B2B has gone digital just as rapidly as the B2C market – and that comes with challenges. Here Roman Davydov takes a look at how businesses can exploit the rise of B2B commerce
Due to the growth in online B2B transactions, digital has become one of the key channels for supplier, vendor, and customer interaction. According to the 2022 B2B Buyer Report from Sana Commerce, people buy 75% of all products online. Additionally, the same report highlights that 90% of buyers find new suppliers primarily via online channels.
Therefore, B2B portal development becomes a natural step for any enterprise aiming to build a successful digital business. B2B portals enable organizations to bring together all business partners, including customers, partners, and suppliers, and effectively manage all these relationships.
This article provides practical advice on how to develop effective B2B portals that enable stable business growth.
Implementing the advanced feature set
The core portal functionality may vary depending on the organization’s business goals. For instance, a B2B ecommerce portal will likely provide features for conducting transactions, configuring prices, and facilitating purchasing experience. In turn, the supplier management portal may enable generating requests for quotation (RFQs), as well as onboarding and communicating with suppliers.
However, regardless of the project goals and B2B portal type, we would recommend enhancing the solution with the following capabilities:
Corporate account management
The work of any large enterprise involves simultaneous interaction with dozens and hundreds of partners and clients. Equipping a B2B portal with the proper functionality simplifies and optimizes core business processes. For example, developers can built-in an account management feature, helping organizations create and configure user hierarchies and roles (buyers, suppliers, admins).
With such capabilities, organizations can not only manage users more effectively but also improve B2B portal security. In particular, using account management features, enterprises can implement and set up a role-based access model, thus ensuring that users can only access content and data pertaining to them.
Enterprise content management
One of the primary purposes of a B2B portal is to be a single point of access, enabling all parties to easily access relevant content, such as product or service descriptions. A web portal should be able to gather content from diverse repositories and then present it in an organized and structured manner.
Metadata management may come in handy in this case. With this feature, a B2B portal can identify particular content objects according to metadata attributes, facilitating content categorization, storage, delivery, and search.
According to NICE’s 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report, most customers (81%) want more self-service opportunities. Enterprises can easily cover this requirement by adopting specialized functionality, enabling web portal users to find answers to their questions and solve problems without the participation of human specialists.
For example, developers can implement a knowledge base – a library containing valuable articles, videos, and images highlighting the organization’s products and services. Alternatively, developers can build in a forum or an online community where users can share valuable tips and insights, thereby helping each other.
Communication is critical to building any relationship, and the B2B sphere is no exception. To ensure quality and ceaseless communication between all parties, developers can equip B2B portals with features such as voice and video messaging. Additionally, developers can implement video conferencing to enable group discussions, making communication more convenient and transparent.
Adopting cutting-edge technology
Given the emergence and availability of such technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), enterprises may consider enhancing their B2B portals with innovative tech. Here are some considerations for the technology implementation.
For instance, developers can implement AI-based chatbots in a web portal to automate and streamline customer service. These intelligent chatbots can support a human-like conversation, enabling users to make orders or solve issues without communicating with customer support specialists.
In addition, equipped with natural language processing (NLP), chatbots can recognize accents and speech defects, increasing the web portal’s accessibility. Moreover, empowered with machine learning technology, chatbots can learn along the way to provide even more accurate and relevant results.
Also, developers can implement AI to enrich a portal with advanced analytics. With its help, organizations can collect and analyze data about their partners’ and customers’ preferences, demographics, and behavior to better understand their audiences’ needs and wants. AI analytics also helps improve the user experience by providing personalized product and service recommendations.
Conducting B2B integrations
Organizations also can improve their B2B portals by integrating them with other elements of business software ecosystems. Here are some considerations for such integrations.
ERP – By creating an integration with an ERP system, developers enable a web portal to reflect actual data regarding the number of available goods, which helps reduce errors when making orders and thus prevent overselling.
PIM – Integration with PIM allows enterprises to automatically add and update descriptions of goods and services on their portals, thereby eliminating the need for manual data entry.
CRM – CRM integration allows members of the customer support department (or chatbots, if an organization has any) to access data on customer preference and purchase history right during the conversation, resulting in more quality and personalized service.
Data analytics – If an organization already uses some analytics solution, developers can integrate it with a B2B portal. It enables the analysis of data about the portal’s performance, user behavior, and engagement.
Considering expert consultancy
Lastly, we recommend that organizations consider getting expert advice before starting B2B portal development. B2B portal experts may conduct a thorough business analysis and evaluate an organization’s processes to help determine the optimal solution features and define the most viable development approach.
In addition, a consultant may help better understand what skills and competencies an organization may need at different stages of B2B portal development. In case of a skill gap, an organization may hire the required specialists in advance or utilize a consultant’s talent pool.
B2B portals allow enterprises to connect suppliers, vendors, and customers, which makes these software solutions indispensable tools for managing a growing online business. Moreover, enterprises can make their B2B portals more valuable and efficient by enhancing them with advanced features and capabilities.
In particular, developers can built-in corporate account management, enterprise content management, self-service, and real-time communication, as well as equip a portal with AI, NLP, and ML. Organizations may also consider getting expert consultancy before starting B2B portal development to ensure the solutions’ viability and project success.
Roman Davydov is Ecommerce Technology Observer at Itransition: Software Development Company. With over four years of experience in the IT industry, Roman follows and analyzes digital transformation trends to guide retail businesses in making informed software buying choices when it comes to commerce and store management automation