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Who should take the lead with your B2B ecommerce website?

If you’re looking to launch into the B2B ecommerce space, one of the earliest decisions is also one of the biggest:

Which department will be responsible for the success of your new site?

Before we compare the differences of each approach, we need to talk about what they have in common. And for a B2B ecommerce website project, that means talking about your goals.

No matter which department you choose to lead the project, you should be aiming for an ecommerce website that:

  • Puts the customer first — Just like any other sales channel, it’s about creating an experience for your users that makes it simple and rewarding to buy (and keep buying!)
  • Stays agile and future-proof — It’s a new technology in a fast-moving space, and it needs to be ready to respond to the changing trends and demands of your customers and your business
  • Delivers on the benefits it promises — Helping your business to reduce its costs, increase its revenue, and improve your customer satisfaction.


With these universal goals in mind, we can start to look at our options — and compare the strengths and limitations of each approach.

Let’s start with an obvious one:


Should the IT department run your ecommerce project?

This is a natural first pick, and it’s one of the most common approaches taken by smaller businesses with a turnover of less than £10 million.

And at first glance, it makes perfect sense:

You’re building a website, and a website is a piece of tech. So in theory, your teams in IT should be in the best position to take the lead in creating a brand-new digital channel.

But the reality isn’t always that simple:


What are the strengths of an IT-led project?

Automation and integration are the bedrock of any good ecommerce site. And that’s exactly where an IT department shines.

With a project led by your IT department, it’s easier to get a website that’s stable and reliable. They’ll be focused on security and uptime — and they’ll be able to develop a new website that’s both cost-effective and efficient.


Where is an IT team likely to struggle?

Most IT departments are focused on the technical side of things.

They won’t have the experience and knowledge (or even the urgency) to make the customer experience a priority. They’re not expert content creators or UX designers, and they’re not always aware of the broader picture in terms of your competition — which means they might not make the best choices when it comes to helping your business stand out.


So what’s the verdict?

If your main concern is the technical challenge, your IT departments can do wonders for your ecommerce project. But they won’t always be focused on the wider picture — especially when it comes to the customer experience.


Should marketing take the lead on your project?

This is another common approach for smaller businesses with a turnover of less than £10 million. And just like an IT-led project, it seems to make perfect sense to hand responsibility over to your marketing teams.


What are the strengths of a marketing-led project?

A good B2B ecommerce site is designed to encourage sales and drive revenue — and that means your marketing teams are in the best position to create an experience that helps you hit those goals.

With your marketing department taking the lead, you’re more likely to create a satisfying customer experience. They’ll be focused on clean and simple UX design, attractive and seductive aesthetics, and the right content and messaging that speaks in the language your customers like to hear.

And as a bonus: your marketing department will know exactly how to set your business apart. They’ll be thinking about differentiation from the very first step, and incorporating those differentiators into every aspect of your ecommerce website.


Where is a marketing team likely to struggle?

In the same way that your IT department won’t always have the right marketing experience, your marketing teams won’t always have the right tech expertise.

That often means they won’t get the most out of the efficiencies that come with proper integration and automation. And when it comes to ecommerce, that means missing out on one of the biggest benefits behind the technology.


Should IT and marketing lead the project together?

Both marketing and IT have their own strengths and weaknesses. And in fact, each of their shortcomings is complemented by the other.

That’s why lots of businesses choose the best of both worlds — by creating a cross-functional team between IT and marketing.


What are the strengths of a cross-functional team?

When IT and marketing departments work in tandem, they’re each able to fill the gaps where the other is lacking.

You’ll get a B2B ecommerce site that’s stable and reliable — one that maximises the efficiencies gained from integration and automation. You’ll also get a site that’s built for your customers and designed to help you differentiate — with the high-quality content and UX functionality that makes your customers’ buying experience smooth and appealing.

For a lot of businesses, it’s a solution that leads to a well-rounded ecommerce site. But in practice, a project that’s led by two separate departments won’t always be a painless experience:


Where is a cross-functional team likely to struggle?

The short answer? Too many cooks can spoil the broth.

We’ve already seen how each department has a different focus and a different set of goals. And when those different goals come into conflict, there’s bound to be tension between the departments.

On top of that, it won’t always be clear who’s accountable for what — and when deadlines get tight or budgets get strained, you may have to make difficult decisions and compromises about where to allocate the resources for your project.


So what’s the alternative?

A cross-functional collaboration between marketing and IT really can give you the best of both worlds. But it comes with a separation, and that can lead to tension and imbalance.

So some businesses are choosing to close that separation — by creating a dedicated ecommerce team that can take full responsibility for the entire ecommerce project.


Do you need a dedicated ecommerce department?

In most cases, this is only an option for larger businesses — for enterprise-level companies with the budget and workforce to justify forming a specialised department.

But for those who have the resources to do it, it can be one of the best approaches:


What are the strengths of an ecommerce department?

Just like with a cross-functional team, you’re getting the best of both worlds — a dedicated team with both the technical expertise and the marketing experience to create a solid platform and a well-rounded website.

But with a specialised ecommerce department, you’re also taking the strain off the rest of your teams. Your IT departments can focus on their non-ecommerce jobs, and your marketing department can focus on their offline marketing.

You’re placing the full responsibility of your ecommerce success on the people who specialise in that area — allowing them to give their full focus an undivided attention on hitting your ecommerce goals.


Where is an ecommerce department likely to struggle?

In terms of the team itself, there are no real downsides to forming a dedicated ecommerce department.

But it’s likely to cost you — and it adds extra organisational complexity to your company.

You’ll need additional staff to fill your full-time ecommerce roles (as well as the costs that come with those staff). And a separate department demands its own separate budget — which could start to affect the ROI of your ecommerce project.


So who should own your B2B ecommerce site?

There’s no easy answer that fits every business. In most cases, it all comes down to the size of your company and the budget you have.

For smaller businesses with a turnover of less than £10 million, it’s often a choice between marketing and IT — and that means a choice between technical expertise or a stronger customer focus.

For larger businesses with a turnover of more than £10 million, a cross-functional collaboration between IT and marketing can give you the best of both worlds — but it can lead to conflict, and challenges with accountability.

And for the largest of businesses at an enterprise level, a dedicated ecommerce department gives you the right mix of skills, clear accountability — and perhaps most important — a single team that’s unified by common goals and targets.


Ready to start planning your ecommerce project?

Whether it’s your IT department or your marketing department (or a combination of both), the easiest way to ensure success is to work with a trusted and experienced ecommerce provider.

That’s why every new company that starts selling with Apparatus gets a complete onboarding service to help them hit the ground running — and the long-term support to help them stick to their targets.

See exactly how Apparatus supports new sellers as they get started — or talk to one of our ecommerce experts to find out more.


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