CROWhether you are entering the B2B eCommerce arena for the first time or looking to re-platform your existing site, you’ve got to make sure you are offering on-line customers the experience they want. With customer experience now surpassing price as a key differentiator, sellers must deliver on experience if they want to stay competitive.

However, not all platforms are keeping pace with these customer expectations. When evaluating a B2B eCommerce platform, look for these 13 must-haves to deliver an amazing experience.

Allow users to control their own permissions and access

Most B2B purchases involve multiple parties or teams and more than one approval authority. Allow your customer users to define their own permission levels, access, authorities, and approval levels to mirror their internal organization.

Bonus points if the platform can keep all the players (including you) informed as a purchase moves through the process. This can be in the form of notifications or emails.

The ability to set user permissions per account is what makes Amazon for Business so popular. You might not be Amazon, but your platform should have the ability to offer this feature.

Powerful and sophisticated on-site search

Millennial buyers use internet searches and vendor websites as their top two methods of researching products and services. And this key demographic is increasingly represented in the ranks of corporate buyers.

Once they arrive at your beautifully SEO optimized site, make sure they can quickly find the information they need. This is especially necessary if you have a large catalog of products or if your products are highly customizable.

Allow for search by product description, internal SKU, external UPC, or even product category or use. An intuitive auto-fill function guides buyers to the right products and improves the customer experience.

Today’s buyers want to get to the site, find what they need, and get on with the rest of their day. Remember, it’s a purchasing agent’s job to buy and its your job to make their job easier.

Provide easy re-order options

Speaking of making the job easy, once an order is placed, make sure that reordering is easy. Since many B2B buyers purchase the same items on a regular basis, you need to make the repurchase process as easy as possible.

Look for an eCommerce platform that allows for reordering from the purchase history as easy as a click or two.

Allow buyers to integrate with EDI and punch-out catalog technology. Accept the upload of CSV files or Excel spreadsheets for repeat purchases.

Automate the reorder process with autoship, push notification reminders, or email integrations.

Flexible workflow engine

Digitizing the workflow makes everyone operate more effectively and efficiently. That is unless the eCommerce platform defines how you must do the work and not the other way around.

A flexible workflow engine lets you define the workflow process. The software application should confirm to your business workflow, your business shouldn’t have to conform to the dictates of the application.

And as your needs change, a workflow engine lets you change the process easily while still taking advantage of digitalization.

Unlimited customized catalogs and price lists

Make sure your eCommerce platform doesn’t limit your ability to create customized catalogs and price lists. Since it’s common for each contract to have its own terms, conditions, and prices it should be simple to translate these into each customer’s online experience.

The ability to customize and personalize at the individual customer level is the hallmark of an eCommerce platform that can deliver a great customer experience.

Since no two customers are alike, their web experiences shouldn’t be alike either. And make sure that your large number of products, catalogs, and price lists don’t impact page load time.

Your eCommerce platform should deliver fast. Customers now expect a page load time of 2 seconds, but some may generously give you 3 seconds before they leave.

One page and guest checkout

Another feature buyers appreciate is one page checkout and guest checkout. Make sure the eCommerce platform you select allows you to offer both.

Don’t ask for more information than you need at checkout. Displaying all required checkout elements on one page is good psychology. Because buyers see everything on one page, it reduces the number of clicks and this translates in the buyer’s brain to a simple process. So, use the one-page checkout no matter what payment options you offer.

And give buyers the chance to checkout without creating a customer account. Not everyone wants to provide the information necessary to create an account. They prefer to buy with anonymity and if that’s their preference let them.

You may lose the opportunity to add them to your customer database with that first purchase, but by giving them the guest checkout experience they want, there’s a good chance they will be back again.

In-depth product information backed by strong CMS

Buyers want as much product information as you can give them. This can be in the form of web pages, downloadable brochures, product usage PDFs, MSDSs, and how-to videos. Make sure the platform has a CMS that handles multiple media forms.

And when it comes to the CMS, you want to make sure that it is as easy to use as possible. It shouldn’t require the services of a developer or designer to create a landing page. Look for a platform with a CMS that’s intuitive, features drag and drop elements, and a WYSIWYG interface that is as easy to use on a mobile device as it is on a desktop or laptop.

Real time inventory

Don’t wait until the order is placed to let the buyer know the item is out of stock.

B2B purchasers are looking for increased transparency into your supply chain. Show them what you have and if you don’t have it, let them know when you expect it to be delivered.

This is especially important for products that are sold in bulk.

It’s good for your website to say a product is in stock, it’s even better to say you’ve got 273,496 of the item in stock and ready to ship today. Look for a platform that gives you this ability.

Localization for global operations

If you operate in multiple countries, look for an eCommerce platform that lets you localize.

Localization will let your webpages display the products available for sale in a specified area. In addition, the language, currency, and shipping options will be customized for that country as well. For example, if you are a US-based company that wants to expand to the EU, the eCommerce platform should have the ability to detect the user’s location and if the user is in Normandy France, the site will display products approved for sale in the EU in the French language, display prices in euros, and provide shipping options for France. If the user is in Normandy, Illinois then the site serves up pages in English that display products approved for sale in the US with prices in dollars and domestic shipping options.

Using this feature of your eCommerce platform is much less expensive than standing up a separate website, much less a field office.

Flexible deployment

Your eCommerce platform may easily and safely reside in-house on your own private servers today but that might not be the case in the future.

Look for a solution that lets you deploy on-site, in a private cloud, or with the vendor’s cloud.

The more flexibility you have in the deployment model, the better you can future proof your company.

Beware, most SaaS solutions won’t license the software for deployment on your own server. So, you’ll be locked in to one deployment model that gives you little control.

Ability to handle multiple front ends with a single backend

Today you may create a website that includes all your brands and in six months decide each brand deserves its own site and marketing approach.

Make sure your eCommerce platform supports your ability to operate multiple storefronts from a unified backend. It will save you considerable money compared to paying for a license for each website you create.

In addition, it simplifies the admin function as there is one source of truth for all websites across the company. Finally, a unified backend makes total digital integration that much easier. Instead of multiple integrations with the ERP or WMS you only need to worry about one.

Traditional or headless architecture

Because your needs will change in the coming years, make sure your eCommerce platform will grow, scale, and evolve with you.

Look for a solution that supports a traditional architecture or can be used to build a headless architecture to bring multiple sites together under one roof.

For companies with an eye to growth through acquisition, this ability is doubly important as you will need to incorporate legacy systems into your current architecture.

Easy and seamless integration with robust API

This must have may be listed last, but it should sit at the top of your list. This is far from a “nice to have” it’s mission critical.

Your eCommerce platform must be able to seamlessly integrate with your CRM, ERP, PIM, WMS, 3PL or any other business solution you currently use.

Data should flow freely so that all systems are kept in sync.

If the eCommerce platform you are considering won’t slip like a chameleon into your existing architecture set it aside and keep looking.

In 2021, B2B buyers want an amazing customer experience online. If you’re going to meet their expectations, you’ll need an amazing website.