IBM Launches B2B Commerce Tool

While e-commerce has become an established strategy for selling to consumers, B2B companies have been slower to adopt it than their B2C counterparts. Though most B2B brands have active Web sites, few use them to actually sell their products online, typically due to fear and lack of expertise, according to Pete Wharton, commerce solutions product marketing leader at IBM.

IBM B2B Commerce tackles the challenge that B2B companies face by offering a solution that's intuitive and requires little IT involvement. The e-commerce templates within IBM B2B Commerce are prebuilt, so the only thing that users have to do is import their catalog into the template to create a site that's "fully functional, and does more than just take orders," Wharton says. In addition to helping users build their e-commerce platform, the solution also offers marketing and engagement capabilities that are tailored to B2B needs.

"In B2B, buying and selling doesn't happen the way it happens in B2C. There are unique challenges. Bundling purchases, for example, happens more frequently. A lawn mowing company isn't going to buy just a lawnmower; they're going to buy a whole set of tools, so the products have to be offered together," Wharton explains. "To address some of these unique challenges, IBM B2B Commerce brings together best practices on how customers like to engage to offer search engine optimization, retargeting, cross-selling, upselling, bundling, and other capabilities," he adds.

The solution has B2B-focused functionality when it comes to pricing as well. Because product pricing can fluctuate depending on the specific customer, the online catalog needs to be updated consistently to reflect accurate pricing. IBM's B2B Commerce tool can take care of this, Wharton says. And Web sites built through IBM's solution are mobile-friendly. Thanks to responsive design, the content is automatically formatted to appear properly regardless of whether it is being viewed on a tablet, computer, or mobile device.

Analytics are also an important component of enabling B2B companies to sell through e-commerce, and IBM offers an analytics component as a pre-integrated, add-on solution to the B2B Commerce tool. The analytics feature has two functions—one looks at customer behavior to deliver insight on Web site activity and architect more effective engagement, while the other works as a "struggle detection" tool that can pick up on where the sale breaks down. For example, the struggle detection analytics can zero in on the actions that led to cart abandonment or pinpoint a series of searches that left a customer frustrated.

"B2B buyers want a B2C buying experience. Everybody buys online these days, and imagine your frustration when you're searching online and can't find what you want. Now translate that to B2B, when it's a very specific piece of equipment. It gets complicated, and a failed search could make a customer leave the site," Wharton says."When the struggle detection engine picks up on that, the company can make changes to improve the search process," he adds.

Launched as part of IBM's Smarter Commerce, an initiative aimed at providing analytics-driven solutions to companies across industries, B2B Commerce is IBM's latest effort to help brands embrace digital selling. What differentiates IBM in the market is that its customers can start their digital transformation at any part of their sales process and gradually expand to all of their different routes to market, such as the call center, field sales, distributor and reselling partnerships, and online sales, according to Wharton. "Now we're bringing those same capabilities into the B2B space, where there is such a need right now," he says.


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