A starter guide to developing a successful B2B trade portal

Head of Web Development, ScienceSoft

Published:

b2b portal

When it comes to developing a B2B trade portal, expectations are always high. However, you can waste insane amounts of energy and a small fortune allocated to the development of this complex solution when some simple things turn out to be overlooked.

Let’s take 5 minutes to stop and think how to make the new online marketplace really rewarding. One can highlight the following dos and don’ts that need to be considered if you want to increase the success of the complex B2B solution and make more and more companies use and enjoy it.  

5 important dos

b2b portal

Do provide non-member features

If you want the portal to show constant growth – hold off the sign-in process as long as possible. Instead of abstract promises, it is way better to show potential users visible and tangible benefits. It will give them time to explore the system, to fall in love with it and finally wonder how they ever lived without it. Moreover, this way you take the advantage of constant and effortless self-promoting of your portal.

Do encourage registration

Registration is a win-win solution. The owners benefit as it is the first step in converting visitors to members and ensuring their loyalty. They know who their audience is. They get the opportunity to communicate with them directly. They can provide rating systems of possible buyers and sellers to their users, thereby notably improving the portal’s functionality.

The marketing managers get access to priceless information about their clients, which makes decisions more solid and considered.

As for the registered users, they take advantage of multiple premium functions, as personalized new offer mailing, buyers - quick order, one click re-order, order history view, sellers – order and payment monitoring, goods displaying, request management. But more often the users will seek to avoid it, thinking of future spamming or long confusing registration forms. It is therefore very important to communicate wisely opening opportunities and to keep the registration process as quick and simple as possible.  

Do allow for CRM/ERP integration

It is a mistake to believe that a B2B portal is intended to replace all the existing internal systems. A B2B portal is intended to streamline interaction between buyers and sellers. Accordingly, if the internal systems can be involved into the trade process, there is no reason for function duplication and manual data reentering. Especially since there is the possibility to benefit from the systems the business has already invested in. Integration with the members’ systems provides better user experience and makes cooperation look more simple, smooth and natural. Users are sure to appreciate the ability to keep to the established business processes.

Do embed analytics

Analytics is crucial for a B2B portal solution as it is always good for watching the trends and understanding what your clients need. As for sellers, they get the opportunity to optimize their pricing policy, create group-specific content, and decide on compliant, shipping and payment conditions. The buyers, in their turn, see fair prices, analyze sellers’ experience index and quality of performance rating. The portal owners, in their turn, will be able to support the portal’s breathing, tracking the balance of registered buyers and sellers, their activity, trending offers and demands.  Analytics plays an important role in timely detecting the current ‘white spots’, understanding the user’s behavior and composing personalized emails and adds with relevant news and offers.   

Do iterations

B2B portals, by nature, are complex and highly personalized solutions. It’s impossible to describe and develop a perfect B2B solution on the first try due to endless number of specifications, coordination of different business rules, business logics and design decisions, integration with various systems of portal users. Only by trial and error you can design the solution that will meet the specific needs of the business and truly optimize the processes.

For this reason, the way of least disruption and pain is to take it in iterations, which means to launch a basic version and then incrementally introduce more features, based on further specification and feedback.

Such approach brings the following gains:

  • The product will be released sooner and, therefore, start to work and pay off sooner.
  • All changes and additions become easier and less expensive and the solution is much more likely to stand the test of time in the context of the ever-altering business environment.

3 absolute don’ts

b2b portal

Don’t ignore usability

Here we’re referring to design, unique content, ease of use and navigation. According to the Nielsen Norman Group report, users are ready to spend only about 10s on the site before they decide whether they actually need it. They don’t have any time to wait for the computer to ‘think’ and don’t have any desire to figure out how this complicated system works. Either they get what they need in these 10s or they’re gone. The first impression is the best impression and never should you darken it.

Furthermore, usability is not only about initial reaction, it also retains the users and makes them come back. Keeping it simple and clear is a good move to convert more and more visitors into users. The system should think for the client, adapting to him, predicting, guessing and suggesting. It should provide simple UI for most of cases and introduce complexity only when it’s really inevitable.

Don’t save on quality

Firstly, it will seriously question your professionalism. Errors in the site make to think about errors in documents and no one wants to have errors in their documents.

Secondly, the errors will scare off users due to possible insecurity when it comes to sharing of confidential information and internal system integration.

Don’t rely on weak architecture

Above all, ill-designed architecture makes the process of system’s scalability and enhancement more complex and expensive. As already mentioned, the B2B market is such a fast-changing environment, that your solution may become outdated by the time it is launched if not by the time its extensive description is finished.

Moreover, due to a large number of users, huge amounts of data, numerous parallel and interactive processes, weak architecture with poorly thought-out internal communication leads to the following unattractive consequences:

  • Negative effect on the system’s security, which again moves us back to the users’ concerns about the safety of serious confidential information.
  • Troubled cooperation of multiple users’ internal systems (as CRM/ERP), the value of which has also been discussed here.
  • Increased response time, which is perfectly unacceptable as everyone hates waiting.

Afterword

A B2B portal can enormously benefit from incremental improvements, a clever balance of member and non-member features, built-in analytics and integration options. At the same time, bad architecture and disregard for such important issues as the portal’s usability and quality may easily cause project failure.

And certainly, these are not all the points that are worth considering when we want our B2B portal to thrive, but not die. However, the attention to these basic issues is a good start for creating a top-notch working solution that will fully justify the resources spent.  

Want to bring your business online or enhance its web presence? We are ready to develop web portal solutions for you to enjoy lucrative benefits of the next-level B2B automation.