A B2B commerce platform for an IT System Integrator or MSP is much more than just a webshop.
With a good platform, you not only provide a good customer experience; you also help to improve your sales results and achieve cost savings. So, higher margins! By digitalizing the entire process from customer to distributor and/or vendor, you can manage all the services you provide via one platform.
In this article, we explain what a B2B commerce platform of this type for an IT System Integrator or MSP looks like.
Research has demonstrated that purchasers increasingly prefer to procure their goods digitally. You do this by creating a personal portal for your customer. A portal in which the customer-specific prices and products are displayed. Because the market for government agencies & education (tenders) often imposes different requirements than the corporate market, the portal has to incorporate sufficient flexibility for it to be able to satisfy each customer’s wishes.
Larger customers increasingly expect to be able to place orders with the reseller direct from their own bookkeeping package (ERP). This is also known as an OCI link or Punch-out. A purchaser from one of the biggest data centers in the Netherlands stated that this type of link creates manpower savings of two to three FTEs, who would otherwise have spent all their time creating purchase orders.
Of course, the great thing about a personalized portal is that you can do a lot more with it than just place orders. You can also give your customer additional information such as his order history, backlog, and an overview of invoices. But also, information about the products he is purchasing and potentially instructions for use. Nowadays, this could be in the form of videos, rather than simply text.
You do have to ensure that the order flow via the (inside) sales team is also linked to the platform. So that there is a uniform and complete overview of all the customer’s activities in one place. If you keep the sales channels separate, then the picture remains fragmented, which can lead to irritation on the part of the customer.
By making smart use of the data that you collect in your platform, you can use personalized and segmented automated marketing campaigns to increase your turnover with up & cross-selling. Imagine linking high-margin products, such as cables, mouses, headsets to the sale of a laptop. You can automatically send personal emails for follow-up purchases. Links to mail-automation packages are no longer necessary.
Up till now, we have only talked about the front-end processes. Probably familiar to everyone from their business-to-consumer experiences. Experience gained there is being applied more and more in the B2B environment, whilst the personal portal is a good example, of course, of a pure B2B application.
However, it gets really interesting if we fully digitalize the back-end processes as well. Besides a link to your ERP system, there must also be a link to all your suppliers.
The bid advantage now is that orders which come in via the web portal can be passed on directly, without the need for human intervention. For large orders, it is possible to build in an additional check if required.
Because a product can often be acquired from a number of distributors, you probably want to select the distributor offering the most favorable conditions. This is possible with a smart commerce platform.
Another advantage of links to multiple distributors is that this increases the availability of products. If it is not in stock with one distributor, then it is probably available from one of the other distributors. Because customers increasingly expect immediate delivery as standard, you stop them from switching to another reseller.
Because the distributor has links to the vendor, the whole process from customer to producer is digitalized. In theory, it should now be possible to set up an information channel between the vendor and the end customer.
Many projects do not go ahead because they exceed the customer’s budget. Even though there is a real need to innovate. That is why the possibility now exists, besides paying ‘on account’, of arranging a financial lease contract. No quotation, because this may result in lower conversion because the customer may start looking around. So, a binding contract concluded digitally, whereby the reseller is paid directly from the funding source.
All things considered, it is therefore very important to think long and hard before investing in an e-commerce or B2B commerce platform. Don’t just focus on the front-end processes. By linking your (inside) sales to the platform as well, and by fully digitalizing the backend processes, you really will sell more, your costs will reduce, and you will achieve higher margins. But besides this, you place your customer at the heart of everything by offering him ease of ordering and a much better experience. No prizes for guessing where he will make his next purchase.
Maybe you don’t need all these functionalities yet, but because a lot of what is described above will become ‘par for the course’ sooner or later, it is important to choose a platform that is ready for this.
So: practice what you preach! Begin now with your own digital transformation and show your customers how, by the smart use of ICT resources, you can increase your turnover and margins and ultimately make your customer really contented in the process!