3 Common B2B eCommerce Failures and How to Address Them

Our team often gets involved in helping companies troubleshoot issues with their eCommerce sites. I asked three of our developers to share some common failures they have seen and how to avoid them.

Warning: In this article, we try to touch on some technical details for you and we also avoid being platform specific. We would be happy to help you with your specific cases and drive to your issues, root causes, and potential solutions.

FAILURE #1: Users can’t find what they are searching for

Search is an essential part of any website with more than a handful of pages. If your users can’t find what they’re looking for in the first few results, expect them to leave your site in search of a site that won’t waste their time. 

What can you do if your search results are inaccurate? Or even worse, blank? Three places to investigate are your data source, the search index, and the search implementation.

The first question to ask is, “what data is the search targeting?” Do you have product names, descriptions, SKUs, and asset filenames stored in a database that is crawled to build an index? Do you have article names and content that are sent via XML data feed to a 3rd party search provider? Do you have product attributes and values stored in a table for filtering? Ensuring that this data actually exists means that it is possible for a search to be successful if the implementation is working. 

If your data is in good shape, the next thing to ask is “how is the data being indexed?” Is the data being passed to the indexer at all? Is it indexed on a regular schedule (perhaps continuously)? Does it contain the right data entities (eg. products, articles the data being passed to the indexer at all? Is it indexed on a regular schedule (perhaps continuously)? Does it contain the right data entities (eg. products, articles, user manuals) and are the right fields being sent for indexing (eg. product name, SKU, description)? A user’s search for a part number can’t succeed if the product SKU field isn’t being indexed.

If the most pertinent results don’t appear at the top, your developer will need to analyze the search query to find out how results are ranked and how to compute a higher score for more relevant results. Some search solutions allow you to weight different fields (like SKU or description) higher than other fields, but others don’t. 

More expensive search solutions can improve search results by improving the relevance of top results. Evaluate the ROI of improving search experience: will more users purchase from your site if they can find what they want? Absolutely. But, finding the right balance of features and price depends on matching a search solution’s capabilities to your users’ needs.

Drew Douglas has been on the Brilliance team for 3 years and works as a developer on new and existing eCommerce projects, including front and back-end development as well as data integrations. Drew holds certifications from Microsoft and episerver.

FAILURE #2: Shipping rates not showing up or inaccurate

When shipping rates are not working, the problem is usually the real-time interface to UPS, FedEx, or USPS. There could be a myriad of reasons for this, but with the assumption that there is not a code bug, here are some of the common reasons we see for real-time shipping rates not working: 

  • Not completely setting origin address - To determine accurate rates, shippers need to know exactly the origin of the package. Usually, this is fixed by entering the full street, city, state, country, and postal code of your shipping warehouse. Note, though, that using 3rd party logistics companies can add to the confusion because sometimes the store software is not clear when you are going through the configuration whether you should be entering the address of your headquarters or the address of the shipping facility. Be sure the origin address is clear and complete.
  • Allowing or disallowing specific shipping methods - Some store software allows you to exclude or include specific shipping methods. Even though the real-time interface returned the full list of allowable methods, your specific store setting might be excluding them.
  • Network or Firewall issues - If you have setup your server and locked everything down behind the firewall, it is possible that you have inhibited the ability to get the API request or response through to the shipper's server. Changes you make to your firewalls can also be an unintended culprit. If you are using a hosted solution, your host will have these settings configured and most likely is not your issue.
  • Login and API Key is not valid - In all cases, you need to have set up an account on the shipper's server to be able to pull the rates. This is usually done in the form of a login and password or API Key. Make sure that you have accurate credentials entered into your store software.

There are additional causes that involve server communication, software settings, or even security protocols. There are a lot of moving pieces when dealing with shipping, so be sure to cover all your bases and feel free to reach out if you need some help.

David McDonald is the Director of Development at Brilliance and has been leading the technical planning for projects and supporting development for 6 years. David holds certifications from episerver.

FAILURE #3: Promotions are not working correctly

Promotions are a great marketing tool, but if they don’t work properly, it can cause customers to become frustrated and abandon their order. Issues with promotions are most common when there are multiple promotions running at the same time. It is important to plan in advance how promotions will work together, which ones take priority, what order they are applied, etc.

Say you have a new promotion that doesn’t require a coupon code for customers to receive, but it is not being seen or used by customers. This often happens when a store has too many promotions that automatically apply and results in the incorrect promotion being applied by default.

Be sure to configure your promotion priorities in such a way that the highest amount off is the top priority. As a back-up, it’s always a good idea to include promo codes when advertising or sending newsletters.

Another common example is when you want to offer free shipping on purchases over a minimum amount, but with other discounts, it’s not calculating correctly. 

In your eCommerce software, you will set a free shipping threshold over which customers meeting a minimum order value will receive free shipping. Unfortunately for store owners, some eCommerce software will do this free shipping check using the order's subtotal and not the after discount/promotion value. This can lead to an order qualifying for free shipping when it really shouldn’t.

A small code change by an experienced developer can include all discounts before the order is checked to see if it meets the free shipping threshold after discounts and promotions.

Michael Clausing has been a developer at Brilliance for 4 years and works as a developer on new and existing eCommerce projects, including front and back-end development as well as data integrations. Mike holds certifications from Microsoft.

These are just a few of many failures we have encountered. Some of the solutions can be specific to your software platform and integrations. We work with several platforms, primarily on the .Net technology stack and we would be happy to look at your specific situation. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

Lori McDonald

President & CEO


Lori McDonald 

Lori graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer-Electrical Engineering and leads Brilliance Business Solutions with over 20 years of computer engineering and software development experience.  She is an Episerver EMVP, a Microsoft Certified Professional and a regular contributor on Practical eCommerce. Her status as a recognized industry expert has resulted in regular speaking engagements at business conferences.

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