eCommerce is not the way of the future, it’s the way of the present. Consumers are now fully comfortable researching products and making purchases online. Even from their phones. Not only are people buying online, they are involving themselves in the entire shopping experience on the internet.

This is a pretty straight forward process for typical consumers in the B2C world. Let’s imagine that you want to buy a new pair of hiking boots. You start by googling, reading articles, reading reviews, comparing prices, looking for the best deal and you make your purchase. The web shopping experience is different than the buying experience a decade ago, but overall it isn’t that complex.

How is B2B eCommerce different?

But, what if you are a construction company that needs to buy supplies for a big job that is starting in 2 months? Or what if you are a school district buying food for each of your school cafeteria’s for the next quarter? These are not “hiking boots”-like purchases. They are much more complex business transactions.

If one was to build an eCommerce system that could handle these kinds of transactions, there would be so many layers of interaction that need to be considered. Some of those include:

  • Having multiple Ship To addresses
  • Allowing several layers of user types (manager, team member, executive) log in and see account info (without sharing a user)
  • Sales reps logging in and purchasing on behalf of their accounts
  • Faceted and other advanced forms of search
  • Saving multiple carts to your account before checking out
  • Managing back orders
  • Saving credit card information on file in a PCI compliant manner
  • One order, multiple ship dates
  • Invoice history
  • Managing estimates and purchase orders

In the past, if a manufacturer or warehouse wanted to sell their products online they would typically have to build an eCommerce system that was not connected to their ERP system. This causes all kinds of headaches. Suddenly you have to do a lot of double entry to make sure product info and prices are the same on the eCommerce Site as they are in the ERP. When an order comes in through the site, you have to manually process that sales order in the ERP. If a customer changes their shipping address on the website, you need to ensure that their customer record in the ERP matches.

Too many expensive headaches

Due to all these headaches and complexities, most large businesses have not made the migration to eCommerce. It’s not common…yet. If organizations do have solutions they either have a custom built solution or they are using one of the few available B2B eCommerce solutions that are on the market now. It seems though that one solution hasn’t been created that can serve a variety of business types and solve all these problems.

New solution is on it’s way

I manage a team of developers at [xTuple]( (an open-source ERP system). We are working to solve these problems with our xTupleCommerce product. We’ve built an eCommerce solution on top of Drupal (a popular and robust Content Management System) that connects directly to xTuple’s ERP via our REST API. This means that when product information is updated in the ERP, it immediately updates on the eCommerce site. If a customer saves a new address to their profile, that update is immediately reflected in their customer record. When an order comes in through the eCommerce site it immediately creates a sales order in the ERP.

This is a game changer. Imagine how many problems this solves for large businesses. Suddenly their customers can make purchases online rather than over the phone. Entire catalogs of products can be searched and browsed online. No more wasting time on double-entry and taking orders over the phone. Suddenly your team has more time for things like customer service, scaling your business, and fulfilling orders.

Over the next few weeks I will be rolling our several blog articles that slowly introduce you to our xTupleCommerce system. It’s much too big for one article.

Links to the Articles