B2B e Commerce Services: What to Expect from a SaaS Provider

Chris Layne
March 21, 2019

When it comes to a business function as important as receiving orders from your customers—the #1 driver of wholesale revenue—you cannot afford to be working with a B2B e Commerce services provider that doesn’t measure up.

Working at Handshake as an Account Executive, I speak with wholesale distributors—on a daily basis—who are looking to trade in their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) B2B e Commerce vendor for a provider that is more capable to handle their specific business needs. Businesses that have to back-pedal and replace their B2B ordering systems with more intuitive solutions, however, end up wasting more time and resources than they would have otherwise, if they got it right the first time.

B2B e Commerce Services: What to Expect from a SaaS Provider

When it comes to finding the right SaaS B2B eCommerce provider for your business, make sure they offer the following services:

  1. A robust platform that’s intuitive for B2B and your business’ ordering intricacies

  2. Onboarding, professional services, customization, and ongoing customer support

  3. Frequent software updates to keep up with important industry trends and expectations of your wholesale customers

Ensuring these services are offered by your SaaS provider is the key to your business getting B2B e Commerce right from the get-go.

1. B2B e Commerce Services: Start with a Robust B2B Platform

First things first - the B2B e Commerce services provider you choose must offer a platform that is built specifically for B2B processes, and is able to flex to your company’s specific requirements.

Time and time again, I’ve listened to the frustrations of wholesalers who have been let down by B2C platforms that are retrofitted for wholesale purposes. These types of SaaS providers make platforms that are great for end consumers, but do very little to reduce operational strains and enhance sales processes in the wholesale B2B use-case.

A robust platform that’s built specifically for B2B ordering, however, takes the full wholesale sales process into account.

Among the most important services enabled by an e Commerce provider that specializes in B2B is the ability to personalize the entire buyer experience. This includes customer-specific:

  • Pricing - Suppliers need to be able to manage the backend of their B2B e Commerce platforms and place their buyers into various pricing brackets. With individual login information, you can be sure that your B2B buyers are only seeing the prices offered specifically to them.

  • Products - Unlike the B2C-world, B2B suppliers often segment the products available to certain wholesale customers based on a range of logistical factors (i.e., cost to serve, region, legislative restrictions, etc.). Therefore, it’s crucial that your SaaS vendor can offer this type of service in their platform.

  • Promotions - Like pricing, wholesale distributors often offer specific promotions to individual buyer, or buyers within a specific customer group. These promotions can be extremely complex, and are often too much for most B2B e Commerce service providers to handle.

This recent blog post goes into more personalizations to consider when looking at the services provided by competing vendors.

Prioritize the personalizations and requirements that are most important for your wholesale business, and keep this list handy as you study up on the services provided by the various SaaS vendors you’re considering.

2. B2B e Commerce Services: Look for a Customer-Centric Provider

Technology can accomplish a lot but, at the end of the day, a successful B2B e Commerce implementation still requires some human interaction. Since every wholesale business is different, you’ll want to be sure your B2B e Commerce provider offers personal, hands-on customer service.

From initial setup to regular product maintenance, look for the following services from a B2B e Commerce vendor:

  • Onboarding assistance - As you vet B2B e Commerce service providers, be certain to ask about their onboarding processes. The right vendor will have a dedicated Onboarding team that can teach you how to set up your portal and enable turn-key integrations.

  • Help with complex integrations and customizations - For more complicated integrations, and to build out your specific customizations and business rules, look for a vendor with a Professional Services department. This team should be able to handle custom API integrations to specific ERP and other back office software that is outside of the scope of an average B2B e Commerce provider.

  • Ongoing customer support - As with any new software launch, your team may require some extra support as they get used to the new online ordering process. To help you through, the vendor you choose must have dedicated staff for fielding your specific questions when the software doesn’t seem to be behaving properly.

Ultimately, this all boils down to finding a SaaS provider with good customer service. If you do your homework ahead of time and ask the right questions, you’ll end up with a B2B e Commerce vendor that prioritizes your needs (your sales, customer service and back office staff will thank you for it!).

3. B2B e Commerce Services: Ensure Scalability & Long-Term Performance

Of course, no one wants to invest in software that they’ll have to replace in two years. B2B e Commerce is still a relatively new industry—with customer expectations evolving daily—so you need to be sure your B2B e Commerce service provider can keep up with growing trends.

You’re on the right track, as SaaS vendors are more capable of scaling growth than other, more static B2B e Commerce options, but be careful to find a provider that also:

  • Does their own research - You need a B2B e Commerce services provider that is constantly learning and sharing industry trends. This type of proactive approach will ensure that they are adapting the services they offer you, based on the most recent industry information.

  • Solicits and listens to feedback - SaaS B2B e Commerce providers should be very good listeners. With a helpful and easy-to-reach customer support team fielding questions and prioritizing ongoing product engineering projects, you’ll be set up with a B2B portal that continues to grow and learn—and meet your expectations—over time.

  • Has the expertise you require - You’ll also want a vendor that is an expert in your industry, and in B2B e Commerce in general. Make sure you choose a provider that has successfully serviced others in your industry and has been working in the B2B space for a while (beware of B2C vendors that are trying to break into the wholesale game, with you as their guinea pig).

B2B e Commerce Services: Don’t Settle for a Sub-par Solution

B2B e Commerce is one of the most important investments in your company’s future, so it’s not a decision that you’ll want to make lightly.

The B2B e Commerce services provider you choose should 1) have a robust B2B-specific platform that meets (or exceeds) your specifications, 2) recognize the importance of your business with a thorough customer support process, and 3) have an open ear toward industry trends and your business’ pain points.

If you follow my advice in this blog post, you’ll be well on your way to finding a B2B e Commerce solution that suits your company perfectly.

And, if you're curious about the B2B e Commerce services Handshake provides, I’d be happy to hop on a phone call with you! Submit a demo request form so we can connect and figure out if Handshake is the right choice for you.