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Initial situation

The expectations of customers and suppliers in the B2B environment have changed on a fundamental level – and this is nothing new. Finding digital content and services in real time is an expectation learned from the B2C sector that users don’t simply forget when they come to work – they expect it in business, too. While in the past the quality of products alone could be decisive for a purchase decision, today the entire customer experience plays a key role in the decision-making process.

First of all – what is a B2B portal and who is it suitable for?

Before we take a look at the potential success factors of a B2B portal and the services it can provide, let’s lay down a common definition of what a B2B portal is. Although B2B portals can vary greatly in terms of their features and requirements, they all have one thing in common: as a rule, a B2B portal is a self-contained platform that focuses on the communication and interaction between different stakeholders. The main goal of a portal is often to maintain or develop new business relationships.

Companies which heavily rely on mutually sharing information with their business partners in order to conduct their day-to-day business appreciate the convenience provided by a B2B portal in particular. However, companies that have a high interest in keeping the flow of information to business partners up to date also use B2B portals as a central communication channel, complementing already proven communication channels such as newsletters, social media channels or the website as a result.

What should you pay attention to during the design phase?

As always in software development, there is one thing that takes priority when you start developing a B2B portal: the design phase. Make sure you pay enough attention to this phase and give it the time it needs, as it is a critical point for the project as a whole in most software projects. Part of the design is including requirements for a future B2B portal. We could fill pages and pages defining them, so instead I’m going to share my top five requirements for a B2B portal to give you some inspiration for your own design phase:

  • You need a well thought-out and state-of-the-art user guidance with a modern and responsive design – we want to recreate the same experience learned from B2C here
  • You need to enable two-way communication between all stakeholders – thus strengthening and improving the customer relationship
  • You need to ensure constant and instantaneous control over the flow of information and content in the B2B portal – both your internal editors and your customers will appreciate this
  • You need to consider the individual rights and role constructs – it’s likely that different user groups will access your portal
  • You need to reduce costs and the time needed by optimising and integrating processes – integrate internal product owners of the connected systems at an early stage

What features does my B2B portal need?

The scope of the features you need and the ones you choose will (of course) heavily depend on the individual needs of your stakeholders and your own company. With that in mind, I recommend engaging in a dialogue with your customers and stakeholders and finding out what they need and what they want. This is the only way to ensure that you end up creating a customer experience that meets your stakeholders’ expectations. So, if you were expecting a top-ten list of features at this point, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you.

Nevertheless, I would like to give you food for thought and inspiration for the development of features. Let us look at three possible pillars of a B2B portal:

Self-service: Your stakeholders expect 24/7 access to their own data. This includes, for example, master data or purchasing or service agreements. If you allow businesses to access this data or even request changes, then you will be able to save administrative effort on your side in the second step.

Digital services: A B2B portal is the ideal place to implement new services that have the potential to add new value and increase customer satisfaction. One example of these new services is the digital provision of all product information, for example with the help of a product information management system (PIM for short). This is because product information is a key success factor in the marketing of your products. No matter whether we’re talking about supplier, product or customer data or assets such as pictures and videos, a B2B portal can be the single point of truth in your organisation, providing valuable services from this data.

Contact options: Regardless of whether you integrate e-commerce functionalities into your B2B portal or not, the B2B portal will inevitably become part of your sales process. With all the independence and extensive information that your customers bring to the sales process, personal contact is still a decisive factor in the sales process. Make sure that your stakeholders can get in touch with their account managers quickly and promptly via the B2B portal should they need to. Approaches here include joint onboarding into the B2B portal, live support or integrating chat features.

The best way to launch B2B portals successfully

You should hold an initial requirements workshop and kick-off meeting to set common goals with your partner and define the initial features. Once you’ve done that, you can then select the right architecture and technological foundation for your individual use case. Providers often offer the option of a minimum viable product (MVP) with which you can then start to develop your B2B portal following the design phase.

Conclusion

I started this blog post by asking, ‘what make a good B2B portal?’. In my opinion, a good B2B portal is characterised by the fact that it factors in learned behaviours and standards from B2C and supplements them with the specifics from the B2B sales funnel. This gives your (future) B2B portal the opportunity to become a valuable new digital touchpoint. However, the whole truth is that the portal will only run successfully if it can be integrated into the existing IT infrastructure. Since you’re probably going to want to integrate your ERP and CRM systems, it’s especially worthwhile doing extensive research and getting advice on middleware.

If you would like to learn more about portals and websites, please take a look at our website, where you’ll find our solutions for creating a unique customer experience. (In German)

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Picture Dominique Kompch

Author Dominique Kompch

Dominique Kompch is a project manager in the Line of Business Digital Experience at adesso. His focus is on web experience management at the Munich location.

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