by first defining your users. These users include your customers and all the roles they contain, e.g. content consumers, buyers, and approvers. Users also include roles within your organization such as content editors, call center, sales, marketing, fulfillment, etc. Once your universe of users is defined, you can tailor a platform to support them. Don’t try to solve everyone’s problem at once, consider which users and workflows are a priority and deliver to them as a first phase.

Once you have your users and workflows defined and targeted for your first phase, you can look at the technology that needs to be connected to support them. This can be a challenge given the current state of infrastructure, content, and data; but this is critical.

Understanding your users will allow you to understand their workflows and technology requirements which will then allow you to define scope and functional requirements. After the success of phase one, you can start to look towards what you want to accomplish in phase two.

Finally, it is important to understand that you have many sources of support and guidance. It is critical to leverage the experience of consultants, vendors, and other organizations. With the correct support, resources, and plan, you are poised to work towards building an eCommerce platform that supports your B2B goals.

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