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Manufacturers are speeding up digitalization efforts around the world. The pandemic has forced companies to rethink how to set up an infrastructure that supports end-to-end remote engagements, but this is not the only reason.

The digital boom has lurked on manufacturers' doors well before the pandemic. MIT Sloan published an article in March 2019 with a solid call-to-action for CEOs to “develop an overarching vision for digital transformation” as the only way manufacturers can survive. 

As an e-commerce solution provider, we are often asked about best practices. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to global e-commerce. Together with Copperberg and Evident, we have gathered insights from the industry to help manufacturers learn from one another.

Download: “The State of International E-Commerce in Manufacturing”

This article will answer the top 3 most frequently asked questions from manufacturers embarking on their e-commerce journey.

  1. What is the best platform for global B2B e-commerce?
  2. What role does regional marketing play in global B2B e-commerce?
  3. Why is scalability important in global B2B e-commerce?

1. What is the best platform for global B2B e-commerce?

Our very own Nils Breitmann, Principal Enterprise Architect at Intershop, has a perfect response: 

"A modern commerce platform must cover at least 80% of the global B2B e-commerce needs with standard B2B features."

"In addition, there are also business processes that are unique to any B2B organization and applicable in the country organizations. Experience shows that this makes up about 15% of the required functionality of the e-commerce platform."

The remaining 5% makes each regional online shop special: support for various business models, selected assortments, specific features, local campaigns and sales promotions, user journeys and 3rd-party applications.

To successfully conduct B2B e-commerce in each country, web content must be tailored as closely as possible to each region. An example of this are translations, taxes, shipping fees or promotions.

Many manufacturers therefore opt for a centralized global commerce platform instead of running siloed online shops in each country, for this would require e-commerce expertise at the regional level. The ability to consolidate B2B commerce talents at headquarter-level will accelerate the rate of execution.

"The transition from offline to online is not easy and requires a radical digital transformation inside out."

But the benefits for international growth and efficiency outweighs the risk of not taking any action - especially in the current climate.


2. What role does regional marketing play in global B2B e-commerce?

Regional marketing plays a vital role in global B2B e-commerce. We recommend centralizing the technology aspect for speedy execution, but when it comes to customers, local is the way to go. Each region has a different competitive positioning, go-to-market strategy, and different way to purchase.

The global e-commerce platform must allow the localization of online marketing activities by regional marketing teams. After all:

"Good B2B marketing is about delivering high-quality, personalized content and experiences to the audiences."

Local SEO and SEM, promotions and translated content have a beneficial effect on regional e-commerce results.

The parent company can provide technical support and intelligent e-commerce solutions. The platform must be flexible to adapt to the diverse needs of each region:

  • support for relevant business models 
  • integration of local back-end applications or product information 
  • local payment and shipping options 
  • content in local language and pricing in local currency

These capabilities provide a healthy foundation for local growth.

Local teams must also have the right to customize online shops or customer portals. This includes adding or changing content, items, and marketing campaigns to meet local customer needs better and align with the local competitive situation. 

"The flexibility to adapt is critical."

The central IT team should avoid imposing a rigid technology infrastructure on the local subsidiaries that are not aligned with regional work. 


3. Why is scalability important in global B2B e-commerce?

Businesses should always plan for growth. In short, you should think about scalability very early on when building a strategy and roadmap for B2B e-commerce. A business or technical process that is only marginally inefficient in a few online shops will become unmanageable when they multiply across the globe. The key is to eliminate inefficiencies and barriers to scale as early as possible. 

The following are the minimum features needed to scale globally with a B2B e-commerce solution. It is also preferable that these are available out-of-the-box.

  • The ability to support various currencies, languages, taxes and provide local shipping options.
  • The ability to connect with a variety of different back-end systems.
  • The ability to manage product catalogs centrally and locally (huge plus if the catalog can be shared to local distributors).
  • The ability to store and display regional product attributes.
  • The ability to assign roles with different permissions for users in the same organization.
  • The ability to provide user-specific content and promotions.

Want to know more about how to achieve the perfect balance between local marketing and centralized commerce? Download: "The state of international digital commerce in manufacturing" to read the full survey report.

Download: “The State of International E-Commerce in Manufacturing”