November 4, 2013, 2:26 PM

B2B leaps onto the web

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The cost to companies to deploy NetSuite SuiteCommerce software starts at $1,999 per month for the mid-market version and $3,999 per month for the enterprise version, which can handle more product catalogs, NetSuite says.

B2B companies are also finding other ways to use e-commerce technology to improve and expand their markets:

  • Parts Town, which sells kitchen equipment and parts to restaurants, uses an Internet-hosted imaging system to build a catalog of images for thousands of products, making it easier for chefs and restaurant managers—as well as home chefs with professional-grade kitchens—to more easily identify the correct product and place an order on a web site or mobile device. The company uses Snap36 LLC's technology to photograph products ranging from oven parts to light bulbs for kitchen appliances, and hosts the images on the web through Shotfarm LLC, says Emanuela Delgado, Parts Town vice president of marketing and innovation.
  • West Music Co., which has specialized in selling musical instruments, music books and accessories to schools since the early 1940s, migrated its e-commerce operations in July to a technology platform hosted on the Internet by ShopVisible. The new e-commerce site provides West Music the flexibility to let consumers buy directly from the site, while also building into the site purchasing rules set by each client school district. Now B2B buyers from each district see online order forms that show purchasing requirements, such as for maximum order volumes that an individual teacher or school is authorized to order, and authorized shipping addresses, saving West Music the trouble of manually clarifying the rules for each order. School district managers can also log into ShopVisible to monitor purchasing activity across their schools. With six retail stores and a print catalog in addition to its e-commerce sites, overall sales are growing in double digits, with most of the growth coming from the web, senior vice president Ryan West says.

There is likely to be more growth ahead for companies that can take their deep product expertise and use the web to reach not only their traditional business customers but also the millions of consumers shopping online.

Story Sidebar: E-commerce drives up B2B sales

When business-to-business customers place orders through an e-commerce portal where they can quickly search for products and see recommended related items, 44% of U.S. companies engaged in B2B e-commerce in a recent survey said average order values are higher than orders placed through more traditional means, such as in person or via phone or fax, Forrester Research Inc. says. 11% of companies said their average order values decrease; 24% said they remain the same; and 20% said they don't know if average order values change. The percentages don't add up to 100 because of rounding.

Forrester's survey, which was based on a poll of 45 e-commerce professionals from the United States, Europe and Asia, also found that 52% respondents said their customer support costs decrease for customers who place orders through an e-commerce portal, compared with costs for serving customers who place orders outside of the portal.

In addition, 56% of respondents said they have customers they can manage profitably only if the customers place their orders online without assistance from sales reps.

Another study, based on a survey of 400 B2B companies in the United States and Europe in April and May, found that 49% of respondents said they expect to improve their financial performance by moving their business customers to an online buying system. In addition, 44% of respondents said they expect e-commerce to result in larger average order sizes, and 43% said e-commerce will lead to a higher percentage of returning customers. This study was conducted for e-commerce technology provider Intershop Communications AG by technology research firm Vanson Bourne.

The Intershop study found that 92% of respondents already conduct some B2B sales online, and that the remaining 8% plan to sell online. In addition, 23% of respondents said they expect to increase their amount of online B2B sales by 40% or more over the next 12 months.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

@pdemery


Join Us

Internet Retailer editors and Forrester Research analyst Andy Hoar will discuss how to measure success in B2B e-commerce in a free webinar on Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. CST. Visit the Conferences section at InternetRetailer.com to register, or http://bit.ly/1aOcqhO.


SEE RELATED INDUSTRY RESOURCES

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