Switching to a new ecommerce platform can make sense in an evolving market, but it presents many challenges to maintaining consistent service to customers of all types. Here are tips from a workshop at B2B Next 2019.

Given the speed at which B2B ecommerce technology is evolving, it is not uncommon for suppliers to switch out their ecommerce platforms every three to five years. While making the switch can produce better buyer experiences, the actual switch itself comes with many implementation challenges.

One way for suppliers to minimize the pain points during the transition from a legacy B2B ecommerce platform to a new one is to follow best practices. During a pre-conference workshop at B2B Next 2019 sponsored by Salesforce.com Inc., B2B suppliers and Salesforce representatives discussed a variety of best practices to smooth implementation.

Best practices discussed include:

  • Ask customers what features they want during the planning stage. For example, if buyers expect live chat, the new platform should support it.
  • Define the success metrics for the new platform. This could be increasing the flow of orders per month by a predetermined amount or how easily clients can be on-boarded.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Buyers should evaluate each out-of-the-box features that comes with a new ecommerce platform and deploy only those features needed to deliver the desired user experience. What suppliers must remember when implementing a new ecommerce system is that overlaying the legacy platform onto the new one can produce the same pain points that prompted the decision to replace the old platform in the first place.
  • Pick a platform that has flexible architecture and can support open API’s, or application programming interfaces that enable disparate software applications to automatically share data.
  • Don’t over customize the new platform. While customization can provide a more personalized buyer experience, not every buyer wants the same experience. An ecommerce platform heavily influenced by a handful of large buyers can put off smaller buyers, resulting in lost business. Too much customization can also slow performance. Be sure the systems integrator understands your performance expectations prior to implementing any customization.
  • Test the new platform before on-boarding all clients. Meeting the needs of the biggest customers is a must for suppliers, but so is meeting the needs of smaller clients. Put the new platform through its paces by onboarding two to three large buyers and the same number of small buyers. Be sure to select buyers that have an open mind and will provide honest, in-depth feedback on how the platform performs, and how performance can be improved.
  • Be prepared that some buyers may attempt to walk away after the new platform is implemented, because they are used to the status quo. If this happens, offer incentives to those buyers for using the new platform, such as discounts for purchases, or educate them on the efficiencies they can gain when ordering through the new system, such as more order transparency.

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.

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