It’s a promising time for the B2B ecommerce market. It’s predicted to reach $12 trillion in sales globally by 2020, according to research by Frost and Sullivan.
Despite these numbers, B2B retailers still struggle with ecommerce functionality that has become routine in many B2C industries. A recent survey exploring challenges for online sales in the US B2B market found that 34% of respondents say difficulty with web store data management is a key challenge while 24% say the poor customer experience online compared to offline is a major hurdle for them.
Accurate and up-to-date pricing is a critical element to ensuring the customers’ offline-to-online experience is smooth and one that requires data management to be a seamless process. In B2B prices are often complex, highly customized to each buyer or volatile depending on the industry. In addition, there are often specific requirements with taxes and various regulations, especially when retailers sell globally, that can make it difficult to provide the right price in the right channel at the right time.
A 2021 report from Retail Systems Research (RSR), Retail ecommerce in context: the next iteration reveals that 44% of respondents say a top opportunity to improve the online shopping experience is the ability to apply the same business rules, such as pricing, across all touch points.
“B2B pricing models are inherently complex,” says Wayne Vernon, Lead Product Manager, Price Rules at Bold Commerce. “Customers might have special pricing based on loyalty, negotiated discounts, order, and annual volume, or other factors. Often this pricing data is maintained in a legacy system, or worse — a spreadsheet. This makes automating the purchase process in an ecommerce environment incredibly difficult.”
For brands looking to tap into the B2B ecommerce growth opportunity, using a platform-agnostic API to expand a commerce platform’s pricing capabilities is an ideal way to ensure pricing is accurate, up-to-date and seamless between all channels.
Why is B2B pricing difficult to replicate in an ecommerce platform?
The complex nature of B2B pricing has prevented many retailers from delivering a seamless offline-to-online purchasing experience for their customers.
“B2B and wholesale sales interactions have traditionally been very manual processes,” says Wayne Vernon, Lead Product Manager at Bold Commerce. “In order for customers to get the best price available to them via an ecommerce platform, they usually have to engage with a sales rep who manually creates an order that reflects the customer’s special pricing, volume discounts, etc. This not only introduces friction into the buying process that results in drop-off, but is also incredibly labor intensive.”
For example, a brand in the medical supply industry likely has fluctuating prices based on changes from suppliers or competitors in addition to any discounts or pricing deals layered on top for customers. In a traditional ecommerce platform, it can be impossible to show the correct price to a customer based on multiple overlapping factors without a serious time and resource investment in custom development.
How a platform-agnostic API improves the B2B customer experience
To improve the B2B customer experience, brands should consider pricing automation via a platform-agnostic API. This solution automates the flow of high-volume, high-complexity pricing data from one system — a brand’s internal legacy system — to another, in this case the ecommerce platform, says Vernon.
“This works by building an integration from one system to another using powerful price rules APIs. This replaces manual processes, such as sales reps creating orders and manual exports and uploads of CSVs, which reduces labour costs, errors, and increases customer satisfaction and conversion by removing friction from the buying journey.”
Once a brand has integrated an API into their systems, the price rules engine can provide the best price for a customer, product, and cart at the time of transaction on any purchasing channel, he says.
“At the time of checkout, the system would send a request to the pricing API with the customer’s email address and cart and the API will return an adjusted cart with the best prices given the context. This enables a brand to automatically offer accurate and consistent pricing across all channels — point of sale, kiosk, mobile app, phone, and more,” says Vernon.
Modern pricing APIs can create an omnipricing experience for B2B customers without manual intervention. The customer gets the same price — and the best price available to them — regardless of channel.
What ecommerce pricing capabilities are possible with APIs?
A modern, platform-agnostic API should provide B2B retailers with the ability to provide complex pricing to their customers regardless of channel and without manual intervention.
B2B retailers should look for solutions that can handle and layer together the following types of prices:
- Percentage-based or fixed-price discounts
- Setting a fixed price for a customer
- Customer-group based pricing
- Volume-based “buy more, save more” pricing
- “Buy X, Get Y” bundle discounts
- Scheduling offers or deals, such as a 24-hour flash sale
- Quantity-limited discounts, such as buying a maximum of 10 units at a specific discounted price
- Location-based pricing
- Adding in regulatory fees, like tech recycling or eco fees
- Multi-currency capabilities
With a powerful pricing API in place, a B2B brand can start exploring creative ways to meet their customers’ omnichannel purchasing needs, says Vernon. For example, sales reps at a trade show no longer have to use a spreadsheet to record all the show-specific deals and then follow up later with an invoice for each buyer. Instead, they can use a tablet to pull together an invoice and email it to the buyer in the moment.
Price rule APIs add complex capabilities, flexibility, and omnichannel possibilities to commerce platforms that leading B2B retailers need to make customers happier and grow their bottom line.