Until a few years ago, CRM and eCommerce systems were very separate entities. However, thanks to the constant evolution of technology, these systems have evolved to the point of overlapping functionality.
Let’s explore system selection, and which type of system can improve B2B sales.
CRM in B2B Commerce
Modern cloud CRM systems (like CRM edge) work well on any device, including smartphones and tablets. They can also place simple orders either natively or through some customization. Some CRM solution vendors provide an online customer portal where clients can place orders online in a simple page. However, despite these customer portals, a CRM system is mostly designed from a sales team standpoint, not the view of the customer.
A CRM solution also allows sales marketing reps to interact as a team, plan calls and meetings, schedule follow-up activities, write notes, update pipelines, oversee customer relationship management, produce simple quotes, and place orders that are usually routed to an ERP system. With these CRM solutions, managers have a consolidated view of their team’s real-time sales efforts and long term pipeline data.
eCommerce for B2B
B2B commerce companies need to provide negotiated pricing and catalogs to specific clients. B2B catalogs often have thousands of items, with a variety of attributes and products that are created by a combination of others, such as configurable products. Companies also need to offer discounts to their clients based on volume and other criteria. Prices have to include taxes and shipping costs that may vary depending on the B2B customer’s location and type of product.
Buyers will be logged in, and so eCommerce systems have to manage accounts and users. Some corporate clients want to have a “B2C-like” experience when purchasing online, which means functions such as responsive pages, product images and videos, shopping carts, recommendations, wish lists, powerful search, and other customer service features. Other customers want to be able to upload an Excel purchase list on the eCommerce portal and have that transformed into an order.
Robust B2B eCommerce platforms also enable sales and service teams to place orders on behalf of customers. So although the “traditional” user of an eCommerce platform is the client, the sales teams may also be users and create orders. Most B2B platforms have a call center or sales order entry system that should be used in lieu of the CRM application. A single B2B sales platform for both buyers and sellers is the most ideal and efficient use of investment dollars.
Even the best integrated CRM solution cannot beat the functionality of a modern cloud eCommerce solution with B2B capabilities. Additionally, using a CRM system to place orders usually requires extensive customization or implementation efforts.
Modern cloud eCommerce platforms offer important B2B functionality: account and user management, approval workflows, multiple catalogs, multiple price lists, volume discounts, multi-site capabilities, and responsive pages. They are easy to interface with other systems via REST APIs, offering a great mobile and desktop experience.
Online order systems that store useful customer data, like credit cards, shipping info, and more, make corporate clients happy and able to self-service. Sales teams are free to go after new customers and concentrate on other aspects of the sale, such as customer relationships or marketing campaigns, rather than order placement.
However, eCommerce B2B systems do not offer great CRM functionality, and they shouldn't. They were not designed for that. They are systems designed to handle transactions, not to coordinate sales activities and pipeline. CRM systems “invaded'' the eCommerce B2B space, not the other way round.
Although there is somewhat of a “grey area” between modern CRM and B2B eCommerce systems, both systems are still specialized in what they do best: eCommerce for transactions and CRM for coordinating sales teams.