Three core steps to transform B2B for experience-driven commerce

Oct 1, 2018 | 13:56 PM

Experience-driven commerce is top of mind for many businesses. But while B2C companies have been quick to merge content and commerce strategies to enrich customer experiences, B2B companies have tended to lag behind.

Yet B2B brings huge potential. Forrester Research estimates that cross-border B2B ecommerce transactions will reach USD 1.2 trillion by 2021.

How are B2B companies catching up with their B2C counterparts, in a digital world where consumers are spoilt for choice and where customer experience is measured up against that offered by the likes of Amazon and Google? Here are three core steps to transform your operations for experience-driven commerce and a look at how B2B IT supplier Bechtle achieved this.

1. Rethink your information architecture and modernize your B2B e-commerce software for the digital world.

Many B2B sites are still difficult to use, with conventional user interfaces. They were often developed from enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and were not designed with the end customer’s digital experience in mind. In some cases, customers might be confronted with lists or spreadsheets of stock-keeping unit (SKU) numbers and quantity fields, instead of product names or images.

Learn from successful B2C sites: Offer easy-to-use navigation with a clear site structure, effective site search that quickly delivers relevant results, easy order and purchase processes, user-friendly shipping terms and options.

One of Bechtle’s goals was to replace its legacy system, which had grown organically and consisted of monolithic sub-systems, resulting in high maintenance costs and low agility. Using a Kubernetes infrastructure, it created a digital platform that’s technologically driven, agile and future-ready.

2. Redesign your product information and create value-added content.

While B2C commerce is often about selling lifestyles or promoting brand names, B2B works best when it makes the customer’s job easier or saves time.

Deliver the same level of experience as a B2C site, but tailored to your B2B customer needs: Make sure the pricing displayed on your website is accurate, as this can differ for each corporate account based on contractual agreements. Offer different payment options relevant to B2B customers, such as payment on credit terms.

Bechtle chose Magnolia as its content management system (CMS) and Neofonie as its implementation partner. Magnolia can be seamlessly integrated with other systems and Neofonie could easily implement Bechtle’s requirements and customizations, due to Magnolia’s open architecture.

“Magnolia’s content apps suited Bechtle’s content-driven workflows,” said Rudolf Ladewig, Head of E-Procurement, Bechtle Direct. “They enable the versatile re-use of content in multiple formats and channels.”

3. Seamlessly integrate your systems for omnichannel sales.

Connect your digital and offline channels to build holistic customer journeys: Integrate your e-commerce site with your CRM system. When a customer takes an action on your site (e.g. selecting an item but not completing the purchase, or downloading a certain piece of content), create a notification in the CRM to alert the sales team to follow up with the customer, online or offline.

Bechtle took a vertical approach and integrated its sub-systems for content, commerce and search in the delivery layer. At the base of this approach was the easy integration of Magnolia CMS, using REST, with e-commerce system SAP Hybris, which provides omnichannel shop functionality out-of-the-box, and with self-written microservices such as for search, which uses ElasticSearch in the back-end.

“There is no leading system in this microservices architecture,” said Maik Lieweries, Head of Web Application & Integration, Bechtle AG. “Each sub-system delivers relevant content: In Bechtle’s case, Magnolia CMS delivers the marketing and corporate content, while SAP Hybris and specific microservices deliver product details and shop functionality.”

Mixed content sites use fragments from each sub-system, e.g. a landing page features product information from SAP Hybris, but then pulls content headers and footers from Magnolia CMS. All the elements work together to create one experience for customers.