Why Self-Service Is Essential to B2B Ecommerce

With the release of SuiteCommerce MyAccount, our team got excited on creating some content around Self Service, B2b ecommerce and customer portals.


B2B sellers can learn a lot from B2C ecommerce businesses and how they allow customers to control the buying experience through self-service as most B2B companies are failing to create the seamless buying journeys customers have come to expect.

This is largely to do with B2B transactions often being more complex than their B2C counterparts. For example, a B2B company may sell products that customers need to sample before introducing to their business (we have an app for that), or their offering may need to be customized to meet a customer’s particular needs. These types of transactions require more variable pricing along with flexible payment options including check, wire, purchase orders (PO), terms, and quotes. B2B sellers also tend to manage a larger selection of products than those found in B2C.

To facilitate these needs, the B2B buying journey often includes an irreplaceable human element. In the past, this meant relying on sales teams to find then nurture leads and closeout deals. The result is a drawn-out process filled with steps like scheduling appointments with sales reps, making initial stand-alone orders, making changes to standing orders, and requesting maintenance or support. All of this adversely impacts the customer experience and can lead to less completed orders.

As customers begin to desire a shopping journey similar to their personal experiences, B2B companies must find ways to adapt their approach. While B2C commerce has always focused on streamlined shopping, B2B sellers are beginning to realize the value of a more autonomous experience.

A recent study from Mckinsey found that 86 percent of B2B leaders prefer using self-service solutions for reordering over interacting with a sales representative. Additionally, Forrester has shown that 68% of B2B buyers would rather do their own research while 60% don’t want to interact with sales reps at all.

When you provide self-service ecommerce, you change your customers’ buying journey as they are then able to steer the purchasing process instead of your sales teams. The result is a streamlined buyer’s journey as customers are able to receive assistance from your team only when needed, rather than being delayed throughout the process.

Enabling self-service won’t cause your sales team to lose visibility to your customers. Rather, the use of an integrated online platform improves your ability to access important information about your customers’ behaviors.

With self-service, customers have the ability to browse and buy on their own terms the same way they do when shopping for personal products from a B2C seller. It provides a much friendly approach to researching and buying products as customers have access to an online storefront in place of flipping through a physical catalog and ordering over the phone or in-person with a sales representative. Giving customers this freedom to control the buying journey, results in more completed purchases and fewer lost sales to competitors.


Self-Service Functionality in SuiteCommerce

To be able to fulfill customers’ desires for self-service, B2B commerce platforms need to be flexible and provide the features necessary for a seamless shopping experience. Here are some of the core functions to expect from a modern commerce solution like SuiteCommerce.

Account management

An essential component of self-service ecommerce is providing your buyers the ability to edit and manage their accounts directly from their dashboard. Some important elements buyers should have control over include:

Payment details: Payment for online B2B portals is similar to what you’ll find on B2C e-commerce platforms. This includes credit cards, bank details for ACH transfers, and direct integration with Paypal, among others. The ability to save payment information as well as update it on the fly allows buyers to always be in a position to swiftly initiate and complete orders. 

Shipping and billing addresses: When companies add or change locations, the ability to quickly update location information will ensure that all orders are processed smoothly by removing the need to wait for a service representative to update information.

Adding, removing, and managing users: For companies that have multiple users per account, the ability to quickly add and remove users autonomously can eliminate potential delays when needing to perform important tasks. (We have an app for this feature)

Ordering and reordering

Customers should have the ability to find the products they need and complete their orders without any bottlenecks. The following features can help ensure a smooth buying experience:

Quick ordering: A quick order list can remove friction from the buying experience while allowing customers to complete orders faster.

Reordering capabilities: Many businesses rely on repetitive orders. Providing a clean list of previously purchased products will help your buyers keep their flow of goods consistent as they are able to quickly add the same items to their order.

Order history: Enabling customers to check the status of both previous and current orders helps remove much of the unnecessary back and forth with sales reps. Instead, customers can quickly check their accounts to see which orders are paid for and if any are out for delivery.

Managing and paying invoices online: By allowing users to view and pay any outstanding invoices straight from their dashboard your business can finalize orders faster and your reps are free from having to chase down payments.

Recommended products: Personalizing the buying experience by showing related products based on purchase history can increase sales as customers are more likely to take action when presented with highly relevant offers.

Saving Time and Resources

Enabling your customers to perform these tasks not only improves their buying experience, but it also lowers the cost to serve them as your business can benefit from reduced overhead costs per transaction and improved resource allocation. Self-service frees your sales team from repetitive and mundane tasks like checking order status or inventory so they can spend more time on services that are more valuable to your business.

Now more than ever, B2B buyers expect a frictionless buying experience and are not afraid to explore the competition to find it. By offering self-service ecommerce, you provide a streamlined buying journey that will improve customer experience and your bottom line in the process.

SuiteCommerce empowers B2B sellers to create sites that engage business buyers, maximize their buying efforts and save them time while providing the same easy and information-rich shopping experience as a B2C website. Support online stores, in-house sales, distributors, manufacturers, brick-and-mortar stores and channel partners—all from a single platform.

We can help you create a SuiteCommerce store for your B2b Customers and enable self-service.

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