Providing an ecommerce opportunity to B2B buyers is no longer a nice-to-have option. Half of respondents to a recent survey about B2B buying habits say web stores are now the most frequent channel through which they place an order. Two-thirds report they spend more online today than they did pre-pandemic. With ecommerce firmly established as today’s preferred and primary purchasing channel, business leaders are keen to adopt B2B ecommerce solutions and reap the rewards the technology promises.
In theory, choosing a solution looks easy. An internal team – often heavy with members of the sales organization – is tasked with determining which features would make customers happy. The team conducts online research, listens to vendor pitches, and recommends which software will provide the biggest bang for the buck to senior leadership. Then, theoretically, everyone sits back and watches their online business flourish.
Sadly, the reality is quite the opposite. While an e-commerce solution is a must-needed tool for an organization’s digitally driven future, it can deliver a slew of new complications, especially for IT leaders. In fact, recent research into the impact of B2B ecommerce solution effectiveness from the viewpoint of IT leaders finds that 84% of IT leaders believe their company’s chosen solution actually has a negative impact on business.
Why? In many instances, the root cause of why ecommerce investments don’t meet organizational expectations can be traced to this: IT leaders are too often removed from the software evaluation and purchasing process. When the purchasing decision is left to executives who understand business goals but who lack a full view of their business’s technology ecosystem, that investment is likely to cause more problems than it solves.
In other words, organizations that do not give IT leadership a seat at the table will suffer the consequences.
Waves of Harm
When a B2B ecommerce solution decision is made without IT input, the repercussions transform from simple business ripples into damaging waves. Unfortunately, these waves almost always end up crashing down upon the IT leader, with two of every three saying their current ecommerce solution has harmed their relationship with the business.
Instead of making life easier for an IT team, a poorly chosen B2B ecommerce solution actually has a negative impact on the team’s capabilities. The most cited frustration by IT leaders is a high level of maintenance. IT leaders report that, on average, two to three people in their team work on the B2B portal, with 41% of that time spent on ongoing maintenance. The need to divert IT resources to maintenance can also lead to havoc in other areas, such as increasing the risk of security breaches and lessening budget available for innovating. IT simply cannot perform as leadership or others in the organization expect it to perform, and the team’s reputation within the organization takes a serious hit.
A deficient B2B ecommerce solution also puts a business’s revenue at risk. When a webstore goes down partially or fully, orders cannot take place. When order errors mar a transaction, frustrated customers are less likely to return. Equally concerning is low B2B ecommerce adoption because of a solution’s outdated design, poor user experience, lack of desired features, and more. Who gets the blame? The IT team that is burdened with a poor ecommerce solution. The fact is that 67% of IT leaders say their relationship with commercial teams has been harmed because customers don’t use the online store as much as expected.
IT Leaders: The Bridge Between Strategy and Technology
In today’s digital-first B2B world, technology is an integral part of an organization’s overall strategy. When the perspectives of IT leaders are not heard by the highest levels of management, the waves of consequences can be huge. The IT team experiences ongoing frustration and inefficiency – along with reputation degradation within the organization – while the organization itself risks increased costs and missed opportunities.
Every functional area needs technology to meet its mission, and IT leaders can provide the intelligence and guidance to support the mission. Therefore, IT leaders must have a prominent role when it comes to tech and business strategy alignment. By serving as the bridge that connects strategy with operational processes – whether discussions are centered on ecommerce solutions or, for that matter, any other significant technology – IT leaders who have a seat at the table are able to help ensure that an organization’s efforts in digital transformation and optimization ultimately lead to business success.
About the author:
Arno Ham is chief product officer at Sana Commerce. Arno started his ecommerce career over 15 years ago, leading B2B projects for customers like Heineken and AkzoNobel. He has contributed to Sana Commerce’s development since 2008 and manages all aspects of the product.
Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 B2B News, published 4x/week. It covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B ecommerce industry. Contact editor Paul Demery at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @pdemery.