The 3 biggest ROI metrics for B2B ecommerce
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of B2B ecommerce.
But when it comes to putting a number to them? Things aren’t always so clear.
Just like any other business decision, you’re going to need to justify the investment of your ecommerce platform — both before and after it happens.
You need a way to measure your return on investment (ROI). And the first step is understanding the factors that drive that return, as well as the best ways to optimise them.
Here’s what you need to know about the 3 most important ROI metrics:
1. Sales efficiency
A good B2B ecommerce site has a massive effect on the efficiency of your business, with far-reaching benefits that stretch to every corner of your company.
But there’s one area that benefits the most — and that’s the reduction in admin costs for your sales teams.
If you’re just getting started with B2B ecommerce (or just getting started with measuring its ROI), the efficiency of your sales process is where you’ll see some of the easiest, fastest, and most recognisable gains.
It’s the low-hanging fruit of B2B ecommerce ROI — and it’s one of the simplest factors to measure and optimise.
How does sales efficiency affect ecommerce ROI?
Your ROI is a ratio of money gained against money invested. And that means your sales efficiency has a direct effect on it:
Reduced costs lead to higher profits, and higher profits lead to a higher ROI.
So how does an ecommerce site help to cut down on sales admin? In practice, that means saving time on things like:
- Emails and phone calls with customers
- Checking stock, prices, and availability
- Getting quotes for new items
- Negotiating discounts and deals
- Dealing with customer queries
- Manually entering orders
- And giving your customers updates.
For some sales teams, that’s a huge chunk of their daily tasks — all taken care of by your B2B ecommerce site.
“Your teams spend less time on each sale, and more time generating new ones. So your cost per sale drops while your total sales grow.”
How to measure your sales admin savings
- Find the average time to complete an order — from the first call to the final click.
- Multiply that by how much a salesperson costs your business per hour.
- That number is the admin cost per sale.
- Find the number of orders over a past period (a month, a quarter, or a year).
- Multiply the number of orders by your admin cost per sale.
- You now have the total admin cost over a certain period.
That final number tells you the costs you’ve avoided — the amount that you’ve saved by using an ecommerce site. You can then plug that number into your ROI calculations.
So how does it work out in practice?
Let’s suppose that:
- Your sales staff spend 30 minutes on each order (0.5 hours)
- Your sales staff cost £30 an hour
- And you’ve taken 3,000 orders over the last year.
Your total admin cost would be (0.5 x 30 x 3000) = £45,000.
That means your B2B ecommerce site has saved you £45,000 in a single year — from just one single metric among many others.
How can you optimise it?
The best ecommerce businesses are all about integration and automation.
It’s about making the most of the advanced features your systems have — letting the software share data, and eliminating as many manual steps as possible.
Tip: When you’re choosing which customers to move to ecommerce first, focus on the ones with the highest number of orders — not the highest spend. Automating 10 small orders saves you more money than automating 1 big order, regardless of how big that single order is.
If you want to squeeze every drop of efficiency out of your B2B ecommerce site, you’ll need to hunt down those manual steps with a thorough analysis of your sales processes.
By mapping out your entire sales process, you can identify and challenge any steps where your teams need to manually input data — and shift that task over to your software systems using integration and automation.
And the result?
You’ll get closer and closer to a fully automated sales process — bringing the admin costs of each sale as close to zero as possible.
2. Added Service Value
This is one of the most important metrics to track — but it’s also one of the hardest to measure. It’s about how your customers see your business, and the added value they’re getting from your B2B ecommerce site.
There are all kinds of ways you can add value to your customers — from higher quality packaging and faster delivery to additional product training and education.
But with a good B2B ecommerce site, you’re directly helping your customers to run their businesses more efficiently — with automated approvals, controls over their budgets and spending, and the data and insights that helps their teams save time and money.
How does added service value affect your ROI?
Added service value is a subjective metric. And that can make it hard to create a direct link to the concrete numbers involved in calculating ROI.
But that doesn’t mean the connection isn’t there.
A good B2B ecommerce site can solve your customers’ problems and ease their pains. And this added value has a direct effect on:
- Your customer loyalty
- Your customer lifespan
- And the total spend of each customer.
Each of these factors has a substantial effect on your revenue and long-term growth — ensuring that there’s plenty of ‘R’ in your ROI.
How to measure your added value
Compared to your cost savings, this can be a tricky metric. You’ll be dealing with both qualitative and quantitative results — and even the quantitative results will be based on subjective opinions.
In most cases, you’ll be measuring your added value through customer surveys. These might be quantitative surveys, like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) — or qualitative surveys with more open-ended questions.
Here’s how to do it:
- Organise your customer data to help you segment it — by size, industry, or location.
- If you have too many customers, choose a sample that will be representative.
- Conduct your customer surveys (ideally, online) and analyse the responses.
- Repeat the surveys at regular intervals — such as every month or every quarter.
- Collect and compare the results over time.
As more of your customers make the move to your ecommerce site, you’ll be able to track how they see your service — and crucially, compare how they rate you before and after the switch to ecommerce.
“Customer surveys show you the ecommerce features that matter the most — so you can focus your future marketing on the strongest selling points.”
How can you optimise it?
Perceived value can be difficult to control. It’s based on subjective experience and the opinions of others.
But what you can control is the customer service you deliver, and the way you position your ecommerce site.
And that all starts with understanding your customers — the problems and pain points they experience, and the way they’re currently using your site.
In practice, that means:
- Educating your customers on the benefits of your ecommerce site
- Showing them how it saves them time, money, and hassle
- Automating your customers’ processes — such as their approvals and budget controls
- Helping your customers to stay compliant with user permissions and restrictions
- Give your customers live stock visibility and updates on their orders
- And offering advice and support throughout the whole process.
Or in other words:
Give them the best ecommerce experience — by making sure they get the best results.
3. Customer adoption
Improved efficiency and a higher perceived value can give your ROI a boost. But your customer adoption rate acts as a multiplier on both of those metrics — bringing more of your customers into the realm of reduced admin costs and satisfying ecommerce experiences.
If you’ve already laid the groundwork with the first two metrics (getting your admin costs close to zero and generating positive perceptions from your customers), then improvements to your adoption rate are an exponential gain on top:
Every customer that switches to your ecommerce site is placing cost-effective orders and has a higher chance of spending more and staying loyal — which means every increase in your customer adoption is more valuable than the last.
How to measure your customer adoption rate
This is a simple one to measure. But there are a few different variations, depending on the statistic that’s most useful for your business.
You could be aiming for:
- The percentage of customers that order online
- The percentage of orders that are placed online
- Or the percentage of revenue that comes from online orders.
For many sellers, the most useful metric will be the percentage of customers.
Measuring the percentage of orders or revenue is a useful gauge of overall ecommerce adoption. But the results can be skewed by the size of your customers. If you only have one customer using your ecommerce site — but they’re big enough to account for the majority of your orders and revenue — your adoption rate will look higher than it really is.
Here’s how to measure the percentage of customers:
- Choose a way of identifying which orders happen online — such as your ERP data.
- Set a threshold for defining an ‘ecommerce customer’ — such as a customer that places more than 90% of their orders online.
- Find the total number of customers who are ‘ecommerce customers’.
- Divide this by your total number of customers.
- Multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage.
This final number is your customer adoption rate.
How can you optimise it?
It’s unrealistic to expect every customer to order online every time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set your targets high:
In most cases, you should be aiming to get 20–50% of your customers buying online — with 30–60% of your revenue coming through your ecommerce site.
So how can you hit adoption rates like that? You’ll need to:
- Educate your customers on how your ecommerce site helps their business
- Choose the right way to introduce them to buying online
- Pick the right set of customers for your initial rollout
- Find ways to encourage their first orders
- And motivate your own sales teams to get them on board.
We could write an entire article about boosting your adoption rates. And in fact, we already have — our in-depth guide to customer adoption gives you the strategies you need to help you hit your ecommerce targets.
Want to get more out of your move to ecommerce?
If you’re getting ready to take your B2B business online, you need to be sure you’re doing it right.
Our expert teams at Apparatus are ready and waiting to give you the support you need, with a dedicated onboarding project for every new seller, and long-term support with every subscription — from in-depth training and tech support to ongoing consultancy and project management.