Contributor: Ozan Yavasoglulari, Managing Consultant – eCommerce & Portals.


In this post, we’ll look at number four in the list of the top five common challenges faced when transitioning B2B sales online. You may recall in the previous post (#5 B2B Buyer Specific and Relevant Content) I gave away a spoiler alert that complex purchasing journeys didn’t make it into the top 5 list. Although the title of this post may indicate otherwise, the statement still stands. As a matter of fact, if you do have complex purchasing journeys in your online B2B experience (or B2C for that matter), then it is almost certain that your solution is at best being underutilized, at worse losing sales.

What exactly do we mean by “complex in behaviour, simple in use”? Consider the following simple real life shopping experience; You walk into your local corner shop for a pack of eggs. You just need a pack of 12 eggs to see you through till your next major shopping in a couple of days. You notice that there’s a single pack of 6 that will expire in a day. You think to yourself, maybe I can buy this one to see me through for one day and do my shopping earlier – or maybe I’ll buy this half a dozen and one that expires latter. Since it’s also your ‘local’ you don’t mind asking for a little discount on the half a dozen that is about to expire (in larger stores, the discount may already have been applied).

This is a common enough experience, or at least one that’s relatable. But if we think about how:

  • the soon-to-expire pack of eggs was on display at the front of the shelf;
  • you the customer, were able to ask for a discount;
  • you were able to buy both the discounted ‘soon-to-expire’ pack along with the non-discounted longer life pack…

We realise that what is a simple and common in-store user experience, in fact, is not that simple when trying to apply the same experience to your online sales, leading to some complex behaviours. Even more so when amplified into the B2B landscape:

  • With large scale ordering;
  • Inventory management for products with expiration dates (batches);
  • Pack sizes and batch ordering
  • Promotion rules applied to products due to expire;
  • Search and listings AI to rank results based on expiration or batches, and probably the most prevalent of all;
  • To be able to request a discount.

For the B2B customer these are standard, everyday operations. If your online experience for your B2B customer is not as simple as what they historically are used to (offline); picking up the phone and putting in an order (in the knowledge that you’ll be doing the legwork in the background), then it’s not ‘simple in use’.

So, here’s the brief: “To provide an online experience no more complex than buying from your local corner shop, with all the large scale B2B operational complexity, but automated!”

In the virtual world, a product that is about to expire, belonging to a specific inventory batch, has the same identifier as one in another batch that has a different expiration. Therefore, this would require a solution that can keep track of inventory at a batch level, not SKU (or product ID) or store, or warehouse… It would also require a solution that can monitor the expiration dates and dynamically apply discount rules. Furthermore, there’s the user experience to be able to mix and match batches and order in packs, and the order fulfilment based on stock allocations.

Of course, you could simply take one look at your existing platform (and/or technology partner) and conclude – “we’d better keep our phone lines open!”. But, if you dare to venture and drive forward (just think, an online experience that serves the needs of the majority of you B2B customers but also reduces your operational overhead) you need to consider the following: firstly, ask your technology team or solution partner, “have you done anything like this before?”. This is crucial, as the pitfalls are vast. If you embark on such a project with a team or solution partner that has no previous experience in layering the simplest of customer user experiences on top of your most complex business logic, you could be in for a very, very long journey! Secondly, the overarching principle, no matter what, should always be – ‘simple in use’…

– Oz

Continue the conversation & participate in discussion by visiting Oz’s original blog post on LinkedIn here.


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