The B2B ecommerce industry is growing quickly. In fact, Forrester projects that B2B ecommerce sales in the U.S. will reach $1.8 trillion by 2023. To keep up with growing market demands and deliver experiences customers expect, many distributors and manufacturers have promptly deployed some kind of ecommerce experience. However, some B2B experts estimate that the rate of failure for these initial B2B ecommerce projects is somewhere between 75-85%.
But perhaps failure is a harsh term. If you’re a manufacturer or distributor who has already ventured into ecommerce, you are a few steps ahead of many of the B2B companies we hear from who have either ignored the need for ecommerce entirely or simply don’t know where to start.
So if you’re a B2B company that has a current ecommerce platform but feels the pain of issues like poor functionality, less than satisfactory customer support or poor integration to crucial business systems, it may be time to consider re-platforming.
But re-platforming sounds particularly daunting. Especially for manufacturers and distributors who invested ample time and resources in ecommerce the first time around. The truth is, sometimes re-platforming is a necessary evil. How do you know when the time is right to make the leap? Here are 7 signs you’ve outgrown your current platform:
1. Your basic ERP storefront is limiting you from building a modern, intuitive experience.
When many manufacturers and distributors venture into ecommerce they make the decision to attempt to use their ERP to drive ecommerce. This may seem like a good idea as all your critical information is stored there. However, ERPs are not built with a commerce core and the information in them was never meant to be customer-facing. ERPs are full of unique ID’s and custom navigation that means nothing to a customer. Onboarding to this experience is slow because as a buyer or researcher attempts to search for products, they find a sea of unfamiliar information. The ability to manage commerce is not core to an ERP storefront solution. A commerce-based solution that easily integrates with your ERP is a better option.
2. You’ve had to customize and extend your platform to accommodate basic B2B complexities.
There are many ecommerce vendors who got their start in B2C and are moving into the B2B space to get a slice of the “trillion-dollar industry” pie. These companies sell you on flashy front-ends and say they can do B2B, without taking you under the hood to show you they can accommodate complexities like workflows, customer-specific pricing and multiple ship-to locations, to name a few. If you’re a manufacturer or distributor who has invested in a B2C-based platform the solution is likely now so heavily customized it’s either obsolete or impossible to support because fundamental B2B functionality did not come out-of-the-box. Third-party reports by Analysts like Forrester can help you discern the true B2B leaders from the platforms more suited for B2C.
3. Every time you need to make website changes you have to contact a developer.
Some manufacturers and distributors elect to build a custom ecommerce solution. A home grown site isn’t always a bad idea, especially if you have a team of developers to support the site. However, if a business user or marketer wants to make updates or run campaigns or promotions, it’s not exactly efficient for them to have to work through a developer every time. An ecommerce solution built for B2B, that you can extend and customize for your unique business needs can better serve every person on your team.
4. Your ecommerce site is merely mobile responsive.
When it comes to mobile, a responsive website is no longer enough. A strong mobile strategy requires accommodating nearly, if not all, B2B commerce activity at the device level. B2B customers are demanding the same experiences they’ve grown accustomed to in their personal lives. As younger generations pour into the manufacturing and distribution industries, reliance on mobile devices will continue to increase in the workforce.
5. Getting in touch with customer support is next to impossible.
Many ecommerce vendors are setup to sell you their platform, implement it, then move on. If you’ve found that once you’re up and running the company that sold you the solution seems to be missing in action when you’re looking for support, it’s time to consider another provider. Your ecommerce provider should be a trusted partner for the life of your ecommerce site. Plus, they should have a team of implementation partners that know their software just as well as their team does and can help guide best practices, onboarding, marketing, SEO and more.
6. Important business systems are not speaking to each other.
As a manufacturer or distributor you have invested heavily in systems like your ERP, PIM, CRM and more. It is absolutely crucial that your ecommerce platform can integrate with these systems or you’ll end up with siloed systems and information.
7. The product roadmap is unclear or worse, your provider is sunsetting your solution without a market-ready replacement.
Your platform should be able to grow and scale with your business so you don’t have to re-platform again in the future. Your provider should consistently update you on new feature releases and plans for the product in the future. Perhaps worse than being uninformed, we’ve seen some manufacturers and distributors hit the panic button when they find out their software will no longer be supported. If that’s the case, most companies are forced to either upgrade to the new version, or choose a new provider all together.
Broken promises are frustrating and good help is hard to find. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Re-platforming is a big project, yes, but it reaps an abundant return if you approach it strategically. If you’ve had it with your current platform, consider making the move to Episerver B2B Commerce Cloud, or contact us to get a personalized demo. Episerver has seen more than 50 customers move off a solution that no longer appropriately suited them.