eCommerce - An optional extra or a vital business tool?

eCommerce - An optional extra or a vital business tool?

eCommerce has been part of the commercial landscape for many years, but it’s one of those terms that can mean a whole raft of different things to different people and refers to a number of technologies that make doing business online easier.

One useful distinction can be between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) eCommerce. It’s fair to say that until recently businesses selling to consumers have been quicker off the mark in adopting eCommerce, but now a Forrester Research report has predicted that the value of the B2B eCommerce market is set to become twice that of B2C. This makes the move to eCommerce a compelling proposition for any company with a predominantly commercial customer base.


Within the sphere of B2B eCommerce, there is a spectrum of what can be achieved…

  • At the comparatively simple end, it can refer to a customer portal – a secure online space, where your customers view your products and pricing, place their orders, check up on outstanding deliveries, and log any queries – all at time to suit them, not just when your customer service desk is open.

    The big attraction here is that if you can get customers to self-serve on routine transactions, you release time for helping them with any issues and exceptions.

  • At the other end is all-singing, all-dancing eCommerce with a strong brand presence and lots of options for the customer. These can include order pads showing their usual order, recommended alternatives for out-of-stock items and any special prices and promotions to encourage them to buy more. This keeps them hooked into your business as a supplier who understands and anticipates what they need.

    Mobile eCommerce takes this a step further by giving customers an optimised view of your eCommerce website from a mobile device.


Which route is right for you?

Whether you keep it very simple, or offer your customers a whole host of options, there are some common benefits to having an eCommerce site. The business gains from customers being able to submit orders out of hours, while offering this flexibility improves customer retention. With no staff required to enter orders, it minimises overheads and improves cash flow. As customers enter their own data, accuracy increases.

No wonder that eCommerce is rising up the corporate agenda, becoming a 'must-do' rather than a 'nice to have'.


So, where do you start?

Your eCommerce strategy will be influenced by the nature of your customers and your relationship with them, your product range and, of course, your budget.

Don’t forget: today’s business buyer is also a consumer. Accustomed to using whizzy websites, their expectations of B2B eCommerce are high. Certainly, if you can offer smooth navigation and an easy ordering experience, you'll improve your competitive advantage.

Datel works with several partners who can help you to plan and implement the right eCommerce approach for your business. Our customers report impressive results.

Please talk to your Datel Account Manager if you're evaluating your eCommerce options or would like to take your existing eCommerce operation to a new level.


Integrating front-end to back-office

It’s essential to bear one thing in mind: you need your customer-facing eCommerce website to link to your back-office systems. Otherwise, your customers will not have an accurate picture of stock availability and your staff will have to ‘hand-carry’ the data entered onto another system, losing the opportunity to save time and improve data accuracy. Updating your stock list, pricing or terms and conditions will have to be done in duplicate on the two separate systems.

For greater efficiency and a joined-up customer experience, integration is the only way to go. Datel customers can call on us for help in closely integrating their eCommerce operation and their back-office Sage system. Once again, your Datel Account Manager is your first port of call.

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