B2B automation: implementation and its pitfalls
Specialized online solutions allow one to improve the performance of a wholesale business and increase the sales department efficiency, with trading platforms, B2B portals for automation or any other e-commerce systems among such solutions. All business elements can thus be combined into one structure, which can be manually manageable from a single window or fully automatically.
Implementation of B2B automation: clear benefits
- Import or export of commodity content: performed automatically within a short period of time. Uploading both by item and of total amount of data in diverse formats.
- Product catalog, cart, prices, special offers with personalization.
- Personal account for every user with a full range of options, as well as automatic notifications of the order status, and pending items. An option to set different access levels.
- Product matching option, which is an automatic search for desired positions according to specific parameters, selection of relevant products with the determined characteristics.
- Client’s ability to place and pay for orders independently 24/7: an automatic sales funnel, making managers’ work 2-3 times faster due to freeing them from routine tasks.
- Electronic document management: creation, signature of all necessary documents online with no delay. Online interchange of documentation with counterparties who also have the EDI system installed.
- Integration with accounting programs allows one to continuously monitor changes in stock, movements of items, as well as to make reservations without leaving the general automation platform.
- Built-in analytics for automatic business reports.
- Marketing tools to track user behavior and create personalized email newsletters, special offers, promotions and other marketing activities.
- Other functions necessary for working effectively in the context of the modern B2B market.
B2B automation and its pitfalls
A company opting for automation and digitalization of its business makes the right choice. A long list of benefits that we listed above confirms it explicitly. However, B2B automation can have hidden traps for an ill-prepared firm.
Pitfall №1: Unprepared business processes. If sales department and accounting department employees are not mentally ready for changes, they will sabotage the implementation of the portal or trading platform in every possible way. It can be translated either into fully ignoring the new system, or in a slow transition to online solutions, as well as attempts to accomplish tasks the old fashioned way by organizing calls and personal meetings with clients, using only paper accounting forms (or Excel) instead of the full-fledged EDI solutions and manually collecting reports in contrast to downloading ready-made analytics from the b2b platform, etc.
Way to solve the problem: it is necessary to think about improving current offline accounting and sales systems before deploying automation and digitalization. One can reduce unnecessary connecting elements (e.g. elements of the process of receiving requests from customers), or rather adapt the accounting software to upcoming automation. One could also organize explanatory meetings about the effectiveness of digital transformation for employees so as to avoid possible confusion over the prospects and misunderstanding of its good impact, and as a result reduce the risk.
Pitfall №2: Attempting create a marketplace or a B2B automation portal on one’s own. No doubt, development from scratch has its advantages. For example, such a system can be fully customized to the needs of a particular enterprise, with only the most necessary and relevant options left. One should understand that it is a very long labor- and time-consuming process, which can take several months and not live up to expectations in the end. Your competitors may get much further in terms of automation and successfully increase sales and get your potential customers, while you refine your rough version of the online system, correcting mistakes or even starting at zero.
Way to solve the problem: in today’s rapid business world, it is better to give preference to ready-made e-commerce out-of-the-box systems. Launching the basic version of a trading platform or a B2B portal for automation takes from 7-14 days, it also requires a minimum of resources. After implementation, the system can be easily adapted to the needs of a company and scaled due to adding necessary business options. The process of the basic ready-made version is much easier because of the large number of modules to choose from and due to the fact that the vendor team is highly qualified. Needless to mention that such a solution eventually turns out to be much more profitable that customized development, particularly in the case with an affordable SaaS subscription.
Pitfall №3: Choosing a responsible person. One of the most common mistakes is to delegate the control over the deployment of a B2B automation system to whoever from the department involved in the project. Lack of motivation and understanding of the need to improve the efficiency of the sales department ends with disappointment at the implementation step in 99 cases out of 100. Even the most perfect B2B portal or marketplace isn’t safe from this, since the process of communication with the customer plays a significant role in the implementation process. That is why it is so important to carefully assign responsibility for implementation among company employees.
Way to solve the problem: the customer enterprise has to select a faithful employee who will be involved in the system development from the first days in advance. It would be ideal to set a KPI for this employee for his or her motivation.
Pitfall №4: Letting all clients start using the product without testing at once. The grand launching of a b2b system for all clients is a desired event for every company following the path of automation and digitalization. However, there can be another trap may lay in the fact that the system may require modification or integration of additional modules that you didn’t foresee at the stage of formulating your business strategy for software implementation. This is normal, and many nuances of interaction with real buyers are only seen in practice. However, it is better to avoid dissatisfaction within large numbers of buyers. There is also a tested method to do this.
Way to solve the problem: One can start with a minimum viable product (MVP) and provide for a testing period of a ready-made B2B portal or trading platform granting access to a certain circle of users (clients). This way, one can collect feedback and suggestions and calmly improve the system, adding modules if necessary. After that, one can grant access to the entire list of wholesale buyers, thus maintaining their loyalty. For instance, the AGORA B2B platform makes it possible to easily make a selection of access levels, including ones with personalization.
Pitfall №5: Rely on a developer unrelated to the field. The implementation of a B2B portal for automation or other complex solutions is fundamentally different from the development of a regular website. Even the most successful company creating retail web products may not understand the specifics of wholesale business automation systems at all.
Way to solve the problem: The answer is obvious, one should choose a vendor with knowledge of all details and nuances of B2B automation who also understands complex concepts of the interaction of all elements of the wholesale system.
The team of AGORA has been focusing on B2B automation and digitalization for more than 9 years now. We have more than 500 successfully implemented cases. Among our clients, there are large companies that have already appreciated the effectiveness of automation and launching wholesale sales online. The solution of AGORA is out-of-the box and can be quickly launched, it is also suitable not only for megacorporations, but also for small and medium-sized businesses.
If necessary, basic functionality can be expanded by adding desired modules, such as email marketing, a personal interface with a beautiful design in the Single Page Application (SPA) format, CRM, a marketplace model, etc. Apart from this, it is possible to create an exclusive solution adapted to the needs of a particular company and its corporate style.
A B2B portal or a trading platform is a great option for every business aspiring to automate its work. It allows one to perfect one’s sales department without spending a fortune.