Whether you’re building a B2B online ordering platform from scratch, or you’re thinking of updating existing systems, it’s essential that you know what you’re looking for. But with so many different platforms available, and a seemingly endless list of capabilities out there, sometimes that’s easier said than done.
There are many off-the-shelf online ordering solutions available, but often these platforms don’t incorporate all the crucial functions that businesses rely on. For organisations with more complex needs, or companies looking to future proof their online ordering provision, it’s worth looking past off-the-shelf platforms and narrowing down the functionalities that really matter.
To make this job a little easier, we’ve compiled our ultimate list of functions for B2B online ordering platforms. Take a look at the list below and think about which ones would really make a difference for your business.
Maintaining an up-to-date product catalogue is hugely important when running any online business, but it can sometimes prove time-consuming. A great online ordering platform will take the hassle out of this long-winded task, by doing all of the hard work for you.
When considering which platform to use, concentrate on the capabilities of the platform with catalogue management in mind. Ideally you’ll want to control what products, categories, information pages and manufacturers’ information customers can access. Some platforms will also enable you to overlay your own descriptions and codes for each product – a great time-saving trick.
Approvals and permissions
No matter how big or small your business is, you’ll likely need different authorisation levels and permissions for your platform. Even if this isn’t something you’ll need initially, it’s a great idea to incorporate the functionality to prepare for growth in the future. Look out for platforms that offer multiple authorisation levels, with approval workflows which facilitate end-to-end spend and purchase management.
Sometimes it’s not as simple as a customer purchasing a product, paying for it and receiving it in the post a few days later. You might want to facilitate purchases via a points system, for a loyalty or reward scheme for example. For B2B businesses in particular, you may also need additional functionalities, such as account payments.
With pseudo currencies, you’ll be able to set up your online ordering system to enable consumers to place orders using points, allocations or on account payments. The same system will keep each company’s total spend confidential, and set controls on the total spends of individuals or organisations.
Multiple store views
If your business trades in several different marketplaces, you might require a different look and separate functionalities for each one. You might need a trade view, a customer-specific trade view and a consumer view. If you do, things can quickly get complicated. But online ordering platforms can make life a lot simpler. Specialist platforms enable you to manage multiple stores from a single system, so you can keep an eye on different areas of the business via one integrated platform.
Reordering/quick order functions
Businesses selling goods online have a small window of opportunity to convince consumers to commit to a purchase. So, the easier you can make it for them the better. Stores selling products that consumers are likely to purchase time and time again benefit from a quick reorder button, which enables consumers to place an order in just a few clicks. Look out for online ordering platforms offering this functionality – it’s worth its weight in gold!
If you set limits on permitted spends for individuals and organisations, then you’ll definitely need a platform which incorporates budget controls. With this functionality, you’ll no longer need to keep an eye on top spenders and warn individuals when they might be nearing their limit. The system does it all for you. Control spends with your own set budgets, and set them to auto-refresh over a period of your choice.
We’re now living in the age of big data. Information gathered via online ordering platforms is proving invaluable to businesses, helping to shape strategies and build companies. Top quality online ordering platforms will provide all the data you need to ensure your decisions are always as informed as they can be. Look out for platforms offering reporting on company spends by user, cost centre code, PO number, depot and department, product and more.
Sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach to pricing isn’t enough. If your business offers a range of prices for specific customer groups, you’ll need to ensure that your online ordering platform supports this. Platforms with this functionality enable you to set price tiers for different groups of customers, and offer promotions or discounts to certain audiences at the touch of a button.
Managing returns can be a costly and time-consuming exercise, but it’s a vital part of running an online business. It’s well worth looking into the returns functionalities of an online ordering platform before taking the plunge and signing up, because some offer more assistance in this department than others. Look out for platforms which allow users to manage the end-to-end returns process online, either through automated workflow or customer service communications.
Scalable, future-proof technology
No matter what your plans are for your business, it’s a good idea to think ahead when considering online ordering platforms. Some platforms might provide all the functions that your company needs today, but will they still work for you in five or ten years time?
The advent of cloud computing is just one example of how the online ordering industry has developed, and it’s worth bearing in mind when researching online ordering platforms. Another emerging trend is microservices architecture, and this is something that tech-savvy entrepreneurs will be keeping an eye on. Top online ordering platforms work seamlessly with new ways of programming.
Think about the future when you choose an online ordering platform, and make sure that your platform offers technology designed to scale at the same pace as your business. Consider whether the platform works with progressive web apps, and whether it will facilitate the newest, most innovative digital technologies that you might want to explore.
Fast and mobile responsive
Increasing numbers of consumers are now browsing products and making purchases via mobile devices, so it’s vital that stores enable customers to shop on the move. User experience is everything, and it can mean the difference between an abandoned shopping cart and a new loyal customer. Look out for PWA technology that provides your customers with a user-friendly, app-like experience on mobile devices. It’s essential if your company is to meet consumers’ growing expectations.
We all know that moving from one online ordering platform to another isn’t always a simple task. That’s why we recommend that businesses opt for platforms offering ERP integration. By doing so, you’ll be able to upgrade or integrate online ordering software with your existing IT infrastructure. If you need assistance during the transition, or you’d like the whole process managed for you, we can help. Talk to our team about ERP integration and we’ll walk you through the process.
Few things are as important as security, particularly for businesses handling customers’ financial information and personal data. It’s therefore vital that any online ordering platform you consider takes full responsibility for security updates, and always operates using the latest available software versions. Rule out potential risks by opting for a secure platform that puts the safety of its users first.
With hundreds of different online ordering platforms available, it’s not always easy to find the right one for your business. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to talk to us. We know all there is to know about online ordering platforms, and we’re here to guide you through the most important functionalities for your business.