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Core Features For Users Of B2B Ecommerce Platforms

Whether you’re a manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler, having the right features for users of your B2B ecommerce platform is crucial. The variety and complexity of B2B buying processes means that users can have very specific requirements around user permissions, portal customisation and shared shopping carts, whilst their product information requirements can have a wide breadth.

Effective Access Controls and Restricted Access Functions

With complex transactions and frequent exchanges of sensitive information, access controls and restricted access functions have become indispensable aspects of B2B eCommerce websites. Implementing role-based permissions, regulating access to specific products, pricing and features, and ensuring secure access to sensitive data are essential in creating safe and robust B2B transactions.

Role-based Permissions for Different User Types

One of the critical aspects of access control on B2B eCommerce websites is role-based permissions. By defining and assigning specific permissions to different user types, a B2B platform can distribute and delegate responsibilities while efficiently safeguarding sensitive information. Typically, user types range from buyers, managers, and administrators, each with distinct roles and access authorisations.

Some examples of user types and their requisite permissions include:

  • Buyers: Buyers should only have access to the product catalogue, pricing, and purchasing features. They should not be able to view or modify information related to other customers or access backend data.

  • Managers: In addition to the privileges available to buyers, managers may have permissions to view order histories and customer account details. They can also manage purchasing approvals and oversee the buying process. In some cases, managers may also have the authority to alter the terms and pricing negotiated with specific customers - however, they cannot access the site's backend management.

  • Administrators: Administrators maintain the highest level of access, granting them the ability to manage every aspect of the B2B eCommerce website. This includes access to product and customer data, sales reports, analytics, pricing strategies, and customer segments, alongside managing users and their permissions.

Using versatile platforms or Content Management Systems (CMS), businesses can seamlessly create these user types, define their roles and permissions, and even customise access to specific modules or sections of the website for each user. Wired In specialise in the development of role-based permission systems for B2B sites using nopCommerce.

Control over Who can View Specific Products, Pricing, and Features

Another crucial aspect of access control on B2B eCommerce platforms involves managing access to products, pricing, and features for different users. Given the custom-nature and confidentiality often tied to B2B transactions, businesses need the flexibility to limit visibility on a more granular level. Key components include:

  • Product Visibility: Implementing restricted access to specific product categories, items, or catalogues can allow for exclusive visibility limited to select customer groups or individual customers. By customising accessibility based on specific users, businesses can provide personalised recommendations and facilitate targeted promotions.
    Key Commercial Features For B2B Ecommerce Websites
  • Pricing: B2B pricing is often tailored to individual customers on account of factors such as negotiation, contract terms, and purchase history. Displaying exclusive contract pricing or tiered pricing to only authorised customers ensures a personalised shopping experience while maintaining confidentiality and safeguarding price-sensitive information. Take a look at our Key Commercial Features of B2B Ecommerce Websites for more ideas on dynamic pricing.

  • Features: Restricting access to certain features can enhance the B2B user experience. For instance, limiting the use of bulk purchasing options or payment terms to specific customers ensures that only those who qualify can access these exclusive benefits.

With the right ecommerce platform, businesses can create tiered user groups, individual permissions, and advanced access controls to regulate visibility effectively. This strengthens both the website's security and the customer experience.

Secure Access to Sensitive Information

In B2B transactions, businesses often deal with large volumes of sensitive information such as customer data, financial records, pricing structures, and proprietary product details. Ensuring secure access to this sensitive information is paramount to protect intellectual property, uphold data privacy, and safeguard against fraud or data breaches.

Secure access measures on a B2B eCommerce website should encompass multiple layers:

  • Stringent authentication processes, such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) or Single Sign-On (SSO) for authorised users.

  • Strong encryption tools to protect data both during transmission and when stored.
  • Comprehensive monitoring and tracking of user activities to detect unusual behaviour patterns or unauthorised access attempts.

  • Regular audits and updates of access permissions to ensure that only the necessary personnel maintain access to sensitive data.

  • Implementing firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) to safeguard the platform against cyber threats.

Embracing Portal Customisation

Portal customisation has become a staple in the world of B2B eCommerce, allowing for a tailor-made experience that caters to each user's preferences, roles, and expectations. As B2B customers increasingly seek a user experience on par with B2C standards, offering a highly personalised and engaging online portal is crucial. From personalised dashboards to customisable user interfaces, the focus is now on delivering an exceptional customer journey that not only meets but anticipates the needs of users.

Personalised Dashboards for Each User

The essence of a B2B portal is its capacity to adapt to the unique workflows and data requirements of different users. A personalised dashboard is a central component of this customisation. Key features include:

  • Role-specific Information Display: Dashboards should be configured to show information pertinent to a user's role within their company. For example, a procurement officer might see open orders and shipping information, while a C-suite executive might view high-level reporting and analytics.

  • Custom Widgets and Modules: Users should be able to add, remove, or adjust widgets that give them quick access to the tools and data they use most often. Widgets could range from order status to inventory levels, or even include analytical tools that track spending patterns.

  • Actionable Insights: The dashboard can also serve proactive suggestions and insights. If the system detects that stock for a frequently ordered product is low, it can prompt the user to reorder before a stockout occurs.

  • Integration Capability: Personalised dashboards should seamlessly integrate with other enterprise tools such as ERP, CRM, and supply chain management systems to provide a unified, 360-degree view of relevant business metrics.

Customisable Layouts, Branding, and Navigation

Offering customisation options for layouts, branding, and navigation is critical to providing an interface that resonates with the specific branding guidelines and ease-of-use required by B2B clients. These elements include:

  • Layouts: Users should be able to alter the layout of their portal to fit their preferences. For instance, layout customisation might include the ability to change the colour theme, the composition of the page, or the way products are displayed.

  • Branding: White labelling and brand integration into the portal allow not only for a consistent visual experience across platforms but also foster a stronger brand connection. This might cover aspects such as logos, brand colour schemes, and other corporate identity elements.

  • Navigation: Easy and intuitive navigation tailored to customers' preferences can drastically improve user satisfaction. Having the capacity to customise menu structures, search functionalities, and shortcut buttons streamlines the shopping process and enhances efficiency.

Relevant Content Based on User Roles and Preferences

Content relevance is pivotal in B2B eCommerce portals, where the variety of products and the complexity of content can be overwhelming. To address this, portals should be able to display content that aligns with the user's industry, role, and past behaviour. Some of the ways to achieve this are:

  • Role-based Content: Content customisation software can automatically display products, services, and resources that are most pertinent to a user's particular role within their company or industry sector.

  • Preference-driven Content: B2B portals should learn from user interactions to present relevant items and content. If a user repeatedly purchases a specific type of product, the system should prioritise showing related items or information.

  • Behavioural Data Analysis: By analysing the browsing and purchase data, the portal can offer personalised recommendations, promotional content, and tailored buying guides that resonate with the user's purchase history and preferences.

  • Feedback Loops: Allowing users to provide feedback about the relevance of content and recommendations ensures continuous improvement in the content's relevance.

Shared Shopping Carts

With B2B ecommerce becoming increasingly collaborative, the traditional single-user shopping cart is undergoing a significant transformation. The extended buying cycles common in B2B transactions, coupled with the frequent need for team-based decision-making, have led to the adoption of shared shopping carts. The shared cart feature fosters cooperation among team members, allows for joint decision-making through cart sharing, and enables seamless handoffs in the buying process.

Collaboration Among Team Members

While B2C shopping is usually a straightforward, individual task, B2B procurement often involves multiple stakeholders, each with unique inputs and requirements. Shared shopping carts act as a collaborative platform for all these team members, essentially enabling:

  • Input from Various Stakeholders: Individuals such as sourcing managers, department heads, and financial officers can add products, review items and leave comments in a shared cart. Not only does this make procurement inclusive, but it also ensures optimal product choices considering all business needs.

  • Real-Time Collaboration: Shared carts allow for real-time, remote cooperation, a potent tool in today’s increasingly virtual business world. Regardless of geographical location or time zone, team members can contribute to the procurement process at their convenience.

  • Synchronised Updates: Changes made to the shared shopping cart mirror in real-time for all users, preventing miscommunication or purchasing errors. Instant notifications and alerts can further enhance this synchronised approach.

Creating and Sharing Carts for Joint Decision-Making

The shared shopping cart feature brings a new level of involvement and shared decision power often necessary in B2B transactions:

  • Year-Round Planning: Teams can create and retain multiple shared carts for different projects, time periods, or departments. The ability to develop these carts over time allows for advanced planning and budgeting.

  • Review and Approvals: Shared carts can be submitted for review to an appropriate authority before finalising the purchase. This allows for better oversight and reduces the risk of costly mistakes or unauthorised purchases.

  • Feedback and Suggestions: Team members can annotate product selections, propose alternative options, or flag items that need further discussion. This interactive setup nurtures an open dialogue and collective decision-making, ultimately leading to smarter purchases.

Seamless Handoff Between Users during the Buying Process

The protracted nature of B2B buying cycles often means that a single purchase might span shifts, days or even weeks. To cater to this, shared shopping carts facilitate seamless handoffs from one user to another:

  • Transfer Ownership: If a purchaser leaves a project or is unavailable, they can easily pass the reins over to another team member. This feature ensures that buying processes are never stranded due to the unavailability of a single user.

  • Stage-wise Contribution: In complex processes, purchases can be divided into stages, each owned by a different user. For example, a technical lead might pick the products, a financial officer could approve the cost, and finally, a procurement manager wraps up the purchase. Each stage proceeds on the shared cart, eliminating the need to transfer data or duplicate carts.

  • Saves Time: By assigning items to team members based on their expertise or department, companies can streamline procurement and quicken their buying cycles. Every team member knows their role, making the process more efficient.

Leveraging Product Information Management (PIM)

Product Information Management (PIM) lies at the heart of any successful B2B ecommerce strategy. It involves maintaining a centralised repository for product data, cultivating detailed product descriptions, and ensuring consistent, accurate information across all marketing channels. By enhancing product visibility, information accuracy, and operational efficiency, a robust PIM system can significantly elevate the ecommerce experience for both sellers and buyers.

Creating a Centralised Repository for Product Data

The first step towards effective PIM is to create a unified, centralised repository to store all product data. This centralisation brings significant advantages:

  • Broad Accessibility: A centralised PIM system grants access to product information to all internal teams (marketing, sales, customer service) from one place, promoting faster, more aligned business operations.

  • Streamlined Data Management: Centralisation means all product data updates, changes, or amendments reflect in real-time across the system. This feature simplifies data management and ensures all teams work with the most current product data.

  • Integration Capabilities: A centralised PIM system can integrate with your ecommerce platform, Content Management System (CMS), and other marketing tools, delivering a seamless flow of data across multiple business applications.

Developing Detailed Product Descriptions, Specifications, and Images

To help B2B customers make informed buying decisions, product information must be detailed, comprehensive and accurate. Here, PIM plays a pivotal role:

  • Comprehensive Content: PIM systems offer structured templates and fields to input detailed product attributes, specifications, pricing, SKU details, and more. It supports multiple formats, allowing you to add images, videos, PDF files, and other media to product listings.

  • Improved Searchability: Detailed product descriptions, coupled with the right product tags and SEO-friendly content, help to improve the product’s discoverability on your ecommerce platform and search engines.

  • Enhanced Customer Confidence: A PIM system ensures that all the product-related facts and figures, from basic descriptions to complex details and images, are readily available to your customers. This level of transparency builds buyer trust and confidence.

Ensuring Consistent and Accurate Information Across Channels

Consistency is key to maintaining your brand integrity and achieving customer satisfaction. PIM helps to ensure this consistency:

  • Unified Information: A structured PIM system, integrated with all your ecommerce and marketing channels, ensures every product's information remains consistent across all platforms. Whether a customer browses your website, reads a brochure, or visits a third-party marketplace, they'll encounter the same product descriptions and details.

  • Error Elimination: The centralised nature of PIM greatly reduces the risk of data redundancy, mismatches, or errors. All updates sync across all channels, preventing discrepancies and enhancing data accuracy.

  • Improved Customer Experience: Consistent, accurate product information contributes to a seamless, favourable customer experience. It removes confusion and aids customers in their buying journey, increasing satisfaction and boosting sales.

Whatever your users’ requirements, Wired In are here to help with the development and customisation of your platform. Talk to us today for our guidance and insight.

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