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Unlocking B2B Commerce Transformation Secrets

Discover the intricacies of B2B commerce transformation and learn how to navigate them successfully. Explore key considerations, implementation approaches, and expert guidance for sustainable growth in the digital age.

Kyle Dreyer - VP Delivery Operations

Over the past few years, the B2B commerce landscape has rapidly evolved as buyers expect seamless digital experiences akin to the consumer world. For B2B companies, adapting to this digital transformation is no longer optional–it is imperative for staying competitive and driving revenue growth.

However, B2B commerce brings unique complexities that set it apart from the B2C space. From intricate pricing models to sophisticated  order approvals, B2B transactions are undoubtedly  more complicated for both buyers and sellers. As a result, companies attempting B2B commerce transformation often hit roadblocks due to a lack of expertise and proper planning.

This is where finding an experienced guide can make all the difference. By taking a thoughtful, strategic approach and leveraging trusted advisors, B2B organizations can overcome the hurdles of creating a commerce-centric digital transformation. The path forward begins with understanding your customers (and engaging with a select few in the process!), understanding your organizational readiness, and plotting a pragmatic roadmap focused on long-term success.

In this guide, we will explore the considerations for B2B leaders seeking to transform their buying experience–from assessing the imperative for change to building a robust commerce platform. By approaching this journey with openness, patience, and the right partners, companies can pave the way for sustainable growth in the digital age. The first step? Recognizing the need for change and seeking the right partner for the project.

Understanding the B2B Commerce Complexity

B2B commerce brings fundamentally different challenges compared to the B2C space. While consumers simply add items to an online shopping cart and check out, B2B buying involves much more intricacy.

Some unique complexities of B2B transactions include:

  • Custom Pricing Models: B2B pricing relies on volume discounts, negotiated rates for specific accounts, demand-based pricing algorithms, and more. Keeping track of these moving parts is operationally intensive.
  • Complex Payment Options: B2B experiences need to handle a more complicated payment process than B2C sites. In addition to potentially offering Credit Card, ACH, or digital wallet payments, all organizations allow customers to purchase by a Purchase Order. This implies that during checkout, the system the credit status of that customer. Many times there are rules and / or exceptions to this that necessitate interactions in real-time with back end systems. 
  • Customers Buying Process: Organizations cannot control how their customers purchase. In many cases, their customers need to create a Purchasing Requisition or a Purchase Order in order to have approval to spend the funds. Often, these customers then view buying on an online purchasing site as “double entry” — and they are understandably resistant. Other times, customers simply want to email an order form. There are many answers to these challenges - such as Punchout, RPA Automation, or 3rd parties that solve for these complexities. There is always a way to meet your customer where they are at - it just requires knowledge of how they buy and proper planning.
  • Buying vs Shopping: B2C retailers have an incentive to have their customers browse - or “shop”. In the B2B world, many times - though not always - the customers know what they need and simply want to checkout as soon as possible.
  • Higher Complexity Fulfillment Network: B2B organizations tend to have a more complicated fulfillment network. They may be required to receive parts from a supplier in order to build their finished good and this necessitate understanding their buying timeline from those suppliers. Alternatively, most B2B organizations do not want to show that an item is out of stock, but rather what the ATP (Available to Promise) would be for that item.

The combined effect of these challenges takes a heavy toll on both customer experience and operational efficiency if all of these orders are handled manually. Customers get frustrated with convoluted ordering processes. Meanwhile, sellers struggle to reconcile orders, process payments on time, and keep track of pricing variations.

Without addressing these B2B-specific complexities, commerce transformation efforts quickly run into roadblocks. Rethinking processes with customer convenience in mind is key, along with choosing technologies capable of handling intricacies at scale.

The Imperative for a Digital Storefront

The time has come for B2B companies to seriously pursue digital commerce channels. Buyers increasingly expect seamless, self-service experiences regardless of whether they purchase for a business or as a consumer. The following statistics highlight this necessity:

  • 72% of B2B buyers expect B2B sites to have the same level of functionality as B2C sites.
  • 60% of B2B buyers switched providers in order to get a better online buying experience. 
  • 75% of B2B buyers prefer digital self-service over sales rep interactions when researching purchases. 

Clearly, digital transformation is no longer optional for B2B companies — it is imperative for survival. Those who fail to deliver convenient online buying risk losing customers to forward-thinking competitors.

An online B2B commerce storefront powered by e-commerce technology, such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, brings tremendous benefits, including:

  • Faster Order Processing: Reduce manual steps by allowing customers to purchase online.
  • Improved Satisfaction: Give customers control with self-service capabilities including a connected platform to deliver a holistic customer experience across commerce, support, and marketing information.
  • Enhanced Sales Efficiency: Optimize sales rep time towards complex transactions. Allow your sales team to focus on the highest value customers!
  • Revenue Growth: Reach new markets and customers through digital channels
  • Competitive Parity: Match what buyers now expect as a standard experience

With buyer behavior rapidly evolving, laggards risk extinction. To remain relevant, a digital shift to e-commerce is vital for B2B players seeking to thrive in modern markets. The time to embrace digital is now.

Getting Started: Laying the Foundation

Once leadership commits to implementing B2B e-commerce, laying the right foundation is key during the initial planning stages. This entails clearly identifying your requirements, resources, and current-state processes. Some key questions to address upfront:

Business Needs

  • What are your target markets - both geographically and customer segment?
  • What features will allow you to drive both operational efficiency and revenue growth?
  • How will new customers be onboarded and contracted?
  • What payment methods do customers need (credit card, ACH, PO, terms)?

Technical Considerations

  • How will the platform integrate with ERP, inventory, shipping, tax, and other backend systems?
  • Can any legacy systems be consolidated as part of the implementation?
  • What types of reporting and analytics are required?


  • Who will own and manage the e-commerce platform long-term from a business perspective? IT perspective?
  • What budget has been allocated towards implementation, ongoing operations, and future enhancement?

Current State Process Mapping

  • Document existing workflow steps involved in account management, order management, pricing approvals, billing, collections, etc.
  • Identify pain points across workflow steps from your team's and customers' perspectives.

Investing diligently upfront to understand requirements, resources, and processes will pay major dividends later. It ensures you have executive alignment on scope, surfaces any constraints early, and enables mapping the future state vision.

In parallel, partner with an implementation expert to translate the vision into an actionable roadmap. They will bring best practices from years of specialization in successfully guiding B2B commerce transformations end-to-end.

Key Components of Your B2B Commerce Platform

Successfully implementing a B2B commerce platform requires bringing together a range of integrated components that collectively enable a seamless buying experience. Core elements of the technology stack include:

  • Product Information Management: Centralized repository containing product catalogs, pricing data, descriptions, media, comparison capabilities, and bundling logic. Integrates with ERP, SCM, and other backend systems.
  • Account Management: House customer master data such as accounts, contacts, approval chains, entitlements, contracts, tiered pricing, and payment terms. Integrate with CRM.
  • Order Management: Create, manage, ship, and bill orders across channels, geographies, and brands. Handles pricing calculation, complex billing, payment capture, and integration.
  • Front-end Storefront: The customer-facing e-commerce website, mobile app, online community, and self-service portal experiences.
  • Experience Management: Leverage data to optimize merchandising, deliver personalized experiences, provide recommendations, and tailor promotions.
  • Integrations: Prebuilt connectors for tax calculation, payment gateways, ERPs, logistics execution, inventory feeds, and any other critical backend functions.

With the right platform, these elements seamlessly interoperate to deliver convenience for customers and efficiency for your organization. However, customizing components to address complex B2B scenarios remains challenging without specialized experience. It is critical to seek expert guidance to configure and connect the dots.

Choosing the Right Implementation Approach

When embarking on a B2B commerce implementation, companies face a key decision–what approach best balances speed to value while meeting unique needs? Generally, there are three paths to choose from:

Quick Start

  • Best for: Early testing with limited scope
  • Fastest way to launch an initial B2B storefront
  • Leverages platform templates with minimal customization
  • Suitable if focused on selling a small catalog to start

Middle Ground

  • Best for: Piloting with select customer segment(s)
  • Introduces some lightweight customization
  • Additional integrations based on highest priority needs
  • Expands initial catalog offering carefully in phases

Custom Enterprise

  • Best for: Complex implementations across channels
  • Involves deep platform customization and extensions
  • Integrates with core backend systems like ERP and CRM
  • Supports global multi-brand, multi-language rollouts

Determining the right approach depends on several factors–budget, timeline, capabilities of the platform, overall company readiness for change, and degree of custom requirements.

Seek guidance from specialized implementation consultants before deciding. They can objectively assess your organization's needs and map requirements to the best-fit implementation methodology. The goal is to balance speed and customization while future-proofing change. Choose an approach that sets you up for long-term success.

Building a Roadmap for Success

With the right approach selected, developing a pragmatic roadmap is critical for B2B commerce success. This entails mapping out phases for current needs and future vision.

Phase 1

Start with the "crawl stage" by launching capabilities that drive immediate value without major disruptions:

  • Stand up storefront quickly leveraging base templates
  • Onboard pilot customer segment for testing
  • Integrate with essential backend systems like inventory, tax, and payment gateways
  • Measure adoption, user feedback, and business outcomes

Phase 2

Next, begin "walking" by enhancing functionality for broader rollout:

  • Add more products, customers, and geographies
  • Introduce promotions and experience personalization
  • Integrate order management and shipping
  • Expand payment methods
  • Continuously refine based on data and user input

Phase 3

Finally, target the "running" stage to achieve enterprise-class maturity:

  • Complete integration with core platforms like ERP and CRM
  • Rollout global capabilities and languages
  • Enable complex catalog management
  • Introduce custom experiences across channels
  • Scale performance, security, and reliability

Throughout execution, align closely with executive sponsors to ensure continued buy-in. Also, plan comprehensive change management and training to bring staff up to speed on transformations. With a pragmatic roadmap phasing quick wins and long-term vision, you equip the organization to embrace changes gradually while working towards B2B commerce success–at the pace of your business.

Leveraging Expertise for Transformation

Undergoing an end-to-end B2B commerce transformation is far from straightforward. From solution evaluation to global rollout, the process requires addressing complex integrations, winning executive support, driving adoption in the field, and unlocking ROI.

Very few organizations have the in-house expertise to achieve this alone–specialized partners are instrumental to long-term success. The right external experts, like Saltbox, provide:

  • Proven Methodology: Structured and pragmatic approach honed across implementations
  • Platform Mastery: Deep hands-on expertise to customize solutions and accelerate value
  • Change Management: Drive internal adoption by making new processes intuitive
  • Executive Advisory: Trusted counsel shaping strategy and charting the course
  • Technical Leadership: Architect and build integrations aligned to IT standards
  • Project Management: Keep efforts on track and focused on business priorities

In the end, transformation at scale is a team sport best tackled by pairing internal leadership with seasoned experts. The combined force is unstoppable.

Delivering exceptional digital experiences is now table stakes for B2B companies seeking to engage modern buyers and drive revenue. The imperative could not be clearer–businesses must transform digitally to remain relevant.

However, evolving strategically demands pragmatism, patience and partnerships. Rushing digital transformation without applying expertise and best practices risks project failure and business disruption.

By taking considered steps forward, leveraging trusted advisors, and maintaining focus on long-term goals, B2B leaders can overcome the hurdles in realizing frictionless commerce. When approached systematically, the journey unlocks sustainable growth in the digital age.

The time for change is now. Reach out to schedule an advisory session on charting your commerce transformation journey successfully.

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