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    The 10 Things Every Business Should Know About B2B E-commerce

    It’s certainly no secret that more and more business is being conducted online each day. Consumers expect products and services to be instantly available, comparable and configurable to meet their needs online. The Web provides consumers with the instant results and fulfillment they demand from their shopping experience. But e-commerce is not strictly for B2C purchases; B2B customers have come to expect the same speed and simplicity associated with buying online.

    While B2B e-commerce isn’t a new concept, its adoption rate has lagged. Many organizations could benefit greatly from adoption of a B2B e-commerce platform and BigMachines has identified a few tips to consider before doing so.

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    Click through for 10 tips business should consider before adopting a B2B e-commerce platform.

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    Can your grandmother make a purchase from your website? Can your 12-year-old? With more users online than ever before, be sure that e-commerce processes are simplified. Easy-to-follow guided selling, interface personalization and enhanced search features, as well as simple checkout processes are must-haves for intuitive B2B e-commerce experiences.

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    At its core, e-commerce translates into instantly available, comparable and configurable products and services. With price quotes, contract renewals and comparisons available at the business user’s fingertips, B2B e-commerce opens up new opportunities for companies to initiate the buying process. Business consumers no longer need to be waited on, but can instead research the products and services they require – information which is also immediately available to the sales team.

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    They say a picture is worth a thousand words – but a lack of product images can be worth a lot more if you lose a sale! With images, the business buying process becomes a dynamic shopping experience. Through the use of images, video and even CAD integration, B2B e-commerce allows for a new dimension in product evaluation. Would you buy a car without first seeing what it looks like? Why should business procurement be any different?

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    Adding e-commerce functionality can increase new sales opportunities, but current customers can also benefit. B2B e-commerce allows for customized profiles, which upon logging in, provide customers with recommended products, click-of-a-button re-ordering, and contract renewal options. With easy-to-update admin capabilities, pricing and discounts stay connected with customer profiles to ensure customers keep coming back.

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    B2B e-commerce should work for you and your customers, allowing for a variety of payment options and multi-currency, as well integrating with your ERP and CRM systems. Fully leverage previous IT investments and never sell an out-of-stock product or an invalid configuration, no matter what.

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    When you are ready to add e-commerce, beware of creating a barrier between customers and sales reps. E-commerce should create a new platform for customers and your sales team to connect — include pictures, bios and click-to-dial functionality into customer portals to allow them to stay in touch with their rep.

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    Your e-commerce host should be SAS 70 Type II-certified to ensure effective controls, standards and infrastructure are in place to protect your data. In addition, your e-commerce tool should be certified under U.S. Department of Commerce Safe Harbor requirements if your organization does business in Europe.

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    You can’t improve if you don’t know how well you are actually doing. Measure everything. How many people visit your B2B e-commerce site? What is driving them there? Where do they go on the site? Do they purchase? If not, then where do you lose them? Watch the metrics carefully if you want to learn and improve. Dashboards are a great visual tool for real-time, easy-to-digest performance measurements.

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    If you want your customers to buy, you need to understand what they need and how your products and services can address those needs. That’s pretty basic. If they are buying online, you can track how they shop, what they look at, and what they ultimately buy. By understanding their needs and their shopping patterns, you learn to be more successful with your B2B sales.

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    Make sure your platform is easy to update and supports the latest technologies. Look for a vendor with a solid track record of delivering innovation and customer satisfaction. The market WILL change – make sure you can change with it to stay on top.

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