B2B Series Challenge 3: Customer-Specific Catalogs

According to Forrester, B2B eCommerce in the U.S. will hit $1.2 trillion by 2021, seeing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.4% over the next four years. It is therefore essential that B2B businesses optimize the experience for their customers online. B2B sites have typically been known as less usable, but it is time for them to catch up with B2C and make it really easy for customers to do business. B2B eCommerce has unique complexities, which present unique challenges and therefore require a unique set of best practices. We will explore these challenges in our B2B blog series and offer advice and solutions to ensure that your B2B site delivers a superior experience.

Customer-Specific Catalogs

Providing customer-specific catalogs is a unique search requirement for B2B companies and can present unique challenges when it comes to eCommerce. But if it is done well, the personalized experience for your B2B customers will certainly pay dividends.

There are 4 possible situations that a B2B company may need to cater for:

  1. The company has products that all customers can see and buy.
  2. Certain customers are only authorized to buy from a particular range or category of products. When the customer searches, it is important that they can only view the products that are available for them to buy.
  3. Similarly, the availability of products may be based on location. Customers in the North-East might only see products that are stocked in the North-East warehouse. Location of the stock also limits which products a customer should see.
  4. There may be custom products produced by a company that are only available to one particular customer. For example, coffee companies need branded cups, so it is important that those custom products are in the supplier’s catalog, but cannot be purchased by anyone else.

Differing needs

Within a typical B2C system, the search system would search the entire catalog and show results, but in the above situations, the catalog indexing process needs to define who can buy which products so that the search system is able to present products in the results correctly. This can become very complex, which is why out-of-the-box search systems can’t handle it. EasyAsk provides a custom implementation for each customer so that any of the challenges described above can be handled.

A paper products manufacturer became an EasyAsk customer and now has certain products in their catalog that are marked with customer IDs, while other products are marked as being global. Their coffee store customer buys branded cups, so when they log in the customer ID is passed to EasyAsk, who pass back only the right products.

The implementation of customer-specific catalogs varies completely between B2B customers, so it isn’t possible to just use defined rules; the flexibility to support all different circumstances is necessary.


B2B Personalization

Being able to search and see personalized results based on pre-negotiated terms is imperative for your B2B customers. They should never see a product that isn’t available for them to buy. Your search system should be aware of product availability for any given customer. Is your search system up to this?


EasyAsk is up to the challenge

EasyAsk offers the only site search and merchandising tool designed exclusively for the rigors and challenges of B2B eCommerce. EasyAsk can be configured for any platform, either commercial or built in-house.

EasyAsk has long served the B2B customer segment and over 200 B2B distributors have chosen us to power their B2B eCommerce sites, including: Aramark, Demco, Kaman Industries, Tacoma Screw, and Crown Packaging.


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