B2B portal – Sales agent available anytime
What is a B2B sales platform? What are the differences between a B2C and a B2B online shop?
A B2B platform (or B2B Portal) is an online sales channel developed for distribution companies, importers or manufacturers through which they present or sell their products directly to retailers/resellers. Basically, B2B (Business to Business) e-commerce is where two companies trade online.
The role of a B2B portal is similar to that of a B2C (Business to Consumer) online shop because it presents the company’s products and services to customers. However the major difference is that it is aimed at businesses and not individuals. In addition, for each reseller customer, there are special commercial conditions already negotiated between him and his B2B portal provider.
In Romania, B2B platforms for online commerce are becoming increasingly popular, and this trend is also visible internationally.
B2B platform types (E-commerce Business to Business)
The B2B e-shop concept has evolved in several directions over time, depending on the specifics of the business that owns the platform:
B2B product sales or supplier oriented
HERMES B2B – B2B platform for manufacturers and distribution companies
This is the most popular B2B shop option because it connects the supplier and all its customers who need supplies. For example, an FMCG distributor, through the B2B platform, can allow any customer store to submit their supply order online, without the need for a field agent to personally go and collect the order from the customer. This circuit is valid for any kind of manufacturer, distributor or importer in relation to resellers (shops that sell products to the final customer).
B2B buyer/customer-oriented solutions
The big difference with the previous situation, where the B2b platform is owned by a single provider, is that here we have a B2B portal that is owned by several companies, who have decided to partner to promote their different products and services.
B2B independent platforms
There are also B2B platforms that are managed by a third party. They work as an intermediary because they provide a common platform accessible to both suppliers and end customers. An example from Romania would be Doraly platform.
B2B oriented towards selling services.
There are also B2B marketplaces where companies can offer their services to another company. For example, a construction company may use the services of a recruitment company through such a platform.
B2B hybrid portal
An e-commerce platform can be a complex network involving both B2B and B2C (Business to Consumer) relationships. Furthermore, it may involve specific B2B and/or B2C products, services and elements.
For example, eMag or Amazon are both B2B and B2C online shops.
In comparison, the oLx platform is a combination of B2B, B2C, but also C2C (Consumer to Consumer) because it allows businesses to transact with each other or with individuals, but at the same time allows individuals to transact with other individuals.
Basically, any marketplace that offers more than one business model (B2B, B2C or C2C) is a hybrid online sales portal.
e-Shop B2B vertically oriented
There are also B2Bs that are ultra specialised in a specific niche. Such B2B portals enable transactions between all segments of a single industry. Let’s say for a moment that we work in one of the following industries: Automotive, Pharma, Chemicals, Electronics, Building Materials, etc.
Such a B2B sales website will help us connect with all the businesses that can provide us with products and services related to our industry.
B2B horizontally oriented
Unlike vertical B2B portals, horizontal B2B portals connect suppliers and buyers from different industries around the world. B2B Alibaba marketplace is such an example.
How does a B2B online portal work?
Developing a B2B online platform integrated with ERP plays a key role in the strategy to grow direct sales to companies as it provides an excellent foundation for company expansion and sales growth without necessarily hiring additional people.
That’s why distribution companies often choose to create a B2B e-commerce website. Basically the distributor is the supplier company and the companies buying through the portal are the client companies.
B2B acts as an online showroom. In a B2B portal things work like this:
- The distributor or supplier company uses B2B to present its offer/catalogue/nomenclature of products and/or services it offers, together with stocks, prices and other details useful for the delivery and sales process.
- The customer company enters the B2B website and can place an order or a request for quotation. Each client company benefits from the preferential prices it has negotiated with the distributor, so the platform displays different prices and discounts for each customer depending on the contractual terms agreed between the parties.
The availability of products in stock is displayed in real time because the B2B platform is integrated with Transart’s ERP and synchronisation between applications is performed frequently.
There are credit limits for customers, and they can see their order history, invoices, balances, list price vs contractually negotiated price and so on.
Access to a B2B portal is usually secure and open only to business customers. Therefore, the company that owns the B2B portal will send its customers their registration details or allow them to create an account themselves, which will then be verified and approved by the supplier company.
Logging to a B2B platform with username and password Without logging in, you cannot see prices as there is only an option to request a quote, or you only see standard, list prices.
As I said above, there are some B2B platforms that are hybrid in the sense that their main focus is to sell to businesses, but they also take larger orders from individuals. B2B drinks shops in particular offer this option, but often impose a minimum order limit.
Some distributors also offer drop shipping through their platform. This means that a customer shop orders a product via B2B, but that product is delivered by the distributor/supplier directly to the end customer who can be an individual or a company. The product can be delivered either by our own distribution fleet or by courier.
The B2B e-commerce business has taken over many of the elements offered by a classic B2C online shop. Today, a B2B portal can have banners with promotions and discounts, images and detailed product presentations, product videos, loyalty points, discount coupon schemes, online support etc.
In which industries can a B2B platform be used sucessfully?
A B2B platform can be used sucessfully by any company that does distribution or manufacturing..
Some examples of industries that can use a B2B portal are: FMCG, Bakery, Pharma, Building Materials, Cosmetics, Tools and some, Industrial Equipment, Automotive, Medical Equipment, Auto Parts, Office – Stationery, Meat, HORECA Equipment, Plant Materials, Dairy, Winemaking, Veterinary Products and so on.
Why implement an online B2B platform? Advantages for distributors and manufacturers
Implementing a B2B e-Commerce platform brings gains for all parties, whether we are talking about a distributor, its customers or a manufacturer.
The B2B shop allows suppliers, whether distributors or manufacturers, to display their entire product catalogue online, along with images, details and whatever else is needed. On the other hand, customers can order quickly, at any time of the day, according to the details set out in the contract.
The advantages of B2B online sales are discussed at length in the next section.
Advantages and benefits of using a B2B e-Shop integrated with the ERP system
A B2B platform brings cost savings in many areas of a wholesale or manufacturing company’s business.
The fact that a customer has permanent access to stock and price data and can order on their own at any time of the day brings multiple benefits to the B2B portal supplier.
On one side, redundant activities such as confirming stock by phone, sending or taking orders by phone or processing them manually disappear.
The reduction in sales costs occurs because orders are entered by customers and go directly into B-Org ERP or Neomanager, the integrated accounting and management system developed by Transart.
Depending on the specifics of the dealer’s business, whether they have Pre-Sales, Van-Sales or both, they can make savings on fuel costs. Whereas before the distributor’s field agents had to visit each customer individually each time to take orders from location, using B2B any customer can order what they need on their own.
B2B particularly helps distribution companies in the following situations:
- have too many clients, too few field agents and fail to visit all clients in a timely manner,
- have few agents but want to expand,
- are businesses that expand quickly, and B2B allows them to scale more easily.
Customer loyalty. The role of experience in using the B2B portal
A B2B platform contributes significantly to customer loyalty. The fact that any of your customers can search through your entire product portfolio, filter or quickly find products by SKU code at any time creates a great customer experience.
User manuals and product specifications, pictures or videos may be available on the platform.
Your customer can see real-time stock status, stock clearance, new products, weekly discounts, promotions and campaigns. In a B2B platform they can also see when new stock is expected for certain products, place pre-orders – i.e. order even if the products are not yet in stock, compare product specifications or even set up a stock notification to be notified when a certain product is in stock.
Increase sales and customer numbers using B2B
The most important purpose of a Business to Business store is to help distribution companies streamline their sales teams.
B2B helps to grow business with the same number of agents and, with its help, you can open up new sales territories such as new counties to deliver to or even new countries.
Generations change and it’s important to stay relevant in the market. The younger generation wants to be able to place an order at any time, without having to depend on anyone.
This does not mean that the online B2B platform will replace field sales reps who will go out on visits to personally take orders from customers. The online part is an extension of the agent and a new sales channel that is permanently available to your clients.
If you create a hybrid B2B you can sell to both businesses and individuals (when ordering above a certain minimum threshold).
Access to reports
The best B2B platforms that are integrated with ERP provide access to information collected from the platform about customers and the products sold. These sales reports can be viewed in the platform, in a Business Intelligence tool or in the ERP system.
That data can help you quickly cross-sell and up-sell to customers.
A B2B platform significantly reduces human errors that can occur when taking orders. If you’re a distributor or manufacturer taking orders by phone, email, or fax you increase the possibility of mis-noting or mis-entering it into the ERP system and sending out different merchandise than what the customer requested.
Speed. Productivity. Efficiency. Optimisation. Automation through integration with ERP system
A B2B solution optimises order flows and operational costs through various automations. Therefore, using B2B-ul integrated with ERP:
- order management is easy with a few clicks;
- the sales-shipping-invoicing-collection cycle is reduced to a minimum because it reduces order fulfilment time and increases order accuracy;
- transparency is ensured for both supplier and customer
- Stocks are visible in real time, and when a customer orders, the products ordered are automatically reserved in management. Some B2B platforms allow for even greater granularity, so they show what product stock is available on each individual warehouse.
- filters and advanced search functions reduce the time it takes to submit an order
- the customer has all the information he needs directly in the B2B platform, both about products, stocks, prices, order status, balances, invoices and his customer file.
- Integration with the ERP or management system eliminates the effort of manually entering orders and the possibility of human error when manually processing orders.
- Customer data that registers in the B2B portal is also transmitted to ERP
- Commercial policies agreed with customers are automatically taken over by the B2B portal so that any new order takes into account payment terms, delivery times and discounts agreed with customers by contract.
- Price changes made in the ERP are also visible in the B2B portal in a very short time
- It’s a secure way to order for customers who can do it themselves, through the Self Service functionality of the B2B portal.
Security and flexibility
Access to the B2B portal requires a username and password, which provides increased security for users of the platform.
Depending on the type of customers, their sales volume, geographic location, type of approved discounts or market niche, different groups of customers can be created, with different prices and different access to the product portfolio.
For example, an FMCG retailer that distributes a wide range of food staples and alcoholic beverages will not develop a B2B platform for each of the customer niches it covers. Basically pubs aren’t interested in seeing 15 kinds of oil and flour when they come in to place an alcoholic drinks order. Similarly, those in the bakery industry are not interested in seeing how much a bottle of whiskey costs either, but enter the platform to order their raw material requirements to produce bread and pastries.
Each of these customers wants to be able to order as quickly as possible, which is why they can only be given access to product categories that are of interest to them.
Solves the human resources gap
Often the expansion of a company, especially a distribution company, is hampered by a lack of sufficient sales people.
Developing a B2B platform for online commerce with businesses can help increase sales without increasing the number of employees, no matter if it is Tele-Sales, Pre-Sales or Van-Sales sales agents.
The B2B portal can also be used as bidding software for consultative selling if such cases arise.