Online shopping, internet banking, hotel booking, airline reservation, etc. are all part of our everyday life. As end consumers, we browse, compare, procure and pay using credit or debit cards over the internet. All these are in the realm of what is known as ‘B2C’ ecommerce or ‘Business-to-Consumer’ eCommerce. However procuring goods for business consumption as raw material or as assets for business use or procurement of external services are categorised as ‘B2B’ ecommerce or ‘Business-to-Business’ Ecommerce. This is a much more complex process compared to B2C online shopping. For instance, in ‘B2C’ shopping , value and quantity of items purchased is of much smaller value and quantity. Business buying, on the other hand, is an elaborate process involving two or more suppliers for same product, and will cover aspects such as price comparison, quantity to be procured, quality & inspection, delivery schedules, bulk purchase and staggered delivery contracts, negotiation for lower price. Most of the time, procurement will be for regular supply over extended period of time, by issuing a ‘Long term’ contract to procure, unlike B2C buying which, tend to be ‘One-off’ purchase.
Azure Digital was engaged by a client, based in Sydney, Australia to conduct a review of their IT systems, as the business was growing rapidly and expanding beyond the shores of Australia. The client wanted to assess if current ERP and CRM systems implemented were capable of supporting future growth and expansion being planned for the next 3 to 5 years. The client was a mid-sized firm with annual revenue of over A$ 25 million, in the business of manufacture and supply of In-room amenities to the hospitality industry – hotels and resort chains.
After extensive discussions with client on the scope of the engagement, Azure Digital proposed DRAW – Digital Readiness Assessment Workshop (DRAW) driven engagement. The objective of DRAW , as elaborated to the client, was the world of business is rapidly changing due to rapid changes in digital technology. Rather than doing an IT systems review to determine if the current IT systems will support future growth and needs, Azure Digital suggested that the firm take a holistic approach and reimagine the business as a ‘Digital Enterprise’ and prepare a roadmap to the future.
Azure Digital then engaged with client’s key executives in conducting DRAW, gathering critical information, examining data points and then set about preparing the blueprint for the ‘Digital Enterprise’. As part of the exercise, a ‘Spider web chart’ was prepared to map the state of the current systems and processes vis-à-vis the ‘Desired State’ of systems and processes. This chart showed the strengths and weaknesses within the IT system and the areas to fix and focus.
Three priority areas were identified to invest resources as part of the Digital Transformation initiative. These were (a) Migrate all application systems installed on premise, to Cloud and integrate the applications on Cloud (b) Implement a Demand Planning Systems to forecast raw material requirements and (c) Implement a B2B Customer Portal, to allow customers to order online.
In this blog, we will focus on the B2B Customer Portal.
B2B Customer portal – what is it? And how it helps drive efficiency ?
B2B portal caters to customers of businesses and not general public. Popular ‘B2C’ ecommerce sites are Amazon, Ebay, Target, Kogan etc. B2B customer portals are similar to B2C eCommerce sites, with significant self-service capabilities to support B2B transactions .
In B2B procurement, the customer and supplier engage in extensive discussions to agree on specifications, delivery quantity, supply schedule, price, etc. After concluding the discussions and negotiation , they could enter into a long term contract to supply the required material or goods. Whenever the customer needs make a repeat purchase , there are procedures to be complied with, such as issue of a purchase order to the supplier, by referring the previously negotiated purchase agreements, and ensuring price, delivery schedules, quality & specifications, payment terms are as per the master purchase agreement and so on. The process on the customer side is to raise a purchase order, and then email or fax the purchase order to the supplier.
Now, if the Supplier had implemented a B2B customer Portal with self-service capabilities, the customer can simply log into the customer portal, select the items required and complete the procurement process , much like buying a laptop or mobile phone Online.
How does it help drive efficiency ?
B2B Customer portal of the supplier with self-service capabilities enables the customer or ‘Buyer’ to manage the procurement process online from the comfort and convenience of his or her office. It also places the responsibility for miscommunication or data entry errors on the buyer !! With a B2B customer portal, all data and information related to the order are seamlessly integrated with the Suppliers ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) & SCM (Supply Chain Management) system, thereby eliminating the need to re-enter data from the customer’s order.
Which businesses are best served with B2B Customer Portal ?
B2B customer portal can be implemented by any business which serves hundreds of customers across geographies . It is prudent to do a Cost/ Benefit analysis, to determine the viability, as a B2B customer portal does not come cheap , nor is it outrageously expensive ! It is affordable for Mid-size businesses. There are some pre-requisites before a B2B customer portal can be implemented. The business must have an ERP system in place with open API (Application Program Interface) capability and streamlined ‘Sales Order-to-Fulfilment ’ process. The Customer portal is best run on cloud.
The upside for businesses implementing B2B customer portal is securing customers from anywhere in the world using Sales Agents and Business representatives to make the initial sales, after which the customers can continue to engage with the supplier and continue to procure on regular basis with minimal human interaction in the buying process.
Businesses which will benefit from implementing B2B customer portal are suppliers of hospital and medical supplies, automotive suppliers, building construction materials, beauty & cosmetics suppliers to beauty salons, industrial electronics and electrical suppliers, Office suppliers, etc.
The client of Azure Digital mentioned earlier, who is in the business of supplying amenities to hospitality industry is implementing B2B customer portal. The portal will be implemented using Cloud CRM solution as the backbone. It will help the client secure repeat business with ease, from anywhere in the world, and have the goods shipped to their location, without the customer having to interact with Sales Reps for repeat business. The client can also announce promotions to clear inventory and stocks. By creating an Inside Sales Team, the client can use Telesales representatives to drive B2B Online sales. The client is looking to drive considerable increase in sales from implementing the B2B Customer portal, without adding Field Sales staff.