Website Functionality with Customization and Back-End Integrations

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Few organizations will experience the explosive growth and rapidly evolving market trends that the B2B eCommerce industry will enjoy over the next few years, but most of these organizations struggle with building modern websites, marketing their products on mobile devices, building customer apps and making their websites highly functional but well-designed to satisfy a broad coalition of stakeholders. B2B websites must function fast and flawlessly while providing the same high-level design features that consumers enjoy on B2C websites. Unfortunately, companies never get all the tools they need from any out-of-the-box eCommerce software. Customization and back-end integrations drive website functionality and design, and administrators or corporate decision-makers have two possible choices for building greater functionality, scalability and appealing design features into their websites: changing to a platform that easily incorporates responsive design and user-friendly functions into their operating systems or adding back-end integrations to beef-up their eCommerce capabilities regardless of operating platform.

Integrating marketing strategies with B2B eCommerce operations isn't new, but creating custom features that deliver a synchronized message is among the new best practices of savvy B2B marketers. Marketers can deliver consistent messages through multiple advertising and promotional forums so that it doesn't matter where customers access information whether it's on a mobile device, laptop, desktop computer, company app or Business Page in social media or other digital forums.

 

Sales and Marketing Considerations for B2B Customer Engagement

Websites -- including those of eCommerce B2B companies -- no longer serve as simple product catalogs. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business Professor who is considered one of the 50 top businesswomen in the world, suggested that website visitors make up their minds about your company in the first few milliseconds after visiting a website, and that includes the rapidly increasing number of customers that order from their mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Success in eCommerce depends on engaging customers on social media, in app-generated searches and through other websites where targeted customers spend time. It's no longer possible to ignore people's browsing habits and remain competitive.

Statistics show that traditional marketing techniques don't reach customers, and having a well-designed website alone won't convince buyers to order from a given company. One research company found that 76 percent of B2B customers research multiple marketing channels before visiting a website, and most buyers are 57-percent ready to buy before even seeing the company's website.[1]

Metrics, buyer-behavior analyses and other back-end SEO and engagement strategies are essential to drive sales, attract new customers and engage customers by offering two-way communications to every customer. No two eCommerce sites work exactly the same way, and decision-makers can reach customers, inspire loyalty and increase sales by building a marketing juggernaut that brands the business, interacts with customers on multiple channels, provides automatic real-time updates to inventory, manages vendor relationships to ensure a smooth manufacturing process and responsive supply chain and offers buyers many choices for shipping products globally.


First Step: Analyzing Needs and Opportunities

Savvy decision-makers understand that the first step necessary to ignite sales is conducting a needs and opportunities analysis to know their customers and customize their online presence to reach and engage customers with personalized marketing. Today's functional website offers customers personalized messages, unique screen views on mobile devices based on their ordering histories and the ability to customize their orders. The process can be entirely automatic or trigger staff involvement in unusual or defined situations. Companies can't build this kind of efficiency without understanding their customers and customizing website capabilities.

CRP and ERP integrations are critical, and most eCommerce companies integrate offsite customer service options in social media, review websites and proprietary apps. Integrating multiple channels into operations allows customers to experience consistent and targeted messages across channels. Segregating customers is an ongoing process that requires focused studies of customer demographics, buying behavior, market-structure maps, supply and demand chains, client purchasing power and strategies to engage customers in two-way conversations and interactions.

Market segmentation best practices include the following activities:

  • Segmenting the market by sales revenues, number of employees and geographical data
  • Curating customers by their product choices and seasonal buying habits
  • Developing company opportunities for expanding sales
  • Engaging customers based on their online browsing habits
  • Sectioning customers based on industry-specific data
  • Using product applications to target customers
  • Integrating supply side data into marketing strategies
  • Studying analytics data to determine what motivates sales of each product, manufacturer or service
  • Using SEO and keyword strategies to target customers from key demographic profiles
  • Interacting with customer call centers to mine and use segmentation information
  • Targeting customers based on brand and company loyalty


Consumerization of the Traditional B2B Model

Statistics show that B2B customers order on their mobile devices and through proprietary apps while finding businesses in nontraditional places like social media, review websites and other digital touch points. One research company predicts that B2B sales will double from 2015 to 2020 company and that the United States and China will be the top recipients of this increased revenue.[2] The research shows that B2B eCommerce companies need to move away from serving many customers toward offering more robust capabilities where customers can buy from many business associates and partners, which include dealers, distributorships, affiliated manufacturers and resellers, custom fabricators and service providers.

Another company finds that engaging customers through multiple channels increases lead-generation by up to 20 percent and delivers 10 percent more first-time customers, but no standard software connects and integrates automatically with all relevant customer touch points without fine-tuning the website's capabilities.[3] B2B customers now research companies, share their online experiences and review company products in many forums, so B2B marketers need to monitor the chatter, engage customers, respond to complaints and even thank customers for both negative and positive feedback. Those customer engagement strategies take a robust and customizable eCommerce platform that offers collaborating tools, SEO and marketing features, intuitive architecture, automatic marketing and powerful functionality that delivers extraordinary user experiences.

The best strategies for meeting customers and strengthening a company's online reputation involve embracing the new journey and customer attitudes that mirror B2C marketing and customer management. A single B2B customer can be geometrically more valuable, and wholesale companies and B2B suppliers need custom website features to deliver the kind of benefits that regular consumers enjoy. Peer-to-peer networks, social channels and explosive growth in the numbers and sophistication of other online communications channels make it critical to consumerize B2B websites with special features and functionality that allow buyers to conduct company research, read testimonials, follow formal buying procedures and request custom product options.


Better Collaboration Through Back-End Integrations

Better collaboration with each business stakeholder increases sales and optimizes marketing, but collaborating through multiple channels and devices requires strong back-end integrations with business operations that guarantee security, meet regulatory requirements and encourage buyer spending and more interaction with the company. The benefits of installing custom back-end collaboration tools include:

  • Providing more choices for shipping and communicating directly with shippers
  • Offering customized dashboards to customers, vendors and distributors
  • Providing superior customer relationship management
  • Automating promotions and advertising including emails, mobile marketing, newsletters and announcements
  • Providing sales staff with timely leads
  • Managing content and marketing strategies
  • Offering incentives and tiered pricing
  • Handling multiple currencies, different tax rates and cross-border tariffs
  • Delivering real-time updates to internal departments and external stakeholders
  • Granting access to authorized users while protecting proprietary information
  • Prioritizing initiatives and accelerating response times
  • Working with the supply chain and managing logistics
  • Accelerating credit checks and approvals for volume discounts

B2B companies face many demands on their eCommerce software to generate sales, reach customers through multiple marketing channels, integrate orders with inventory, manage collaboration and deliver focused merchandising. Each company's IT team needs to assess its customers and their needs, the company's needs and opportunities and the custom features needed to deliver great experiences. Regardless of which software an eCommerce company chooses, it won't deliver everything needed without customizations and back-end integrations.

Training Employees and Stakeholders Directly

A highly functional and well-designed B2B website works for businesses 24/7/365 and automatically becomes a company's best salesperson and business supporter. Custom websites can speak every language of targeted customers, work without complaining, handle customer service, provide notifications, generate reports, engage customer, facilitate sales and generate leads. However, even the best sites won't work if the staff and stakeholders don't know how to use the systems. It's of crucial importance that each stakeholder receives essential training and learns promptly about any upgrades or new features. The company website must also be set up so that the proper information is channeled to the right departments and users. Decision-makers should always consider the time it takes to train websites, staff and stakeholders to deliver robust eCommerce capabilities where needed.


Training Staff and Stakeholders

The best strategy for customizing website capabilities depends on choosing a development partner that offers staff and stakeholder training so that each involved party can easily take advantage of new capabilities. If all stakeholders don't know how to use custom features, then their benefits quickly evaporate or could even cause negative results that include customer dissatisfaction, distributor confusion, vendor difficulties and employee misgivings. Best practices for training include not only training stakeholders how to use custom features but also explaining why and how the features benefit them. Key points that developers should cover in training include:

  • Explaining how each customer has a lifetime value and how custom features optimize sales and customer loyalty
  • Teaching each stakeholder how to use custom data to generate leads, monitor online behavior and use information from ERP and third-party resources
  • Explaining stakeholder security and compliance responsibilities
  • Training staff when to trigger automatic alerts and offer customer assistance
  • Instructing staff in how to customize options manually
  • Offering programmer training in how to monitor and test functionality
  • Showing distributors the advantages of automatic processes


Optimizing Website Performance

Optimizing an eCommerce website's performance requires focused testing on multiple operating systems and devices, ensuring that the right information goes to all relevant departments and outside consultants and training stakeholders in how to implement and manage custom features. The benefits of working with developers to customize website functionality include:

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  • Showing staff how to troubleshoot problems
  • Having outside engineers ready to respond to emergencies that internal staff can't manage
  • Teaching stakeholders how and when to use optional customizations
  • Ensuring that websites provide easy access to the most important information for each user
  • Reducing the need for staff involvement by enabling automatic customer service options
  • Providing relevant FAQs and resources to requests for further information
  • Configuring websites to trigger special features, provide answers, facilitate special orders and pricing and deliver individualized messages
  • Triggering automatic staff involvement when needed

Each successful eCommerce company spends a large part of its staff budget on training, so it makes sense to spend some time and resources on training websites to perform flawlessly. A reliable and skilled development partner can simplify the training process for stakeholders and company internal training staffs to enable all parties involved to access and use website custom features and learn about changes in new iterations to ensure the highest levels of performance, compliance and operations management.

Enhancing and Driving Business Through an Intuitive eCommerce Platform

Back-end integrations and platform customization can drive business through many contact points that include social media, customer review sites, business peer-to-peer sites, industry-specific websites, trade journals, trade show promotions and other nontraditional venues that targeted customers visit regularly. Adapting business to off-the-shelf eCommerce software is the weakest strategy no matter how much companies save. That doesn't mean that you can't add back-end integrations to improve functionality, but this strategy results in an imperfect solution that necessitates greater staff involvement, higher payroll and operating expenses, slower response times and reduced functionality.


Customizing Off-the-Shelf Software

One option is to customize standard software with back-end integrations to strengthen functionality, allow interactions with other businesses, distributors, vendors and marketing consultants and provide expanded customer options to browse relevant products, communicate with staff and request quick customer service. At a minimum, B2B companies need to offer real-time inventory updates, resources for locating dealers and distributors, automatic services such like tax computations for multiple states and global locations and simpler user registrations. In niche markets, eCommerce companies usually provide methods for purchasing agents to submit proposal requests, arrange to buy from specialty vendors and manufacturers and place bids for products and services.


Building a Custom Website to Fulfill Multiple eCommerce Needs

The smartest decision for forward-thinking B2B decision-makers is to choose a highly customizable, scalable and modular eCommerce platform that is easier to customize and upgrade as the businesses grow. There's no better time to customize B2B websites than in the current market because statistics show that B2B sales are predicted to grow at impressive rates for the foreseeable future. Custom integrations give customers the following functionality benefits that generate sales and improve customer satisfaction:

  • Customers can check the status of their orders and view supply chain details.
  • It's easy to view, download and print past orders.
  • Options include downloading, viewing, printing and paying invoices.
  • Customers can access information on assemblies, subassemblies and Bills of Materials.
  • B2B customers can engage with eCommerce companies, provide feedback on products and access tools to perform research, read unbiased third-party reviews, customize products and speed deliveries or opt for less expensive shipping.


Synchronizing Integrations for Marketing with Customized B2B eCommerce Software

One of the greatest advantages of customized eCommerce software comes from being able to build a brand and company image. Marketing today depends on building a digital reputation, and it's important to synchronize marketing strategies and messages and not just integrate them into existing software. That's a major benefit of switching to customizable software with a built-in adaptive middle architectural layer that adjusts easily to new trends and marketing strategies to deliver a consistent message across channels that include social media, digital reviewing and promotional forums, proprietary customer apps and distributed Web services. Adaptive SEO strategies for paid, generic and third-party marketing and content-sharing applications enable companies to optimize searches and share testimonials and news with targeted prospects and customers.

Upgrading to an intuitive, customizable and robust eCommerce platform provides the best options for managing sustained growth and earning a fair share of rising B2B revenues. Custom features that synchronize automatically across channels also reduce operating costs, simplify collaborations, empower distributors and generate greater loyalty and customer satisfaction. However, customizing eCommerce platforms works more efficiently and costs less over time when decision-makers choose a skilled development partner that works with company programmers, outside engineers, staff and stakeholders to develop clean, intuitive and fully integrated customizations for better functionality.

Functionality Tips and Services from B2B eCommerce & Integrations

Regardless of platform, industry or targeted customers, you need a team of engineers and advisors who can work with multiple coders, open source engineers, vendors and distributors to customize your website so that it offers each customer and stakeholder intuitive functionality, targeted marketing messages, custom operating system displays and appealing design features. Our services at B2B eCommerce & Integration include fielding an impressive design team that specializes in designing custom integrations so that your website fulfills all the evolving demands of B2B eCommerce, which include generating leads, driving customer engagement and loyalty, providing full website metrics and incorporating automatic marketing features and SEO best practices into your website. B2B marketing today is no longer just a matter of optimizing market spend to revenue, standardizing your market practices and scaling your business. You have an incredible opportunity to optimize all your eCommerce teams and capitalize on cutting-edge website functionality with platform customizations, stakeholder training and increased customer engagement that can revolutionize your marketing approach to satisfy enlightened, educated and discerning customers. Call or contact us today at B2B eCommerce & Integrations for a consultation to see how we can ease the development process and work as trusted partners in meeting your business goals.


 

References:

[1] Business2community.com: The Only B2B Marketing Stats You Care About www.business2community.com

[2] Frost and Sullivan Research: The Global B2B E-commerce Market Will Reach 6.7 Trillion USD by 2020 ww2.frost.com

[3] McKinsey.com: Do you really understand how your business customers buy? www.mckinsey.com