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.
The Price is Right
Pricing is a critical component of a B2B eCommerce site. There’s nothing more disastrous than a customer seeing the wrong price for a product. The emphasis should be on accuracy and processing speed.
It is common for B2B prices to be individualized based on factors such as contract, purchasing frequency, and volume. Sometimes bulk prices are displayed, grouped according to the number bought.
There are 2 main pricing situations that your search system will need to cater for. We will explore them and discover how best they can be handled:
1. Price Groups
Rather than allocating individual prices for every customer, some businesses have levels or groups of prices, e.g. Level ‘A’ to ‘E’. Depending on the group level allocated to the customer, they’ll see one of a number of prices. In these situations, if the customer is identified, the search system can index all prices and decide whether to pass back, for example, the Level ‘A’, Level ‘B’ price. This situation works well when there are up to about 10 price levels.
2. Dynamic Pricing
In this situation, every customer has negotiated prices, based on volume or contract etc. and the search system can’t know the price in advance. There are several ways in which a search system can handle dynamic pricing:
The search system indexes a standard price, and a message is displayed alongside the product on the search results page along the lines of:
“This is the standard price. For your pricing, view the product details.”
When the customer accesses the product details screen, the price for that particular customer is calculated and displayed. The advantage of this method is that price attribute filters, such as price sliders or selectors, can be displayed on the search results page, giving users the option to filter results based on the standard prices.
For each page of results, the ecommerce system calculates and retrieves the prices for the products that are going to be displayed on that page. Most sites only show one page at a time, approximately 10-12 products. Once the search system has passed back the product IDs, it can calculate the prices based on pricing rules, which can then be shown on the product results page. The search system uses a pricing engine to pass back appropriate prices. The disadvantage of this method is that any price attributes on the search results page become invalid.
An advanced, flexible search system can call a pricing engine as part of its process. This means that it can retrieve exact pricing before the attributes are calculated, passing back the correct pricing for each customer. This method allows for totally dynamic pricing. For every product in the results, a price is needed, which does mean that page load time can be affected. For on-premise B2B customers, this overhead would be reduced because the pricing engine will be running on the same internal network, or even the same server that the search system is running on.
When displaying search results, there is sometimes the need for the price to be more than a single number. Sometimes a set of prices according to volume is required. The search system will need to be able to pass all prices back, perhaps displaying them in a table showing quantity vs price. Does your search system have the ability to pass back multiple prices?
Flexibility is the Answer
Every B2B business has differing needs, and it is essential that search systems are flexible to reflect this. EasyAsk can index multiple prices, calling out to a pricing engine if required, and pass back pricing structures in the results, as opposed to just a simple price. It may be that a business has a set of thresholds for discounts, or individualized pricing based on customer ID. EasyAsk adapts to all circumstances. This isn’t the case for all search systems.
Why Choose EasyAsk?
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.