Industry News




11/16/2011

Facility Managers: What to Look for in a B2B e-Commerce Solution

By Laura Brooks

 
B2B-E-Commerce

Laura Brooks is the vice president of business-to-business e-commerce for Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.

Consumers and professionals alike are turning more frequently to the Web to explore products, pricing and potential purchases.

As e-commerce becomes more ubiquitous across all facets of life, facility managers are looking to business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce sites to provide the same navigation, search and product features of a consumer site along with the professional products and solutions for their job.

All B2B e-commerce sites are not created equal and a hasty decision can lead to frustration, lost time and squandered resources.  Facility managers should carefully consider the features and benefits of a site to determine if it meets their needs and those of the organization as a whole.

The most important attribute that facility managers should look for in a B2B e-commerce solution is a full assortment of the products needed to do their job. By providing a complete selection of equipment and products − from cleaning products to chemicals and equipment − facility managers can easily choose or re-order the items they need quickly and efficiently. 

Make sure the site can accommodate a range of business functions across the company by providing office supplies, technology, furniture and other business essentials in addition to facility products.

A great B2B e-commerce solution should allow facility managers to consolidate suppliers and coordinate shipments for multiple locations. The site should be flexible enough to enforce the contracted product assortment and pricing by displaying only those items. Another great feature to look for is a site that remembers individual site visitors and customizes content so that it’s relevant to their needs.

Other features to look for in a B2B e-commerce solution include:

Usability – Ensure the site is user-friendly for all employees and makes it easy to get what they need that’s on contract. Look for a B2B e-commerce solution that’s intuitive and offers training videos, guides and helpful tips for using the site as well as ample customer support services.

Faster navigation – Today, people expect websites to provide instant gratification. Make sure the site you choose can help users quickly find the products they need. Even better, check if previous orders or frequently purchased items are displayed on the home page to make re-ordering easy.

Product recommendations  – Not only should a great B2B e-commerce site deliver exactly what the user needs, it should also offer relevant alternatives that meet the company’s goals such as sustainability or supplier diversity. Further, the site should be able to narrow product search results by specific attribute filters such as size, price, color and other unique characteristics.

Side-by-side comparisons – The B2B e-commerce solution should allow users to compare multiple products at the same time so they can weigh the pros and cons of various items and select the right product for their facility.

Ability to customize – A best-in-class e-commerce solution will be able to seamlessly integrate with your company’s existing infrastructure and work flows. Look for a provider that can personalize the content and enhance the overall website experience by incorporating company logos, branded imagery and language so that the site looks and feels like a natural extension of your company.

Business focused – Finding and purchasing products shouldn’t be the only benefit of a B2B e-commerce solution, it should also offer reporting tools to help decision makers analyze procurement needs and how money is being spent.  These resources can yield helpful insights that inform smart business decisions and save the company money.

When selecting a B2B e-commerce solution, it is important for facility managers to keep in mind what attributes will make it easier for them, and their staff, to do their job and find the right products for their building. Facility managers should also consider how a solution can benefit not only the individual department, but also help the entire organization to consolidate suppliers, drive procurement efficiencies and achieve cost savings.

The best B2B e-commerce site will offer solutions for the entire organization.


 

 
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