blog / Setting Up Your B2B Website to Integrate With Your ERP System
In 2018, the global volume of B2B e-commerce added up to around £8.4 trillion, about four times the size of the B2C market. It’s time to use your database of customers to make the most of this market. This doesn’t need to be painful. We can help your clients order products online without you building an e-commerce B2B website from scratch.
To be clear, B2B e-commerce is different from a standard B2C set-up where businesses set up a simple web store. B2B transactions typically happen on a larger scale. Clients often need more private access to wholesale products to make the most of their money. This is unlike a B2C site where everything is visible to everyone online.
With the right e-commerce platform and a methodical, data-driven approach, selling online is easier than you might think. And Apparatus is here to help.
First Steps: Understanding Where You’re Starting
There are many moving parts within a B2B e-commerce website. You need to manage your products, your warehouse, your sales, and other vital processes.
Before you choose a sales platform and integrate it into your existing infrastructure, it’s wise to consider why you are entering this field. There’s no right or wrong answer. Many companies use online B2B sales to facilitate customer self-service, cut down on processing costs, and automate inventory and warehousing. If you’ve been doing it by hand in the past, a strong e-commerce sales platform can make B2B sales remarkably easy. It can boost profits while giving your sales reps and other staff more time to pursue new leads and strategies.
It’s also wise to audit your workflows and sales infrastructure before diving in. Customization is a key aspect of B2B sales. It can help you adapt products, processes, and even prices to clients’ needs.
Translating those variables to a standardized digital platform might seem like a tall order. The process offers you an opportunity, however. You will see exactly why you have made those accommodations. And you can consider how you might categorize clients to become more efficient while meeting their expectations.
You may not be able to fully automate a customer journey, but you can use the digital platform to enhance the experience for everyone. It is possible to combine the ease of e-commerce with human interaction in some cases. Or you can push other clients through a track for low-risk, less hands-on clients.
The key is to secure a platform with the features you need to achieve this. With your audit in place, you can move closer to that step.
B2B E-Commerce, ERP, and You
As your company delves into options for B2B e-commerce, consider your ERP. A good sales platform allows your company to manage its existing customers in the ERP system. You will be able to get your customers and your products online without doing unnecessarily repetitive work.
As a B2B company, you likely rely heavily on your ERP to manage your vital data. Any platform you choose, therefore, needs to integrate with your ERP. The last thing you want to do is rebuild that repository of data on a new system just to integrate it.
Any vendor worth your time will provide out-of-the-box integration with major ERPs like Sage, Orderwise, Netsuite, and SAP. If you have a different ERP in place, it doesn’t hurt to ask if a platform can be customized to integrate with it. Most vendors are interested in making your business successful with their programming.
You also need to consider not only if your chosen platform will integrate with your ERP, but how that will happen. Some companies are okay working with importing and exporting data between the programs. Others do best with API integrations that allow for real-time information and automation.
The better ERPs should be able to sync up with your e-commerce software automatically, so long as it is best-in-class itself. This helps immensely with ensuring the back office is in order. And this is independent of how many sales your company makes in a day.
Let’s say you have found a B2B e-commerce platform that integrates well with your ERP. Now you have to ensure that all of your data is defined and ready to be integrated. That means identifying:
- what data will be integrated;
- where data is currently located;
- where data needs to go, and
- how frequently data needs to be updated or monitored.
You will also need to make sure that:
- product data is up to date;
- customer records are accurate;
- sales representatives’ information is ready to go, and
- any existing inventory in the ERP is correct.
Starting with organization and accuracy will be helpful when the ERP and e-commerce platforms are relying on one another.
Your e-commerce platform needs to talk to the ERP when an order is placed. It will inform the ERP of the related customer data, inventory items, and how that impacts warehousing. It will also determine how the item(s) need to be shipped.
This, in turn, updates product data across the board. In this way, the ERP will have a record of what’s in store. And the e-commerce platform will display accurate product availability to your customers.
The customer data held in the ERP also lets the e-commerce platform know what tier, track, or category the client falls into. This can affect pricing or product availability.
If your sales reps make an offline sale, it’s helpful to have the ERP integrate with the e-commerce platform. This would allow customers to see their orders, even when made offline.
You can see why an API integration can be very helpful in this area. It gives you all of that information in real time for the utmost in accuracy and responsiveness.
At this point in your set-up plan, you should have an understanding of how your B2B sales will translate to an online platform. You will have selected the platform that integrates with your ERP in the most suitable, beneficial way. You have prepared your data and are ready to integrate — so what comes next?
Get the platform online. Populate it with information. Let your customers know they have a new way to access your products.
Marketing Your B2B E-Commerce Site
Now that you have a top-notch e-commerce site that suits all of your B2B clients’ needs, down to customized features based on their customer data, you can throw open the doors and let them in.
The B2B site is always open and available no matter where it is or where your customers are shopping from. Highlight this as a perk. Also, they don’t have to wait for a sales rep to check in with them. Nor must they make the effort to seek out a contact within your company to make an order. Instead, they can do it all themselves. In the process, they may discover a new product they hadn’t tried in the past. These are all things that you can tell your clients as a way to introduce them to online shopping in a B2B context.
You do not have to make a big splashy spend to do this. It can be as simple as asking your sales reps to spread the word in-person, through email, or over the phone, to their existing contacts. Aligning salespeople’s e-commerce referrals with commission is an excellent way to ensure staff is eager to tell clients about the opportunity to buy online. This is beneficial for sales reps who can sit back and let the automated process take over once they’ve closed the deal.
Consider sweetening the deal with perks for B2B e-commerce users. This might take the shape of a special sale to celebrate the launch of your site or a discount code for first-time online orders. Incentives like these motivate clients to check out the new online option, test it through making a (discounted) purchase, then hopefully make new orders when they are familiar with the site and its benefits.
At Apparatus, our experienced team is looking forward to learning more about your B2B needs. If you want to sell your products online using your database of business clients, you don’t need to create a store from scratch. Apparatus is here to help you take your business to the next level.If you need assistance finding an e-commerce platform suitable for your B2B sales, want to know more about marketing the site to clients, or have any questions about this process, get in touch with us today!