B2B buyers today expect the same kind of digital excellence they experience in retail commerce, and B2B sellers need a business strategy that keeps their ecommerce technology performing at the highest levels, Karie Daudt writes.

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Karie Daudt

When you build a new warehouse, extend your presence to another region, or develop a new sector of business, it’s commonly understood that the process doesn’t end with your initial investment. Rather, the development process is ongoing; there will be continual re-evaluation where the plan will pivot and change.

Digital commerce is no different.

And yet, manufacturers and distributors commonly look at their commerce investment as a one-and-done project. Some fast-track the initiative and launch an ecommerce system all at once, and others incrementally introduce ecommerce into their business. Regardless of the strategy, these organizations often fall short in their continuation of the commerce journey.

Why Upgrade?

Ecommerce is an ongoing investment. Whether your system is a portal designed to support self-service ordering for existing customers, or a true ecommerce website where guests can also make purchases, it’s important to have a strategy that includes that initial commerce investment but makes provisions to include upgrades. So when should you upgrade and why?

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Evolving Customer Expectations

As digital experiences continue to improve in the business-to-consumer world, the expectations of business-to-business buyers are changing, too. Customers are beginning to expect the same level of digital excellence in their B2B buying journey as they do in their personal buying journey. Your commerce software needs to be continually upgraded to be able to support new features and functionality. The reality is, commerce platforms have a lifecycle, and eventually the capabilities in your system will become outdated and mediocre in comparison to your more digitally advanced competitors.

Compliance and Security

Failure to upgrade your commerce platform regularly not only leads to outdated capabilities and a lackluster commerce experience, but also makes your organization vulnerable to security and compliance issues. As new versions of a commerce platform become available, upgrades to security features are implemented as well. Platforms often release security patches for users to implement to maintain their security levels, and it’s important that you regularly make these additions. You’re collecting sensitive data on your customers, including names, credit card data, and other confidential information, and you have an obligation to remain compliant with security protocols to protect that information.

Cost

The number one reason organizations are failing to consistently make upgrades to their ecommerce platform is cost. Many companies believe that maintaining the most recent version of an ecommerce platform is costly and time intensive. However, what many B2B businesses fail to realize is that by waiting too long to upgrade, they are putting their license at risk and their system becomes so outdated it becomes a case of re-implementation rather than upgrading. So it can actually save your organization money to maintain your commerce investment.

When to Upgrade

While we would typically recommend you look at an upgrade at least every year to year and a half, this will vary based on your business and the type of software you have.

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Cloud Commerce Solution

As part of a cloud environment, you have the benefit of a team devoted to ongoing security and patch application. This will keep you ahead of any compliance issues that arise without a lot of intervention from your team. However, when it comes to new capabilities, you’ll still need a strategy for upgrades and how you take advantage of those capabilities. This will involve determining which capabilities are relevant to your business, when you want to plug them in, and what workflows and rules you need to support it.

On Premise

With on premise ecommerce systems, you benefit from a full width of capabilities to customize and make unique to your business. However, since you don’t have ongoing support for security updates and patches, you need to have a system in place for ongoing updates. In addition, you have the same needs as cloud commerce solutions when it comes to new capabilities and integrating them into your business.

Having a roadmap, a strategy, and an understanding of the different types of upgrades that are part of your commerce business, and the necessary ongoing investment, should all be part of your business model. A partner can help you develop a plan for when upgrades become available. Together, you can evaluate what releases are relevant to your business to determine what upgrades you’ll implement. You’ll need to determine a cadence for reevaluating your platform and looking at new upgrades, what the timeframe for new implementations should be, and how you’re going to make these upgrades.

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Karie Daudt has more than two decades of experience in digital commerce, management, and business development in the manufacturing and distribution industry. As Senior Commerce Consultant at Perficient Digital, she helps clients identify problems and works to align them with the right technology solution to fit their needs.

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