Marketplaces Series: In B2B E-commerce, Ill-conceived Concepts Are Difficult to Salvage

In a recent study, Sana Commerce has uncovered major failures in the integration of B2B e-commerce platforms. DACH managing director Melanie Volkmann explains how companies should proceed instead.

Choosing the right e-commerce platform

The selection of the right e-commerce platform should be well-considered, as it contributes decisively to a company’s success. In the B2B sector, however, IT specialists of all people are often not really involved. This leads to bad investments, unnecessary expenses and dissatisfied specialists, as a new study by E-Commerce Berlin Expo exhibitor Sana Commerce shows. DACH Managing Director Melanie Volkmann explains the means by which such problems can be avoided.

When a company’s management decides on new B2B software, it often only really has the positive effects in mind. However, around 88 percent of the IT managers surveyed for the study are convinced that the B2B e-commerce solution used in their company actually has a negative impact on business. Among other things, this is due to the long implementation time. For almost half of the respondents, this took between seven and nine months. Another 39 percent struggled for longer than nine months.

What’s more, even day-to-day operations are not necessarily any easier, as more complex software is now used (34 percent), the system needs to be maintained more often (32 percent) and an average of 3.5 hours of downtime are recorded per month. As a result of e-commerce platform outages, an average of 158 orders are lost each month. All of this puts a strain on IT staff and keeps them from more important tasks – which is why just 22 percent of IT executives are satisfied with the product provided.

Do your homework in the preparation phase

“Once the baby has been dropped in the well, it will be difficult to make up for the lack of appreciation and loss of confidence among IT professionals in the aftermath,” explains Melanie Volkmann, Managing Director of Sana Commerce in the DACH region. “Already in the preparation phase, you as a company have to do your homework and set up a sensible change management plan through stakeholder analysis. Ultimately, the chosen platform, which is supposed to be a relief, must not lead to unplanned capacities being tied up. Only in this way can other digitization topics be dealt with in a more targeted manner – and thus also create added value.”

At the moment, two to three IT specialists are normally deployed for the maintenance of the e-commerce platform alone, investing an average of 38 percent of their working time in this. Most frequently, they are annoyed by the maintenance effort required for databases (24 percent), troubleshooting (22 percent) and the lack of APIs, i.e. interfaces to other programs used in the company (19 percent). The additional hurdles that arise are often the result of companies’ desire to use software that is as inexpensive as possible (and therefore often not very mature) in order to supposedly save costs.

Keeping all issues in view

“A lot of added value can be created by implementing an e-commerce platform, both for the company and for the customer: from brand awareness, customer satisfaction to automation, the possibilities are wide-ranging,” says Melanie Volkmann and recommends a much less price-oriented approach: “However, IT management must also be involved in this decision, because they are the ones who will be working with the platform the most, are familiar with the requirements and also know which hard facts are needed to provide added value! It’s important to take a holistic approach and keep all issues in mind: overall goals, IT integration and architecture, ERP connectivity, vendor expertise, key stakeholder satisfaction and overall change management – the list is long!”

In terms of customer experience and how it can be improved through analytics, he says it is definitely right to look to the B2C sector for guidance, especially since many buyers expected the functionalities they are used to in their private lives. “At the same time, however, there are differences: In the B2B sector, there are completely different requirements for functionality, and the needs of customers are sometimes different,” Melanie Volkmann continues. “In times of supply chain difficulties, product availability also plays a significant role. Accordingly, e-commerce platforms must intelligently address the needs of B2B customers here.”