B2B buyers are increasingly working digitally and need appropriate commerce systems that reflect the complexity of B2B purchasing dynamics. Siloed approaches to digital, direct and indirect sales models no longer work. B2B buyers expect a seamless buying experience across all touchpoints. Delivering this effectively and efficiently for each region requires technology that supports just that: Efficiency through a high level of standardization, and effectiveness through a transnational globalization strategy.
For successful growth through e-commerce, the scalability aspect of the solution is paramount: Can the solution handle more traffic? If you want to sell in more countries, you need to make sure that the system can quickly handle growing numbers of users, page views and orders.
Another aspect is that the solution must be easy to use for local teams.
Strategies for international e-commerce
A multinational strategy, where each subsidiary develops its own marketing strategy based on the different needs of each country, usually emphasizes the cultural and traditional needs of each nation, but causes the company to lose control over the efficiency of the entire operation.
Where companies need to reduce costs, a global strategy can help. It allows a standardized product to be sold worldwide. A company that pursues a global strategy operates efficiently, but at the expense of responsiveness to local needs.
In short, better rely on a third, transnational strategy. Operate as standardized as necessary, but as locally relevant as possible. With a commerce solution that relies on composable commerce, you achieve just that.
Central vs. local
To be successful with a transnational globalization strategy, many factors must be made available centrally from the corporate headquarters. From here, make sure that product information is complete and maintained, and that each country unit follows the given look & feel, the corporate identity. Anything that is locally relevant such as additional catalogs, discount promotions or a banner announcing your next local show can be handled by the local team.
Example: If the check-out process is organized centrally, then it is no problem to connect SAP in the US, Microsoft Dynamics in France, and no ERP at all in Italy, if the order volume there is still so low that orders received by email can be managed. All country units can still access the same functions. But all three countries have the freedom to operate the store in the local language, which improves conversion and search engine ranking, and of course to adapt the tax calculations to the market terms themselves.
Make or buy?
You can develop such a solution yourself, but the question of whether you should do so requires a thorough consideration of the technical, economic and organizational factors:
Buying a standard solution or running it as SaaS has calculable, amortizable costs. Whether a team of developers, architects and project management can create an equivalent product for the same price may not be as accurately assessable.
A ready-to-go, complete solution accelerates the time factor because features only need to be tailored, not developed.
Vendors of commerce solutions operate their own quality management, but this in no way means that in-house developments have to be at a disadvantage. On the contrary. Standard solutions only meet actual user requirements to a certain extent, and in-house developments can deliver a custom-fit quality here - as long as the necessary steps are taken to develop the software without errors.
In-house development requires people with the necessary expertise and an appropriate IT infrastructure, which in turn needs to be administered and operated - for many years to come, because you need to take care of security updates, further development and customization in the long term.
The biggest risk when deciding to buy is a takeover of the vendor by another group, or its going out of business. If you want to rely on in-house development, the biggest risk is that you will use a solution that is not efficient in management and not sufficiently scalable. Hundreds of microservices or PHP modules quickly come together - with a corresponding dependency dilemma.
They allow you to create exactly the user journey you need as a business without having to build everything yourself. These functional blocks are more coherent than microservices and include, for example, everything related to commerce, reviews, search, content, and services.
These packages can be obtained from various vendors as SaaS and the entire cluster can be replaced when increased digital maturity raises new needs - without having to turn it into a replatforming project. Suitable front ends such as a progressive web app, but also voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri or IoT components, HoloLens and other technologies can be added to this flexible framework via standard APIs.
The 3 advantages of Composable Commerce:
- The required functionalities can be put together as needed and are operational immediately
- Through a headless architecture, different frontends or additional touchpoints can be flexibly added to the system.
- Grow-as-you-go: Expand and transform as needed with additional services or your own microservices.
Flexibility in the frontend
Having flexibility in the frontend is one of the key success factors in international B2B e-commerce, because it sets you apart from the competition. In B2B, it is not enough to just customize the logo. Products are more complex and there are multi-layered purchasing processes that need to be taken into account.
The frontent also takes into account the extended customer lifecycle, because long-term customer relationships go beyond product search, detail page and check-out. The frontent brings together processes that enable the placement of relevant consumables, realize the digital mapping of the registered machine park, or allow appointment bookings with contractual partners.
If the underlying commerce solution makes all business capabilities available via APIs, each national unit can personalize its own frontend (with its own developers or an agency) according to digital maturity and customer benefit. Local and central applications can also be smoothly connected via the standard API (ERP, PIM, DAM...) No on-site team is needed for operation.
Can replatforming solve your e-commerce challenges?
If you want to be successful in B2B in the long term, you have to continuously develop your online business and choose an e-commerce platform that meets your current needs but also enables future innovation and advancement.