Defining the ROI of B2B eCommerce

One of my favorite examples of the return on investment (ROI) for B2B eCommerce manufacturers can see is a water heater manufacturer based in Wisconsin. Before implementing eCommerce, all of their orders came in from reps via phone calls and fax. Orders were sometimes difficult to read, and the wrong items were shipped. If reps needed to know at 7 PM on a weeknight what

eCommerce System ROI

Yes, setting up an eCommerce system can be a big investment. You have exciting plans for your redesigned online presence, but to make it happen, you will need to gain the approval of your company’s executive team. One of the best ways to gain their buy-in is to show how this project can pay for itself.


What I love about eCommerce for B2B is that there are so many places it can add value – for customers, reps, and distributors. It can increase your sales and lower your costs. Once you take a look at the potential impact, it’s clear that it is well worth your time and money.

Let’s take a deeper look at the areas that frequently provide a clear return on investment (ROI) to manufacturers and distributors implementing eCommerce.

Increasing Sales

How much more would you need to sell to pay for your implementation and create a significant return? Look at what an increase in these areas could mean for you.

  • Attract more customers by adapting your site for mobile commerce
    Mobile internet usage exceeds desktop PC usage, and the line between business and personal is blurring. B2B buyers are using their mobile devices to research purchase decisions. In a report from Forrester Research in November 2014, they predict that 2015 will be the year that companies investing in mobile will break away from those who are not. Enabling your customers, sales reps, and vendors to interact with you from their mobile devices will increase your sales. A mobile-friendly website will also help your site rank higher in search results, which leads us to our next point.
  • Retaining and gaining market share
    In what has been described as the ‘Amazon Effect’, 88% of business executives are purchasing products and services online. With Amazon Business targeting the B2B space, manufacturers and distributors need to think about how their sales and marketing strategy uses the web. Even heavy equipment manufacturers can benefit by spare parts sales online, product configurators, and online tools that help customers access information.
  • Shipping products faster
    Speed and reliability will keep your customers happy. When competing against lower priced competitors, one of the ways to keep your customers happy is to provide a quick turn around on orders and provide clear visibility when it will ship. By integrating your eCommerce site with your ERP software, we have had many customers who have the majority of their orders shipping out within 24 hours.
  • Add value to customers, sales reps, and distributors
  • Make it easier for customers to order and re-order products. Provide them with helpful supporting information on your website to ensure they return and purchase products. Provide reps with tools that make selling your products easier. While some manufacturers are concerned with channel conflict with their distributors, we have seen great win-win solutions developed online with manufacturers and distributors working together to benefit each other.

Lowering Costs

How much is your antiquated sales and customer service process costing you? How much could you save if you were able to increase efficiency and eliminate waste? Calculate your expenses in these areas.

  • Order entry costs
  • Look at how many people are involved in getting an order into your companies order processing system. Identify major steps that could be eliminated with an eCommerce site that takes the order and automatically enters it into your ERP.
  • Customer service costs
  • See how much time your reps are spending answering questions customers could answer for themselves. Gather data from your customer surveys to learn if their questions are being answered. Identify documents and information that could be shared online to help customers get answers to their own questions or find the product they need.
  • Shipping Errors
  • Ask someone in customer service how many calls they get regarding products that were shipped incorrectly. Identify the cause and look for opportunities to reduce shipping errors through orders that customers confirm online and are immediately transferred into your business system, without the need to rekey in the order.
  • Overstocked/Wasted Inventory
  • Find out the amount of excess inventory your company. Consider if an online store could assist you in selling this inventory. This may even be marketed under a different website to enable your company to maintain your brand presence.

Intangible Benefits

Of course, the financial ROI of B2B eCommerce is important, but there are other benefits as well.
  • Your Commitment to Your Customers
  • Your company has grown based on your outstanding customer service. Your web presence can be another opportunity to demonstrate to your customers your value of putting them first.
  • Your Recognition as an Innovator
  • Innovation has enabled your company to avoid price competition and solve customer’s problems. Reinforce your company’s image as a thought leader by using the digital space to provide solutions ahead of your competition.

My Customer’s ROI – One Story

One of my favorite examples of the return on investment (ROI) for B2B eCommerce is a water heater manufacturer based in Wisconsin. Before implementing eCommerce, all of their orders came in from reps via phone calls and fax. Orders were sometimes difficult to read, and all too often the wrong items were shipped. If reps needed to know at 7 PM on a weeknight what items were in stock or available, they had to wait until the next day for someone to call them back. After we implemented an eCommerce solution, their sales reps were able to place orders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Order errors were decreased as the site was integrated with their ERP. Sales increased as reps were able to see available inventory quickly and provide that information to customers. 

Trying to figure out your own potential ROI for eCommerce? Tweet at us @brillweb

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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