In our recent article “How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Platform For Your Company,” we shared six factors you could use to evaluate B2B e-commerce platforms. These were:
- User experience
- Website life expectancy
- Business rules flexibility
- Installed base
- Cybersecurity, maintenance and hosting
- Systems integration
Additionally, we shared our top four picks from a dozen of the industry’s platforms based on market share and numerous other factors:
With this sequel, we share several examples from a handful of client companies and how we approached the e-commerce platform conundrum. Each B2B company faced unique challenges and objectives, which resulted in a broad mix of solutions. As discussed in How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Platform for Your Company, the ideal solution is rarely an easy, and convenient, one-size-fits-all system.
For instance, if your company ships hazardous materials, your products will incur additional expenses to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Hazardous material shipments always require custom freight calculations. Shopify can accommodate some custom calculations, however, additional programming or coding may still be necessary to meet your requirements. Additionally, Shopify can’t be used if the shipping user interface needs modification.
The same would be true for any highly restricted product categories (think of examples like shipping ammunition or CBD products). Here, an online checkout process could require the buyer to validate their age and reveal federal or state certifications and licenses, which results in added complexity and the need to customize a feature that’s not always as easy with a straightforward hosted solution; these categories are also sometimes not allowed on hosted ecommerce solutions.
In cases where companies are shipping large, heavy, or voluminous items such as machinery and multiple pallets, shipping becomes a complex transaction. Here, fees are dependent on freight options such as truckload, less-than-truckload, intermodal, expedited, and so on.
And finally, some B2B buying scenarios may call for your website users to enter purchase orders or unusual forms of payment, such as wire transfers, for transactions that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Some scenarios could lead to customizing the website’s cart as well as the checkout process.
How 6 B2B Companies in Divergent Industries Built E-Commerce Capabilities
In the following scenarios, six B2B companies were adding e-commerce functionality to existing websites or launching new sites with e-commerce capabilities to serve their customers better. We worked with each to select a CMS (content management system) or an e-commerce platform to address the company’s overall system requirements. Several industries are represented in the scenarios to demonstrate a breadth of solutions that could also apply to your situation: manufacturing, value-added distribution, training and consulting, and publishing.
This custom manufacturer of commercial speakers wanted to provide another channel of distribution by allowing online ordering of its most popular custom products in smaller quantities for prototyping or small batch needs. The website needed to enable customers to order custom products and request quotes along with options to order items regularly stocked items. Additionally, this site offers in-depth educational and marketing content.
A robust and customized product compare feature, including sound wave graphs, led us to Magento for the website’s e-commerce component. Concrete5 got the nod for serving up the site’s educational and marketing content. This flexible CMS allowed us to add editable header and footer content into content collections, or stacks. With custom tools, designers can easily use the same content blocks on both Magento and Concrete5 for visual continuity as well as functions such as “cart status.”
A value-added distributor of automation and industrial products and solutions wanted to allow customers to purchase stock and easily-specified parts and reorders, while continuing to show their value and expertise with the majority of their more complex solutions. We resolved this by putting a limited catalog of easily specified parts available for purchase online, while encouraging customers to contact the sales team directly to access most of the company’s product catalog. This reduced frustration and product returns, while also allowing the company’s custom solutions and expertise to shine. The website’s secondary purpose was sharing informational content to help generate leads.
We chose WordPress to manage the majority of the site’s content; Shopify’s “Buy Now” buttons were an ideal solution for the e-commerce functionality. For this application, WordPress was selected for its design flexibility and easy implementation. We were able to design and launch a beautiful site quickly.
Consultant and Trainer
This consultant and trainer to the manufacturing and automotive industry wanted to present a large body of educational, lead-generation and marketing content. Moreover, it wanted to provide its customers with the ability to purchase virtual classes, seats at live training events and physical items, as well as integrate with a custom LMS (Learning Management System).
Because of this site’s sophisticated marketing and online commerce needs, we chose Concrete5 to manage the site’s web content and Magento to handle the e-commerce side. Concrete5 also integrates with Quickbooks, the custom LMS, and numerous other marketing automation and CRM systems. The final system gave the company the ability to customize its numerous product pages.
This provider of composites for marine, aerospace and hobbyist applications faced the challenge of shipping hazardous materials, which called for a solution that required complex freight calculations. In other words, shipping fees couldn’t be calculated using simple tables or add-on fee formulas. Unusual shipping requirements, coupled with the fact the site didn’t require many pages of marketing content, led us to select Magento as the website’s e-commerce platform.
Finally, to integrate the site with the company’s accounting system, we created a custom gateway when no off-the-shelf solution was available.
A niche publisher needed a store-based website that was governed by special rules for providing free content to decision-makers while simplifying purchasing transactions for end-users. Furthermore, the system needed to integrate with a legacy accounting and ERP software system.
Fulfillment and business logic for the system was simple, yet many products required specific content needs that couldn’t be handled by standard e-commerce tools. Products also had several purchase options along with demo requests; therefore, it made sense to use Shopify to manage the standard purchase workflow and couple that with tools to support other sales channels.
Life Sciences Manufacturer
This life sciences manufacturer sells its products online to purchasing agents and wanted to replace an antiquated purchase order process with a modern, e-commerce interface. Since its content was nearly all product-focused, the company didn’t need multiple web page templates, which obviated the need for a CMS. Their business rules for shipping, checkout, etc. were able to follow industry norms with a shift to their internals where “sets” and individual dyes were simply tracked as different inventory items, Shopify was the ideal approach for the company’s new website.
Finding the Ideal Blend of Affordability, Scalability and Performance
As more B2B companies look to e-commerce to add new channels of distribution, the expanding universe of robust and scalable platforms gives senior leaders numerous options in which to choose. Regardless of your industry and technical requirements, you’ll find a platform that offers you the perfect blend of affordability, scalability and performance.
Looking for a partner that can help you turn your e-commerce vision into reality?