The Portal to Better B2B Dealer Experiences

As you read this, hundreds of B2B companies are operating with outdated, legacy commerce systems, and their excuse for remaining on these systems is that they still work. And I’m talking about still working in the baseline sense: does it function at all? If so, then the mentality of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kicks in. 

The philosophy for decades was that B2B buying portals didn’t need to be pretty, they just needed to work. We’ve already written about how rising expectations from younger B2B decision-makers have changed this view, as they expect experiences closer to what they receive in the B2C world. But there’s another point B2B organizations are missing. 

A good user experience is about more than just design. It’s about functionality, and not just in the sense of can you click on a button and it takes you somewhere, but rather is this platform making your customers’ lives easier and better. The definition of functional is changing. This is about to be critical. 

Two Types of B2B Dealers

For this blog, we’re focusing on manufacturers working with dealers who sell products and services on behalf of their company. But the sentiment of what we’re talking about is true across the B2B space. 

A great UX is important no matter what type of dealer network you have, but the approach varies depending on the type of dealers you are working with. Are you working with captive dealers – meaning they are part of your larger overall business and must use the tools of the brand in which you are aligned – or are you working with non-captive, which means they are a third party working with multiple brands? 

The goal is easy for non-captives. You should be constantly thinking about how you can expand your mindshare within their business and get them to work with you more. Every action should move you toward that goal. And you have a wide range of options for making it happen. 

For captives, even if you have their full attention, there’s still work to be done. Platforms don’t optimize themselves, and you’re not maximizing what you get out of your UX unless you optimize every step in the journey. The goal should always be to make your dealers as productive and efficient as possible. 

Where to Remove Roadblocks 

The first major roadblock to remove involves any disparate systems and silos within your organization. You have your OMS, ERP, CRM, and other systems with data that must be centralized and processes that need streamlined. Not only does having teams look up orders, process orders, and manage returns/customer service all in different silos increase the chance for errors, but the time and energy spent cuts into your ROI. Remember, sales are not the only factor for success. The efficiency of your team can have a huge impact on your balance sheet. 

Next, look for ways to condense the buyer journey. I’ve seen dealer networks where a dealer can’t even generate a quote or order itself and instead has to call in a request. This is unacceptable in 2024. Arm your teams and customers with the power to get what they need, when they need it. 

This includes self-service capabilities for both dealers and customers, simplified payment experiences, and the use of AI to recommend products and leverage past behaviors to inform future buying decisions. And if you really want your sales to skyrocket, make reordering as easy as possible. So many customers need the same quantity and type of product in the same time period. Don’t make them jump through hoops just to keep getting what they already have. 

Above All, Prioritize

You’re not going to move from an outdated, bare-bones system to the perfect modernized, UI-driven portal all at once. The key is to start with the customer experience first with a focus on the areas that are most widely used and relevant for your business and make them as simple and streamlined as possible. It’s amazing the impact you will see; not just on your bottom line, but in the satisfaction of both your customers and employees. 

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