Custom B2B Features Deliver Extraordinary Versatility
Custom business features become increasingly important for successful and efficient B2B marketing because there are many business models to satisfy, and no business within a category operates identically or needs the same features. Some companies support B2B and B2C commerce on the same platform while others function as facilitators for E-procurement product purchases and bids. Other B2B models include infomediary websites, niche markets, heavy equipment wholesalers and many other industry-specific B2B operations. Many companies sell products in multiple countries and have website support for multiple languages, currencies, tax-calculation methods like VAT and customs-documentation needs. Out-of-the-box software without customizing its core business features just doesn’t provide the level of service that customers expect, and even customized core features can fall short of what well-designed custom features can deliver.
Custom B2B eCommerce features — regardless of business model — deliver the latest products, research and information to customers and transform websites into central repositories that can display the right information to the right customer at the right time, which has always been the key to sales closings, and provide astonishing levels of user functionality so that people can research products, personalize their website interactions and connect to support services and external resources. Customized eCommerce websites can manage operations smarter and faster, synchronize information across operations and connected channels, gain valuable leads and information about their customers and deliver a personalized experience to each site visitor. The key to success is customization, and there are thousands of possible ways to customize a website’s capabilities. Some of the most common and popular B2B eCommerce customizations include these seven transformative features:
1. Product Configurators to Manage Custom Orders
The best custom features for B2B eCommerce include integrating various user-friendly tools for handling complex ordering situations such as using product configurators to help customers order or specify options in custom-assembled or custom-built products. Examples include offering embroidered logos, custom color choices, dimensional changes and other fabrication options. Configurators offer the following B2B benefits:
- Providing guidance to customers who are ordering complex products with multiple options
- Satisfying buyers who want singular versions of products as Unique Selling Points
- Empowering production and assembly stakeholders with specific product blueprints
- Managing made-to-order and build-to-order products more efficiently
- Eliminating errors due to miscommunications
- Ensuring compatibility and functionality in custom fabrications
- Generating rich data for products including product codes, order information, changes to assembly instructions, CAD files and submittal information
- Precluding combinations that result in product incompatibilities
- Disseminating specific instructions to all the relevant manufacturing, warehousing, administrative, distributing and shipping stakeholders
- Integrating specifications with CRM, ERP and IT infrastructure
- Interfacing with company catalogs and CPQ software for pricing
It’s easy to see how this custom feature helps to capture existing engineering knowledge and key business processes and deliver those insights directly to customers during the buying process. Custom features like configurators, price-quoting applications, simple product widgets and CAD modeling tools can deliver big sales increases, reduce errors, speed ordering processes and generate user-friendly price quotes and proposals while automating connections with support processes across the company and those of its business associates.
2. Tools for Processing Custom Orders
Automating order fulfillment is one of the core business features that every kind of eCommerce software delivers, and core customizations add many expanded capabilities. However, some websites need even more complex features for back-office customizations. For example, consider the complicated situation of customers who order complex product configurations or custom-made products using a configurator. This scenario could easily stop automatic fulfillment while decision-makers approve pricing and product design. Executive editing might even be required to determine if standard tier rates, discounts and incentives apply. Custom business features can handle these processes based on highly configurable guidelines and send an order everywhere it needs to go, which might include a company executive, sales staff, in-house manufacturing department, affiliated vendors and internal cost centers where costs can be tracked based on product materials, labor, shipping costs, etc. Shipping and handling charges also change when custom products are built, so shipping costs need to be updated through multiple delivery carriers and options.
Once prices are approved, any changed specs return to the customer for approval and order confirmation. Automating these processes for hundreds or thousands of custom products saves time and money in processing costs and prevents losses due to customer impatience in getting a decision. After all approvals are secured, the order can proceed to fulfillment. This complex journey can be highly automated so that customers can get answers almost instantly for common customizations. Highly original products or those that require unusual materials, structural changes, executive approvals or locating new vendors could take considerably longer, but customizations accelerate all the applicable processes.
The right customizations when processing custom orders might even include offering electronic data exchanges with the customer when multiple buyer decision-makers must sign-off on the order. One researcher found that 70 percent of all B2B decisions involve at least two decision-makers and that 30 percent involve more than five parties. Customized features can manage all aspects of getting custom orders approved, forwarding orders to all involved stakeholders, separating parts of orders for immediate shipment and updating delivery dates for the custom-made products.
3. Facilitating Multiple Shipping Options
Shipping orders are one of the most important services that B2B companies provide because many organizations don’t even manufacture, stock or warehouse their own products. Unlike B2C websites, which also offer multiple shipping methods, B2B businesses offer expanded shipping methods, multiple carriers for the same shipments, warehousing products between carrier pickups, split-shipping to multiple destinations and drop-shipping from affiliated vendors. These challenges enormously complicate shipping management and abilities to track orders, calculate costs and hidden handling fees and choose the right shipping carriers for global shipments that could involve sending products to underdeveloped areas. The shipping-related tasks that custom business features can solve include:
ERP and CRM systems integrate seamlessly with the eCommerce stores and catalogs, affiliated vendors, distributors and freight carriers to deliver real-time shipping costs and delivery dates.
Customers can get a clearer picture of shipping expenses by viewing detailed costs from multiple carriers to help them choose shipping strategies.
Overages are updated and applied for weights that exceed estimates, size specifications that exceed guidelines and palette charges when more are needed than anticipated.
The right custom integrations simplify shipping to multiple stores and tracking and confirming deliveries to multiple locations to fulfill a single order.
Customers might choose to split their orders and receive part of their order immediately and the rest through drop-shipping or backordering. Automation allows companies to set up order-splitting and alerts when each part of an order ships.
Drop-shipping complicates the process because outside vendors handle the shipping, and every problem that confronts in-house shipping also applies to the vendors. Custom features enhance communications so that eCommerce companies can better monitor external drop-shipping.
Delicate, perishable or fragile products might require special shipping and handling, but extra fees apply for items that require refrigeration, delivery notifications, lift gates for unloading and other protective measures.
The right custom features mitigate a lot of the common problems associated with managing multiple shipping options. Automation optimizes essential administrative work, decision-making and monitoring required to ensure smooth, reliable shipments, but staff can always check on the progress of shipments throughout the cycle. Customers enjoy more options to curate and monitor their own shipping arrangements.
4. Managing Split-Shipments
Although split-shipments have been touched on in the previous section and the core business features chapter, custom integrations designed exclusively for split-shipments provide many benefits to B2B companies because thousands of buyers buy in bulk and ship to multiple store locations. The easier the process of ordering split-shipments, the happier customers will be.
Split-shipment software integrations can deliver custom reports to each location, connect with fulfillment departments and authorize putting custom labels on products. Software remembers all the store addresses and commonly received products at each address and automates the process so completely that buyers can easily place split-shipment orders on their smartphones. The right customizations can even specify different shipping methods for each location so that buyers can save on shipping costs or speed deliveries to locations where faster resupplying is needed.
5. Dashboards for Customers and Collaborative Partners
Almost any eCommerce software allows customers to log-in and view their accounts and ordering histories, but B2B companies must offer their customers greater access to stay competitive. B2B eCommerce customers like to research products in-depth, access information about the supply chain, view past orders, invoices and price quotes, consult favorites lists, check for special deals and incentives and get access to address books to contact staff specialists directly. One of the most useful custom business features for the B2B industry is the custom dashboard, which can be used by customers, affiliates, vendors, marketing staff and other stakeholders to gain accelerated access to authorized website functions, manage those functions in one place, generate customized forms and perform many other collaborative functions.
Most B2C sites will allow their users to log-in to view their past orders or track their purchases. But a B2B dashboard goes further by optimizing functionality and the user experience. Viewers can access not only past orders, but quotes and invoices, personal and corporate address books, custom favorites lists, customer assistance forms, special deals for partners and much more. Dashboards not only simplify and codify partner access but also deliver strong value to users who can more easily manage their communications and functions within eCommerce websites. Forrester Research reports that its survey of Chief Marketing Officers found high levels of support for digitally empowering buyers, stakeholders and marketing professionals with features like custom B2B dashboards.
6. Assigning and Managing Access Roles
B2B customers function as de facto partners with their suppliers, and savvy decision-makers understand how important it is to empower customers in today’s digital ecosphere. Custom business features allow B2B eCommerce suppliers to accommodate multiple users throughout their customers’ organizations. There might be purchasing agents who must approve each order, and as mentioned in a previous section, more than five decision-makers are required to approve large orders in 30 percent of B2B orders. Custom features allow eCommerce to assign and manage different levels of access to customer representatives who might include:
- Purchasing managers
- Sales staff
- Store managers
- Safety consultants
- Legal counsel
- Advertising and promotional personnel
- Human resources staff
The first step of the process is providing default roles to the customer organization, and system administrators can set up automatic roles within each of these parent organizations. The access level of each role can’t exceed the customer’s default access but can include as little or as many of those permissions as warranted. Most companies assign access based on these categories:
- Technical operations
- Operational access
- Customer service
- Business relationship
- Product merchandising and managment
These access roles for client organizations can also be limited to certain areas within the scope of the category, and B2B companies can use these access-granting templates for customers, internal staff, outside vendors and business associates. The same access levels can also be built into partner dashboards for easier management.
7. Curating Content and Managing SEO
Both on-page and off-page SEO are critical for raising eCommerce website profiles with generic search engines, and creating unique content raises authority rankings and attracts influential links that allow marketers to engage their customers throughout their digital journeys. Custom business features can manage critical coding functions such as ensuring that each area of eCommerce websites and on-page and off-page content are properly coded with Meta descriptions and unique title tags. Custom features can even automatically generate description tags directly from the content and write code for page names, shortened and easy-to-remember URLs, page titles and other instances of SEO-friendly code.
These automatic coding features include using anchor text for extensive product catalogs, optimizing internal navigation and generating snippets of information when customers hover their cursors overs images and links.
Managing In-App Searches
Many B2B eCommerce companies are creating proprietary apps to foster loyalty and further simplify ordering and communications. The annual Mobile Path to Purchase study finds that 46 percent of all consumers use their mobile phones to research products and make purchases and that desktop use for these same tasks has dropped 14 percent between 2013 and 2015. B2B eCommerce companies can leverage several opportunities that relate to this trend. People with mobile apps on their devices often conduct Internet searches from within the apps. Custom business features can manage these searches by optimizing proprietary apps for external content searches, providing ways for outside searchers to download the apps and monitoring customer browsing habits while they search the Internet within the apps to gain market-segmentation and buyer-behavior data. Creative programming can even duplicate the common B2C practice of using geolocation data to personalize marketing messages and content delivery.
Custom B2B eCommerce Experts
Our programmers and engineers specialize at Clarity Ventures, are are always looking for the next big idea, creative application, bug fix, workaround and synchronization strategies that will keep your website at the top of its game. Our team works with a vast group of open source engineers, app developers, creative thinkers and established experts in website programming, and we’ll work with the same collaborating skills with your IT staff to develop custom business features for your website, industry and specific B2B business model. Contact us today for answers to your questions or a comprehensive consultation about transforming your vision into customized code that delivers the benefits you want for your eCommerce business.