Tackling the Complexities of B2B Product Configurations and Pricing in B2B Ecommerce Solutions (Part 3)
There is a growing trend for B2B manufacturers to use intelligent B2B ecommerce solutions to automate and personalise online purchasing for their customers. Providing a B2C-style buying experience to B2B customers can deliver tangible benefits including cost reductions, increased efficiencies, improving customer loyalty and increasing average order values.
Part 1 of our CX blog series highlighted the reasons why manufacturers need a CX System? Part 2 discussed why design-led CX is becoming the next big thing for B2B manufacturers. In this 3rd blog, we tackle the unique complexities and challenges for B2B manufacturers compared with B2C retailers.
Product configurations can be complex, as can pricing. Stock and make-to-order pricing complexities are often based on sales arrangements specific to that customer, with the manufacturer requiring B2B ecommerce solutions that are able to facilitate bespoke contract pricing and credit terms as well as buyer segmentation.
It can be challenging to combine systems and transfer data to the B2B customer portal. So, it’s key to have a CX platform that can unify data from different systems and present the manufacturer’s make-to-order products and their broad portfolio in a way that’s both easy for the customer to interact with and purchase, yet also easy for the manufacturer to upload and keep on top of.
It is now possible to get a CX system that integrates with the manufacturer’s ERP platform. For example, the CX solution, SAP Commerce Cloud, pulls data from the SAP ERP system to make it possible for customers to self-service even with configurable products and still get accurate pricing. This can be made specific to a customer, using AI to provide a discount if appropriate and applying personalised contractual terms to a sale. By defining rules and automating the configuration and pricing processes, manufacturers can ensure consistency, as sales agents are no longer making different interpretations of the pricing structure.
Clearly, customisation of both products and pricing is something a B2B ecommerce solution must be able to provide. It also needs to cope well with the sheer volume of products. Manufacturers often have large product catalogues and can struggle to maintain large volumes of product and website data. This can lead to the B2B manufacturer only being able to display a small range of their broad product portfolio.
If a B2B ecommerce solution can make it easy to enter and maintain a large product set, manufacturers can make significant profits by selling low volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers online. These long-tail items rarely get attention, but organisations can make large margins on them. Getting products online, including all the long-tail items, needs to be easy, but CX for a B2B manufacturer must also have capabilities to present the information intuitively. Customers need to find what they need quickly. Customers also want to be able to search at any time from any device and using search terms that make sense to them, in their natural language. Just as they do when B2C buying through Amazon and similar user-friendly sites. Other CX functionality we recommend having is auto-completion while the customer is typing their search words, spell-checking, auto-correction and synonyms.
With hundreds of thousands of products on the B2B customer portal, there needs to be a fast way of drilling down into the right product. A good filtering function can help with this but if a customer enters ‘washer’ into the search bar, they are likely to get an overwhelming amount of entries so they need to quickly see something they recognise. Advanced CX solutions can show an exploding diagram of the main product and display associated SKUs, such as spare part washers. The customer can then click on the relevant part and the CX automatically adds it to the basket. Intelligent functionality like this makes small parts easy to locate and buy.
As well as making product searches easy for the customer, CX can increase revenue for the manufacturer. Boost functionality can display a specific product at the top of search results under certain criteria, and give more weighting to products based in a certain category. The customer can see promotions relevant to their search ‘in the moment’ to encourage upsell and cross-sell.
When selecting B2B ecommerce solutions, manufacturers must also consider its ability to scale and to present different product sets across multiple countries in multiple languages. It is crucial that CX enables B2B manufacturers to sell their products and services across the world and can cope well with a huge amount of data.
Watch the session “Learning from Experience: B2B Commerce in Manufacturing” to hear more about CX challenges facing the Manufacturing sector.