Cracking the Code: B2B eCommerce Explained

What is B2B eCommerce?

As the name suggests, this form of online trading is focused around platforms designed exclusively for businesses transacting with one another. B2B eCommerce involves dedicated websites or portals where 'on-account' or B2B customers can place orders with their suppliers. These are often hidden behind user logins and offer a tailored experience rich in unique features, including customised account management, pricing structures and payment terms that cater specifically to B2B dynamics.

Why is B2B eCommerce important?

For businesses that trade with others, the streamlined features of B2B eComm are invaluable: automated data entry reduces supplier workload and errors; customers benefit from a user-friendly and visually engaging platform, enhancing their overall experience; and promotional capabilities are built-in, allowing strategic upselling. These platforms cater specifically to their customers, creating ease-of-use, brand loyalty and ultimately fostering a lasting relationship between suppliers and buyers.

What’s next in B2B eCommerce?

B2B eCommerce is evolving; we’re seeing a marked increase in the integration of B2C-like features including retail-style promotions, upsell and cross-sell functions, and loyalty programmes. The rise of B2B marketplaces like Upstock, Faire and Joor further emphasises the importance the market is putting on this area of commerce.

Customer account management is one area progressing most dramatically - basic, B2B-as-an afterthought-type functionality has been swallowed by the need for advanced features. These include elements like custom quotes, integrated marketing materials, sales rep activity and direct communication, as well as common B2C elements like tracking and tracing orders and payment options.

Where ALTSHIFT Plays:

ALTSHIFT / BDO Solutions works with all the B2B eCommerce platforms, including BigCommerce, Pepperi, Brandscope, SparkLayer (for Shopify), and Shopify Plus B2B, which we speclialise in. This platform requires minimal customisation and offers native Shopify functionality, making it ideal for those already on Shopify for B2C or POS. We have also created our own solution, which can be applied to any of the main eCommerce platforms or sit directly over the top of an ERP system. It’s platform agnostic with a custom front-end and no limitations on the number of features.

If you are interested in learning more about B2B eCommerce, drop us a line at; we’d love to hear from you.

Shipping automation: The key to unlock your growth

The following guest blog post is written by one of our software partners, Starshipit. Have a read below to learn about the benefits of using the Starshipit platform for eCommerce and what it could mean for your business. For more information about integration options and the upsides, see our co-authored blog post on their website here.

Summary: We’re Starshipit, and we help online retailers turn shipping from one of their brand’s low points, to be as great as everything else they do. How do we do this? Through a powerful shipping and fulfilment platform that gives retailers the tools to take control of their shipping – and deliver better experiences for their customers.

The landscape of eCommerce is always evolving, with customer expectations in particular shifting at a more rapid pace than ever before.

Recently, we've seen a significant transformation in how customers interact with online retail. Now more than ever, they’re prioritising convenience, speed, and reliability. This shift in consumer behavior has become a driving force for retailers to adapt and innovate when it comes to their fulfilment strategies.

With studies showing that eCommerce sales are expected to account for 20.8% of retail sales worldwide this year alone, this suggests a steady increase in the preference for online shopping, and an opportunity for retailers to optimise for growth.

For retailers selling products through eCommerce channels, this really means one thing – to remain competitive, they’ll need to focus both on how they sell effectively through these channels, and how they get orders out to customers.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how a shipping automation platform (like ours) can solve the major fulfilment challenges that come with running a modern eCommerce business, and how you can get started today.

Overcoming the time sink of manual shipping processes

Shipping is almost universally a time-intensive task for retail businesses. Manual jobs such as printing shipping labels and assigning couriers is a time sink for everyone involved, and there's room for human error.

Starshipit solves this by automating the admin. Equipped with Starshipit, retailers can easily automate each step of the fulfilment process, such as generating shipping labels, packing slips, manifests, and submitting customs documentation. This is particularly useful for businesses shipping from store, as store staff can easily operate Starshipit to fulfil orders.

Centralised fulfilment dashboard

Efficiency and visibility are key elements in fulfilment, which is why having one centalised dashboard is essential. Starshipit offers just that – a single, intuitive platform where you can manage every aspect of your shipping and fulfilment process.

This unified approach not only streamlines operations but also provides clear insights, reporting and control over your entire fulfilment workflow, ensuring efficiency and consistency in every order you ship.

Got a store? Ship from it

'Ship from store' is emerging as an innovative way to speed up delivery and cut costs. It turns your stores into mini distribution hubs, so you can send orders from the closest store to your customer. This means faster delivery and less spent on shipping.

With Starshipit, setting up 'ship from store' is easy. Our platform works seamlessly with your existing systems, like Shopify and Magento, ensuring a smooth transition of orders from online to in-store fulfilment. It's a simple change that makes a big difference for your customers and for growing your business.

Ability to negotiate and use your own courier rates

When you first start out, it can be tempting to go with a shipping provider who offers set rates. After all, it's another time-saver, right? There’s actually little more to it. So-called aggregators can often sting you with per-label fees for using your own carriers, which can quickly add up when you’re moving high volumes. Here’s how we’re different:

Starshipit focuses on offering best-in-class shipping technology, not on making money off shipping rates. Our goal is to empower your business, allowing you to save on shipping costs without worrying about per-label charges or restrictive rate plans.

We encourage you to build your own relationships with couriers. This approach enables you to negotiate more competitive rates directly, fostering a shipping strategy that scales with your business and enhances customer experiences.

Flexible and powerful rules engine

Imagine being able to automatically sort orders as they come in by rules that you create, all within a matter of minutes. The Starshipit rules engine can automate your dispatch process in a way that works for you. You can reduce clicks in your warehouse, assign specific couriers, automate special requests and more. You can also manage orders based on parameters and conditions that you define, like weight, size, and SKU.

Leveraging a powerful tech stack

For the satisfaction of your customers and the growth of your business, it's essential to have seamless communication in your tech stack. Starshipit's automation software lets you connect to a range of powerful platforms, including Cin7, Xero, Unleashed and more.

The partnership between ALTSHIFT and Starshipit means you can streamline your operations. Build an end-to-end tech solution that enhances efficiency, reduces costs, and leads to a better customer delivery experience, setting the stage for scalable growth.

Get started with Starshipit

Starshipit is the best practice shipping and fulfilment platform that helps retailers save time and deliver great shipping experiences.

Getting started is easy. To start, simply create your account and start your 30-day free trial. Then, connect your platforms and couriers (we support all the major ones). With some other minor setup admin out of the way, you’ll be good to go! And, if you have any trouble at all with setup, our team will be standing by and ready to help you out.

Want to learn more? Just head over to the Starshipit website!


E-Commerce: Why you should integrate into your ERP

According to Statista, we’re projected to hit $2,842 billion (USD) in worldwide e-commerce revenue in 2018 alone (with that number almost doubling to $4,878 billion by 2021). Is your business ready for this unprecedented demand? Having your e-commerce platform integrated into your ERP system is commonly overlooked due to the perceived disruption a change like this can cause to the business. Unfortunately not having these critical sales channels tightly integrated into the rest of your operations will be detrimental.

Connecting your e-commerce platforms into your ERP system not only pays dividends in the form of customer experience, but also allows you to take a holistic approach to your distribution and fulfilment functions. Not only will integrating eliminate double data entry of sales from your e-commerce channels to your ERP, but it will also provide your e-commerce channels with up to the minute stock levels for each of your products. Having up-to-date inventory information available to your e-commerce channels avoids overselling of products and in turn makes happier customers. Just as having extensive per-channel sales data allows you the ability to plan for demand not only for purchasing, but also for managing your stock across your warehouses and 3PL providers.

The benefits of integrating your e-commerce platforms with your ERP are not exclusively limited to transacting sales and inventory data. Another key function people commonly overlook is shipping. Staff can make mistakes entering address information from one system to another leading to an unhappy customer. Completing this integration will allow you to enable live shipping rates to your customers, and your staff will be able to generate a shipping label at the picking stage with no additional work. Further to this, your e-commerce store can be setup to receive tracking information. This affords you a great opportunity to engage with your customers, sending out personalised emails updating them with their shipment details at scale.

Have you considered your process for releasing new products across all of your sales channels? If you’re an omni-channel retailer, it can become quite an arduous process to ensure your products and their associated pricing information all match across different systems. Centralising your products and pricing to your ERP will allow you to automate this release process allowing you to enter in the new product information, images and pricing tiers once. Your ERP will then update all of your different sales channels with these new products.

Leaving your sales channels to operate independently is a very unscalable practice, and with e-commerce sales rapidly growing your business may not be able to keep up. At ALTSHIFT, we specialise in working with omni-channel retailers to consolidate their business systems into a single translatable process across channels. If you’re not sure where to start when embarking on an integration project, get in touch with us to talk about your needs.

Why mobile should not be overlooked in B2B

Imagine the ability to quickly bring up a catalogue of your products in front of a customer, know how much stock you have; and be able to place an order in seconds without a Wi-Fi connection. Unfortunately many businesses leave revenue on the table by failing to implement this level of visibility into their sales process.

According to Statista, there will be almost 5 billion mobile phone users globally by the year 2020. Of those 5 billion users, nearly 85% will be using smartphones. With the rate people are adopting mobile phones and the internet, smartphones are in good stead to entirely transform the face of commerce. Here are 5 reasons why mobile should definitely not be overlooked in B2B:

1. Most B2B business happens over the phone already. The reality here is that most B2B transactions that occur are taken over a phone call or via chat apps. Channelling this into a purpose built B2B module is simply but a natural evolution in the way we do business.

2. Mobile phones are very handy. Only on your mobile can you shop, read the news and listen to music at the same time. As mobile technology has advanced in great strides, we now have the ability to multi-task to our hearts content.

3. Space constraints. In the wholesale/distribution business, the most scarce resource is space. A mobile phone is far easier to pocket than a full workstation.

4. Always on. In the B2B world the wheels of commerce continue to turn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We all know that our smartphones are slowly blurring the lines between work hours and our home lives.

5. Repeat business is what fuels the world of B2B. For somebody who needs to buy goods from you on a regular basis, a B2B app is an absolute god send.

At ALTSHIFT, we work with wholesalers and distributors and have provided B2B solutions of all shapes and sizes. Have you got something in mind for your business? Get in touch with us!