B2B sales portal and SaaS

In an older post (here http://goo.gl/jXGmOi), I scratched the surface of the idea that the cloud ERP could also serve B2B sales, by enabling the enterprise (SaaS customer) to invite its own customers in a “B2B sales portal”. I don’t see this portal as a substitute of the e-shop for B2C sales; nor do I find the idea of the SMB developing a separate system particularly interesting. Implementing a new, separate B2B sales system and having it interface with the cloud ERP would not be a cost-effective solution, or a sustainable one in terms of additional and recurring costs.

Instead, I propose that the selected cloud ERP platform could or should offer a relevant offering, out-of-box or, at least, an integrated solution for B2B sales. It is exactly the right point to build extrovert functionality, intended to automate a business process where the customer is a key stakeholder. You see, the cloud ERP is already “there” (meaning that it is exposed to the internet) and already has all the necessary information that is required to build, circulate and fulfill a Customer Order. You have your customer records, your warehouse items and actual inventory and the billing module to issue the final invoice to the customer.
Of course, B2B customers may have additional needs or requirements, compared to occasional B2C customers, who will usually register, order and finalize their order by supplying a credit card. It is exactly this additional functionality that interests me and below I make an attempt to outline some significant parts of it but, more importantly, to show why an external e-shop-like tool would not fit the purpose.

  • Typical B2B customers would probably not be asked to pay cash (through a credit card or PayPal, that is) for each and every one of their orders. In these cases, there should also be the possibility of reviewing one’s current balance or get notifications in case of balance excess or other conditions.
  • Frequent customers, as we can assume that B2B customers are, may need a kind of workflow to be followed for each order. For example:

Ø  What is to happen if there is not enough inventory for the requested item?
Ø  Should the supplier keep a backorder?
Ø  Can there be special discount campaigns for specific customers and how are they notified upon their login on the system?
Ø  Etc.

  • If the vendor also executes the logistics of the transaction and assuming that the delivery process takes more than a few hours, then the end customer can get email or other notifications about the status of the delivery, while in a typical e-shop customers receive – at best – an order-tracking number and they have to tap in the logistics web portal to see it.
  • The B2B solution must have the option to export machine-readable data concerning the sales invoice or other data necessary for feeding the receiving system. In other words, fully automate the Electronic Invoicing Cycle, instead of just sending the PDF of the invoice.
  • Integrated with the main cycle of order and order fulfillment, the cloud ERP could also offer other functionality such as ticketing system for issues/disputes resolving etc.

My point is that, if your company relies heavily on B2B or “wholesale” sales, then the B2B Sales Portal is a necessary component of your software stack. And the best place to build it is on your cloud ERP. Or, to make a stronger point, the B2B module could be one of the decisive factors the next time you execute the software selection process for the ERP.


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