For small business owners—be it manufacturers, wholesalers, traders, or retailers —buying supplies or selling products is often a challenge requiring a lot of physical intervention and effort. While going digital can overcome most of these challenges, many small business owners lack digital expertise or knowledge of online tools. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital trade. And in this regard, B2B ecommerce platforms deserve special mention.

B2B e-commerce platforms can offer small businesses easy access to new markets and customers across the country as well as new suppliers offering a wide product selection at competitive rates. A B2B ecommerce platform can facilitate end to end transactions from ordering through, to payments, and last mile delivery. However, choosing the right B2B ecommerce platform for your small business can be a formidable task.

Here are key areas you must look at while evaluating a B2B ecommerce platform and then decide on the right one for you.

Easy purchase for multiple buyers: One core feature required in a B2B ecommerce platform is that multiple buyers from the same business should be able to place orders using the same account. The account owner should be able to assign roles/permissions as to who can make purchases, request quotes, or make changes to the firm’s account.

Customisation is key: For large or made-to-order requests, the ideal ecommerce platform should be able to generate quotes. Further, the entire quotation process should be digitalised, enabling sellers and buyers to negotiate with one another, and transition from quote to order once the agreement is sealed.

Quick ordering is a must: An important characteristic of B2B buyers is that they order the same product/s repeatedly. So, an ecommerce platform should help buyers place such repeat orders quickly and efficiently by allowing buyers to type in or upload SKUs, set up a shopping list, set up automatic ordering, set reminders etc.

Content should drive B2B sales: Since B2B products are complex and sophisticated, you must provide value-added content to help different stakeholders involved in the buying process do research and evaluate the products. Providing CAD drawing, user manuals, product specifications, charts, reviews, and pricing helps buyers reach a decision quickly.

App-based platform: Since an increasingly large number of sales reps and client servicing executives use mobiles at work, it is important that your B2B ecommerce platform supports mobile commerce. An app supported by a mobile responsive web journey enables buyers who are field based to place orders and helps your sales reps when they visit clients.

Payment options: A reliable payment gateway reassures buyers and sellers and takes the worry off their minds for returns and refunds. Your B2B ecommerce platform provider should offer multiple payment options like credit cards, debit cards, cash on delivery (COD), wallets and EMI options.

Trusted environment: Online marketplaces can be rife with fake sellers, fake products, and even fake buyers. You need to select a B2B ecommerce marketplace where customers are verified prior to them coming on board and doing business. Further, data privacy and security is a very important issue. Safeguards have to be put in place for ensuring security and customers’ data should be used for the customer’s business only and not be shared/ sold.

Self-service: More and more consumers today are looking for ease of buying and self-service that B2C platforms offer. Providing consumers, the power to self-serve on their own time, not only improves their experience, but also reduces the cost of serving them. The B2B ecommerce platform you choose should give you the ability to do just that. Your buyers should be able to find your products easily and place their orders, they should be able to track the status of their order and shipments easily. As a seller, the platform should offer you the ability to upload your product catalog easily, track invoice and payments, view order history and customer data.

It can be overwhelming to choose an ecommerce platform that is right for your business. Given the complexities of B2B commerce, choosing the right platform involves more than evaluating its technological prowess. The benefits however are many, making adoption of a B2B ecommerce platform critical for growing your business.