Digitization has transformed the whole B2B eCommerce landscape. And it happened from the top of the ladder MNCs to the bottom small scale startups.
Now, let’s go back in time a little – The pre-internet B2B era when online stores were nothing but second-hand to businesses.
Picture this – Baby Boomers swamped with call logs, datasheets, sales catalogs, and product trials. Exhausted in-office staff arguing with angry customers. And how can you forget the sales representatives reading the sales manual aloud to the confused customers?
What has changed since then? A LOT!!
The same baby boomers are now requesting “additional” features for their B2B eCommerce stores to enhance user experience. There’s an irresistible need to take that brick-and-mortar, human-to-human experience to a 100% digital structure. The store owners now need their eCommerce website to function in the same way as if somebody were to walk into their warehouse or the storefront.
The shift in the B2B buyer mindset has accelerated digital transformation for many B2B businesses. Even for B2B eCommerce businesses like online office supplies stores which were brick-and-mortar dominant, have gone through significant digital transformation.
Despite the rapid shift, most businesses don’t have complete knowledge of how to sell office supplies online. They do know how to manage distributors, logistic operations, legal, and funding activities. But when it comes to picking the right B2B online store builder, they’re sitting ducks. The reason? They are unaware of the features that make a B2B online store builder the best fit for their business and thus, end up choosing the wrong one.
If you’re planning to start an office supplies eCommerce store, don’t make the same mistake. Instead, take note of the following features that can help your B2B eCommerce store become an ROI-driven business.
- 1 Top B2B eCommerce Features To Sell Office Supplies Online
- 1.1 1. Integration With Office Supplies Distributors
- 1.2 2. Real-Time Inventory And Stock Updates
- 1.3 3. Multiple Pricing Option
- 1.4 4. Automatically Sends Renewal Orders To Distributors
- 1.5 5. Quick Reorder Feature
- 1.6 6. Session ID Phone Tracking
- 1.7 7. Role-Based Access Controls
- 1.8 8. Minimum Order Quantities
- 1.9 9. B2B Cost Center Locations
- 1.10 10. Customer Segmentation
- 1.11 11. Third-Party Integrations
- 1.12 12. Dropshipping Options
- 1.13 13. Request For Quote
- 2 Your Next Big Step – Creating a B2C-like Experience for B2B Buyers
Top B2B eCommerce Features To Sell Office Supplies Online
B2B online store builders or eCommerce solutions offer a broad range of features to choose from. You need features that fit your current eCommerce needs and leave enough room for growth. This blog summarizes the basic to advanced features that you should consider while setting up an online office supplies store.
1. Integration With Office Supplies Distributors
Digital transformation does not mean leaving out all the back-office operations. You still need to integrate office supplies distributors into your eCommerce store to maintain a smooth inventory level. Distributor integration can help you automate standard processes with real-time data available and ensure that the data and orders are correct across all platforms.
One of the great things about the eCommerce platform is it enables businesses to track real-time data related to all types of operations.
B2B eCommerce involves complex orders that involve detailed contracts and customer-specific price levels. It is best to integrate distributors with issues like this and track all areas, including wholesale networks, assembly segments, and accounting. In addition, the distributor data integrations help your business save time and resources by preventing the need to manually add changes to the website.
2. Real-Time Inventory And Stock Updates
Out of Stock – Three dreadful words for any B2B eCommerce business. Businesses that sell or lease out products to wholesalers often struggle to manage inventory. And when they fail to deliver the promise due to stock-out, customers are quick to punch bad reviews and drive future customers away permanently.
As the size of the business expands, inventory management becomes far too complex. Since inventory and stock are two variable factors in sales, businesses need to work at their maximum capacity and meet tight deadlines to avoid stock-outs.
This is where real-time inventory management plays a critical role in maintaining the flow of sales operations and keeping the customers happy.
Besides tracking the inventory at every stage of the shipping process, real-time inventory management helps clients prepare in advance for specific periods when the demand for a product is high. For example, an online retailer can prepare for seasonal spikes in product demand based on real-time data, thereby optimizing marketing and sales campaigns for these periods.
3. Multiple Pricing Option
Pricing is the most important “p” in the B2B eCommerce mix. You need to cater to different order values, customer segments, buying frequency, and business size to decide the prices. Your B2B eCommerce platform must have multiple price lists for each business unit authorized to order from your store.
In addition, price lists include an unlimited number of price points, multiple tiers, and currencies, all attributed to customer segments based on their profile.
What makes multiple pricing worthwhile is the potential for mass adoption, primarily as a consequence of digital transformation. Businesses can use multiple pricing lists to understand customer demographics and make strategic decisions in future campaigns.
For example, when a customer enters his login credentials, the software can scan through order history along with an online shopping behavior assessment. Using this data, the software can suggest personalized recommendations and estimate how much that individual is willing to pay for a given product in a given scenario. As a result, you can make personalized pricing options available to specific customers based on their buying patterns.
4. Automatically Sends Renewal Orders To Distributors
Office supplies like markers, ink cartridges, and printing paper need periodic replenishment. While the act of using these materials is involuntary, the act of replacing them isn’t. Often businesses forget to keep track and run out of stock all of a sudden. This causes a great deal of frustration.
To avoid this, your eCommerce platform can set up an auto-replenishment subscription for exhaustible products based on their usage and requirements. Based on the frequency at which they run out of stock, customers can set the order interval to make replacements at the right time. Your customers can also view and manage their subscriptions through their “My Accounts” page.
By providing an auto-renewal option, you are likely to experience a surge in traffic as this feature resolves a common pain point of eCommerce shoppers. It’s a must-have for any eCommerce store.
5. Quick Reorder Feature
Another functionality on top of Auto-Renewal is the fast reordering feature for frequently bought items. This allows customers to quickly enter a list of SKUs of items they want to order instead of placing orders again and again.
Let’s say your client needs a constant supply of papers, hand sanitizers, ink cartridges, toiletries, etc. They don’t need to go back and add these items to the cart every time they place an order. Instead, a “Reorder” button here would save the buyers time and enable customers to fast-track the checkout process. Customers can browse their order history and save their carts for future use to speed up the reordering.
Note that this “Reorder” button doesn’t reorder automatically. It puts everything in the cart for you to review and make changes and additions if you want.
6. Session ID Phone Tracking
Not all people order online. Some still use phone calls & emails to place orders. Session ID Phone Tracking is therefore in demand for eCommerce companies.
Over the past decade or so, businesses have struggled to track customer phone call insights – where they came from or how they came to know about the company. This made it tough for a B2B business or a marketer to understand what attracts customers and where to allocate the resources to drive more revenue. Without phone tracking, you’re operating in the dark with no clue about customer behavior.
If you want to scale and continue to grow, you need to understand where those phone calls are coming from. For example, are they coming from organic search, PPC ads, Social Media, Affiliate Programs, or referrals? And this is where Session ID phone tracking comes to the rescue.
Every call you receive has a unique Session ID, which enables you to track everything about the phone call at the back-end. Because you know where your phone orders are coming from, you can now make logical business decisions.
Plus, you can integrate phone tracking with a 24/7 live chat service to accelerate customer service. Live chat’s quick response times and interactive features make it the perfect customer support channel. The industry is very competitive, and the more you close in on your customers’ preferences and develop deeper connections, the better.
7. Role-Based Access Controls
Have you ever wondered why someone was somewhere they weren’t supposed to be?
Role-Based Access control is how you can control what multiple users within the company can access on your B2B eCommerce website. There’s an admin who assigns duties to employees based on their roles within the organization and controls permissions to access the website.
For example, a store manager of the buying company’s procurement department can have full access to orders, coupons, review product setup, product-specific Search Engine Optimization, etc. Similarly, other roles such as manager and junior buyers can be configured to ensure transparent segregation of duties. A purchase manager can control orders, invoices, tax codes, etc., while the junior buyer will only have authorized access over purchase orders, quotations, prices, shopping lists, etc.
8. Minimum Order Quantities
In B2B eCommerce, inventory is the greatest asset. You need enough so you can meet demand, but not so much that you are unable to sell through it.
The process of purchasing inventory or raw materials isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. It is not enough to find a supplier who sells the right supplies at the right price – you should also find one that allows you to order an optimal amount of units.
It is for this reason that many manufacturers impose a minimum order quantity (MOQ) to get you to buy enough and make production cost-effective and profitable. A minimum order quantity refers to the fewest number of units you can order at once.
The MOQ term may seem complex to buyers, but it is a great prospect to sellers. There are a lot of eCommerce businesses that work with manufacturers who implement minimum order quantities, while some brands can impose their minimum spend thresholds via wholesale partnerships.
9. B2B Cost Center Locations
B2B eCommerce gets more complex as you grow. In eCommerce, large-scale sales mean higher profits and a more active supply chain, leading to increased fraud and misplacement risks.
Because of this, B2B eCommerce involves a process of application and approval for specific customer segments. To avoid unauthorized shipping addresses on checkout, some B2B sellers may want to restrict customers to a list of predefined shipping addresses.
B2B Cost Center Locations can help you do this. Using Cost Center shipping Addresses assigned to respective customer segments, you can keep track of the official locations of B2B customers. You can also limit orders to specific addresses assigned to customer groups and track orders by location. The B2B Cost Center Locations feature is one such feature for online stores that sell primarily to franchisees, employees, or other businesses.
10. Customer Segmentation
Most eCommerce companies go for the easy one-size-fits-all marketing strategy, only to find their messages going straight to spam folders. If you want your business to bring in revenue and wow customers, customer segmentation can help you get started.
As reported by Researchscape, close to 80% of marketers used customer segmentation to deliver tailored experiences to specific customer groups. The result was overwhelmingly positive: 64% of marketers reported improvements in customer experience, 63% in conversion rates, and 55% in visitor engagement.
Customer segmentation in B2B eCommerce helps you keep track of pricing, catalog, delivery, and payment operations and hide website controls from certain groups based on customer login details. In addition, advanced customer segmentation can help you personalize your branding and marketing strategies based on data on buying patterns, source types, browsing behaviors, and device preferences.
11. Third-Party Integrations
Third-party integration is an unskippable part for B2B eCommerce businesses. To fulfill several operational needs, businesses need third-party solutions like sales quoting software, Customer Resource Management (CRM), business intelligence tools, accounting software, email marketing, and many more.
Once integrated, the comprehensive system gives you streamlined multi-level processes for buyers and store admins. It becomes easier than ever to synchronize data across systems such as inventory, finance, order, manufacturing, etc. As a result, you minimize human intervention and get a consistent, enterprise-level view of all the business operations.
12. Dropshipping Options
Did you know that you can be an online office supplies dealer without demanding to stock over on products? With dropshipping, you can deliver products to your customers using a third-party supplier. This means you don’t have to worry about large capital investment in inventory or warehousing. And the best part is you can operate from anywhere without any physical ties to your products.
The only thing you need to do is keep a steady line of communication with your suppliers and customers. Unlike the traditional eCommerce model, you don’t have to worry about sourcing, handling, and shipping. As this whole process involves the suppliers, you have fewer logistical and staff maintenance problems. You can then work on several features mentioned above to customer support or website experience. In this way, you can scale up, and if you offer top-notch products and services, you will earn good profits along the way.
13. Request For Quote
The Request for Quote, or RFQ, is a marketing tactic that entices customers to send their requests for products or services to the seller. The seller then responds with a price quote, called an “invoice,” which is only valid until the expiration date.
The “Request a Quote” feature simplifies price negotiation by enabling transparent communication between you and your customers. On the other hand, businesses must make sure that the customer’s desired price is not too far from the price you have already set for that particular product/service.
In other words, RFQ provides an in-store feel to your eCommerce shop where customers have the luxury to ask for a quote for desired functionality, color, size of the product. This feature helps you compile a list of requirements to forward to the supplier and diversify the manufacturing process.
Overall, “Request For Quote” works like a lead magnet for your eCommerce store, converting visitors into loyal customers.
Your Next Big Step – Creating a B2C-like Experience for B2B Buyers
Now that you know what to look for in an office supplies online store, it’s time to walk the talk. Pay close attention to third-party integration and customer segmentation that will help you build a scalable system.
Don’t forget, however, that your B2B buyers are human beings, not faceless account numbers. Consider them as the same people who shop online in a B2C setup and expect a safe and personalized shopping experience.
A study by Forrester reports that 74% of B2B buyers conduct at least 12 online searches before making a purchase. So it makes sense to work on the branding aspect of your website and offer a B2C-like shopping experience to your clients.
B2B eCommerce is here to stay and evolve with each passing day. The idea is to stay top of mind with the customer and choose a solution that will generate results over time.
So, there you go. You have all the features you need to build an office supplies eCommerce store. Work on adding these features to your B2B online store builder, and you’ll be on your way to building a successful office supplies eCommerce business.