Account Management Challenges for B2B eCommerce: Multiple Customers per Account

Do you have multiple buyers that purchase under one account? Many B2B companies do. If you are like them, you have struggled to find eCommerce solutions that support this requirement. In a recent Forrester Research study, eighty-nine percent of respondents agreed that implementing eCommerce for their B2B business increased annual company revenue by an average of 55%. B2B eCommerce is clearly worth the investment, but it’s not without its challenges. 

Considerations

We have worked with customers to meet complex account management needs in their online store. Here is a list of questions you should answer when designing your solution.

How will new accounts be approved for ordering in your company?

When a customer comes to your site for the first time, you need a way of indicating which account there are purchasing for. Your visitor needs to create a user that will be approved for ordering and tied to their account number to allow them to receive their specific pricing, terms, and in some cases, product selection. 

How will this approval process work?

  • Will users fill out a form that includes the creation of their username and password and then wait for a customer service representatives approval before ordering?
  • Will all online accounts be created by your company and sent via letter or email out to your customers?
  • Will customers be unable to add products to their cart until they are approved? Will they be able to add products to their cart but not place an order?
  • Would you prefer for everyone visiting your site to be able to place their order at public pricing and existing accounts have a process for approval to order at their contract pricing?
  • How many users do you expect to sign up per day?
  • Will the approval process be automated in some form?
  • Will the approval process integrate with your ERP and/or CRM software?

Will a user on the account have the ability to add and remove buyers from that account?

Once the first user for an account has been created and approved, will they be able to add and remove other users from that account? If you have multiple buyers in one company, having users self-administer their accounts can be helpful? How will this role of user administrator be assigned to that account? What happens if the user administrator leaves that company?

Will users on the account have different roles, enabling them to experience your site differently?

For example, will some users be able to see other user orders within that account? Will other users only be able to see their orders? Are there any cases where users can place orders for multiple accounts? 

Will account shipping and billing addresses be available for users to select from?

Your ERP software likely maintains a list of valid bill to’s and ship to’s for this customer. Will users be able to select from these addresses for billing and shipping? If they add a new address, should there be a process for adding it to your list of account addresses?

What software solutions will meet this need?

From experience, I can tell you that it can be extremely hard to find pre-built software that will meet these needs. Solving this challenge is dependent on the answers to the questions above. It typically involves some level of custom coding along with a platform that is structured for complex structures such as this. If you already have your store in existence, note that depending on the software you used and the structure of your data, adding this functionality can be labor intensive. 

Brilliance built a solution on EPiServer Commerce, called Catalyst for EPiServer, that can be licensed and implemented quickly and meets the majority of needs we have come across with relationship to complex account structures. Brilliance has helped customers implement complex account management on the software they are on today, or to select new platforms that will meet their needs. If you would like recommendations on handling your complex account management needs, please contact us for a free consultation online or call us at 414-425-4069 x3.

Lori McDonald

President & CEO

About

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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