7 Tips for choosing an ecommerce solution
In this world of converging technologies and platforms, it is no longer the case that manufacturers are just manufacturers and distributors are just distributors. Ditto for retailers. The lines have become blurry in an attempt to reach out to new markets and new opportunities.
From our ERP perspective (Sage 200cloud to be precise), our world has always been about finance, reporting and back-office administrative processes. But we are continuously being asked by our customers about ecommerce solutions and so we thought it might be useful to write a blog to help start you off on the right foot, particularly if this is your first venture into ecommerce.
Here are our top tips:
1. Customer-specific products
The last thing your customers want is to be presented with a list of products that are not relevant or that they are not permitted to purchase. You may sell thousands of items, but maybe only a small percentage are relevant to this customer.
Our tip : keep your customer at the heart of your system so that their buying journey will be pleasant and tailored to their unique needs.
2. Customer-specific pricing
Similar to the above point, B2B customers expect their pricing to be correct and to be the same regardless of whether they place the order on the website or by phone or by email.
Our tip: Ensure that you have consistent pricing across all channels. Inconsistency can cause customer frustration and time wasted on administrative corrections. Make sure that the system you choose facilitates this.
3. Order History
When your customers buy from you online, there is an expectation that they will be able to view their order history. Maybe they are not sure which item they bought last time, so they want to do a quick check before placing their order.
Our tip : Make the ecommerce experience as positive as possible by giving customers access to information such as previous orders, statements and other customer specific information. This not only helps your customers get the information they need when they need it, but it will also reduce the number of common requests (typically in the form of phone calls and emails) such as sending copy statements.
4. Different Access Levels
When you decide to open up your webshop to your B2B customers, you will most definitely want a secure login area. You may want to gate certain content and so a one-size fits all approach may not work when it comes to customer access.
Our tip : Think about having different levels of access, so that relevant and appropriate content is made available to the right people/companies. You should also think about how to give customers access to your website in the first place. For example, some systems allow you to register online and if your email address matches the email address set up in your ERP system (such as Sage 200cloud), you can create your account. Or you may prefer that your customer contacts you directly to set up their online account.
You may also have larger customers that require Head Office approval before an order is placed, so here you should think about having a hybrid system so that orders can still be placed up to a point, but instead of the order being submitted in the normal way, an order approval request would be sent to Head Office for sign off.
5. Inventory Levels
When it comes to inventory/stock levels, it is worth considering whether or not you have the option to display the inventory level on your webshop. Some ecommerce businesses choose not to display the quantity in stock, while others openly display this information. The reason for not displaying the stock levels is to prevent customers purchasing elsewhere if you are showing "out of stock".
Our tip : Ensure that you have the choice as to whether or not to display your stock levels. Even better, you may wish to allow customers to back-order certain items or display low stock levels. You don't want to lose customers by not having stock available, but at the same time you need to manage customer expectations so they know when to expect delivery.
6. Flexible Payment Options
Your B2B website needs to cater for different payment methods and terms. For some customers, you may require upfront payments or payment on delivery. For others, you may have specific payment terms.
Our tip : Choose an ecommerce system that offers lots of flexibility when it comes to processing payments. Your best customer may not be impressed by asking them to pay by credit card when they are used to paying on account.
7. Bulk Order Import
Offering customers the facility to upload their orders in bulk can make their lives much simpler. This is particularly beneficial for larger, bulk orders. It will speed up order processing time, ensuring that orders can be processed quickly and efficiently.
Our tip : Think about the process your customer must go through to place their orders on your website. If the only option is to enter items line by line one at a time, will this work for your business? If not, then definitely ask about a bulk upload facility as this will enhance your customer experience on your B2B website.
It makes total sense that your ecommerce system connects with your ERP system. Having consistency across your different sales channels ensures that your back office administrative processes flow seamlessly from the website through to delivery, invoicing and payment processing. The result is happy customers and happy sales, finance and warehouse teams!
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For More Information
Envisage Cloud Limited is Ireland's Largest Sage Partner, specialising in Sage 200cloud and Sage CRM software.
In partnership with Aphix Software, we provide the Aphix Cloud Platform, incorporating Webshop and mobile Apps for Reps and Customers.
Click here for more information on our integrated ecommerce solution for Sage 200cloud.