eCommerce businesses have, understandably, often been at the forefront of the change in operating models in recent years, both within the business-to-consumer (B2C) and the business-to-business (B2B) fields. B2B ecommerce is expected to grow from $780 billion in 2015 to $1.1 trillion by 2020, according to market researcher Forrester Research, with growth in the US alone increasing at a 16% year-on-year basis to sales of over S97 billion in Q2 2016.

The question of how to manage B2B relationship processes is one in which newly developed online tools and platforms have a major role to play. OroCommerce is one such platform designed to manage relationships between businesses.

OroCommerce offers a range of B2B features immediately upon installation. These include integration with Enterprise Resource Planning, Customer Relationship Management, Product Information Management, order management, and other systems. All form part of the platform thus enabling more effective business operations.

However, while this level of functionality allows effective operations for eMerchants, there are other aspects that could be considered for future expansion of the OroCommerce platform; in this, the business-to-consumer world offers inspiration, in particular with regard to the creation of extensions and addons that could be developed.

The use of plugins and extensions has become a highly effective way for merchants to integrate new capability into their existing systems without the need for wholesale (often expensive) changes. With extensions, plugins and modules offering seamless integration with the original platform, they are ideal for development and then deployment. Taking inspiration from the B2C world, here are a few areas that could be considered for investigation:

ANALYTICS OROCOMMERCE EXTENSION

Expanding B2B operations has many of the same requirements as those needed in B2C, for example marketing and sales campaigns to promote the business and to target prospective customers or clients.

While the target market may be different, the fundamentals are the same: the needs to collect and collate data in a manner that allows quick and easy interpretation of multiple different strands of information, the need to know which campaigns work and generate increased returns, and ultimately the ability to make data-driven decisions. Analytical extensions enable this, allowing comparison of (for example) year-on-year figures and trends, individual product sales, different store views and so on. Those merchants specialising in B2B have as much need for effective data collection and analysis as their B2C counterparts.

EMAIL MARKETING FOR OROCOMMERCE

Email remains one of the primary ways merchants can communicate with their customers. Extensions or addons that allow effective email marketing are important, as is minimising the time and effort required.

Any extension for the B2B field would need to take into account the requirement to integrate effectively with analytical tools, the ability to ensure automation, personalization, follow up emails, and to observe that the rules are followed that trigger specific activities: an abandoned cart, a new order, an order status update, customer behaviour, or a certain date, for example.

OROCOMMERCE REWARD POINTS EXTENSION

The concept of reward points for customer expenditure or behaviour is well known, but most people are familiar with it through the B2C model of operation – be it online reward points with a particular eCommerce merchant or handing over a loyalty card at the supermarket when doing the weekly shop.

There is no reason though why similar models cannot operate within the B2B world – indeed some loyalty programs do already operate (such as the Know Your IBM programme), but offering a full integration with the OroCommerce platform would give a competitive edge. It would enable merchants to reward their business customers in points, while allowing the merchant to set thresholds and points expiration, enable specific earning rules (for example by catalogue, shopping cart of specific behaviour, and the application of points in part or in total).

STORE CREDIT FOR OROCOMMERCE

In a similar manner, turning a customer-focused store credit system into a business-oriented extension would be a logical step, giving the merchant additional functionality with their OroCommerce modules.

As with the B2C model, a B2B focused store credit extension would allow business to issue refunds with store credit, manage a customer balance from the backend, or purchase virtual store credit and top up the balance from the customer side. It increases the motivation for businesses to continue to work with the same business in the future, ensuring greater loyalty.

OROCOMMERCE SUBSCRIPTIONS AND RECURRING PAYMENTS

Such an OroCommerce addon would allow business customers to purchase subscription products or set up recurring payments when using the OroCommerce platform. Given the recurring nature of some B2B services or products this would certainly have the benefit of allowing more efficient and effective collection of payment and provision of services.

The manager would be able to configure custom subscription templates, allow simultaneous subscription and non-subscription purchases, and the extension would provide a failure-proof charging system.

HELP DESK EXTENSION FOR OROCOMMERCE

The B2B relationship is often different to the B2C one, for instance in terms of the length of duration of the relationship. Thus while some amendments for a help desk type extension may be needed, the underlying principle of providing an effective service to business customers when there are problems is one that should certainly be considered.

An OroCommerce extension would usefully include: an all-in-one ticket view revealing customer details, any loyalty program’s balance, previous orders, returns, and tickets. It would allow the creation of departments and agents, and the assigning of tickets directly to the relevant support manager, with an email fetching feature that would automatically parse email content into the right ticket threads or create a new ticket.

BOTTOM LINE

The B2C environment offers plenty of inspiration that could be considered when developing OroCommerce extensions in the future. While some amendments would be needed in various cases, the underlying concept of many of the extensions is directly transferable and should certainly encourage business loyalty and ongoing sales in much a similar manner to that with B2C customers.