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The Greatest Growth Differentiator in B2B Ecommerce: Speed to Market

First to Market and the First to Pivot

Getting to market fast enables a merchant to be the first, and being the first creates an advantage that can impact sales. As a manufacturer, it means creating and fulfilling demand. As a distributor, it means optimizing the sale and support of an offering. Regardless of the business type, it means gaining market share over the competition, quickly supporting merger and acquisition activity, or launching digital channels for additional business units. Without the capability to act quickly, merchants can lose customer accounts, margins, and market share.

Reducing time to market has always been a challenge, and as ecommerce becomes a mainstream sales channel in B2B commerce, it will remain a differentiator. The biggest challenge for 66% of manufacturers when launching a new product is beating the competition to the market.*

But having speed-to-market capabilities as a merchant doesn’t just mean the ability to be the first. It also means speed to release. A key to long-term success in B2B ecommerce is rapidly iterating and maximizing the customer experience. Having the configurability to launch new products and promotions quickly is also necessary. When businesses need to launch new sales channels and storefronts or integrate new technologies, an ecommerce platform becomes the differentiating factor in speed.

An ecommerce platform with a roadmap for enhancements and an efficient process for customers to consume enhancements also affects speed to market. Znode provides customers with the ability to consume release updates easily.

*Driving Digital Commerce in Manufacturing, VansonBourne

The Pitfalls of Being Slow to Market in Ecommerce

When distributors compete in an unrestricted online market, the first to market gain a sales advantage. But the first to market doesn’t always reign supreme, AskJeeves about that. If a merchant can provide a better buying experience than the first to the market and not become a laggard, the initial leader could lose the top spot. Znode’s native B2B functionality allows merchants to be competitive whether or not they’re the first to market. The native B2B features include the ability to configure product catalogs, pricing models, shipping methods, payment methods, and more for any complex B2B scenario.

Addressing customer experience expectations is necessary to be successful. The faster a merchant can deliver an exceptional customer experience, the sooner it can capture more sales. Or if a merchant ignores the market demands of customer experience, it’ll end up like Sears or JCPenney. Ecommerce expert Brian Beck has called out both former leaders in the retail space for not addressing the shift in the market to ecommerce as a sales channel.

“B2B leaders across the globe must sit up and pay attention or suffer the fate of companies like Sears.”
- Brian Beck, Author of “Billion Dollar B2B Ecommerce”

Embracing customer experience expectations apply to all business types, including industrial manufacturers, equipment suppliers, and parts distributors. For example, suppose a merchant can’t utilize technology like telemetrics and machine modeling for real-time customer-machine status updates. In that case, the business is missing a chance to add value to the customer experience. The merchant that creates the best customer experience will gain market share the fastest.

When ecommerce managers are forced to rely on IT and developers, costs and time to market increase. Many API-only ecommerce platforms claim to reduce time to market through simplified integration and accessibility of data. While accessing data is needed to deliver a great customer experience, there is also the need for a user experience where the customer can interact with that data, which is not native to API-only ecommerce platforms. This creates the need for experience creation and integration. Regardless of the efficiency of integrations, nothing in B2B is simple, especially integrations. Time, a rare resource, is required for both creation and integration.

Using an ecommerce platform, like Znode, that delivers native B2B features and configurability to address market and business complexities mitigates the reliance on development resources, allowing faster ecommerce speed to market. Znode’s API-first architecture also provides for the extension of the platform’s native functionality when needed.

Ecommerce Speed to Market Platform Considerations

When determining a B2B ecommerce platform's speed to market potential, organizations need a strategic vision for pursuing digital commerce along with documented business requirements. With the vision and requirements in tow, merchants can consider platforms based on the following speed-to-market impacting capabilities:

  1. B2B Ecommerce Configuration vs. Customization

    Understanding what aspects of a platform business users can configure versus what will require development resources to customize allows merchants to gauge the resources necessary to get to market with new products or shopping experiences, launch in new markets, and more.
    • Product Information Management: Centrally managed product information provides efficiency and the ability to push data from the ecommerce platform to all other sales channels. Znode’s centralized approach to ecommerce product data management accelerates speed-to-market at scale ​while maintaining across-the-board visibility & brand governance.​ Merchants can reduce time to market in the following ways:

      1. Launch countless channel catalogs
      2. Create account-specific and user profile segment-specific catalog offerings
      3. Maintain brand consistency
      4. Produce locale-specific product catalogs for new geographic markets
      5. Personalize product assortments, getting buyers to convert quicker
      6. Update product specifications as new product attributes are identified
      7. Manage complex products, including bundled, grouped, configurable, and more

    • Pricing Transparency: B2B buyers expect to see all costs before placing an order. This means an ecommerce platform must enable quick configuration of all pricing models used in contracts. Administrators can apply pricing models at the storefront, account, user, or user profile segment level and natively configure via Price List association in Znode, including:
      1. Retail or MSRP pricing
      2. Sale pricing
      3. Tiered volume pricing
      4. Customer tiered pricing

    • Native B2B Features: An ecommerce platform’s native features eliminate the need to build. Building and customizing become unsustainable as platform updates are debuted but more importantly, it takes time to build. Znode is focused on B2B and allows merchants to configure business requirements and get to market quickly. Native Znode features that can be configured are:
      1. Customer Management: Accounts, users, and user profile segments
      2. Approval workflows for orders configurable budgetary limitations
      3. Quotes: Buyers can submit carts as quotes for conversion to orders
      4. Complex inventory management, including multiple warehouses
      5. Administration Console: Quick links, recent sales information, general statistics, and accounts list, all with quick filter options
      6. Sales Enablement: Reps can view account activity information
      7. Saved for Later lists, list management, and re-order capabilities
      8. Multiple shopping carts for procurement teams building numerous orders

    • Content Management: Merchants must be able to quickly adapt a storefront customer experience for a new market, industry segment, or product line by updating content in a B2B ecommerce platform. Many headless commerce platforms do not include a native head for a storefront. Each time a merchant needs a new storefront experience, it must establish another integration. Znode eliminates that challenge with a native head to configure unlimited storefronts. Administrators can update content across storefronts via Znode’s native CMS and the following easy content modeling features:
      1. Page Templates: Use prebuilt page templates.
      2. Native Theme: Apply ADA Level A compliance to existing storefront themes.
      3. Content Blocks: Create content blocks and components that showcase the correct content for the experience.
      4. Content Containers: Build personalized and structured content for different user groups to display on the storefront when logged in.
      5. Widgets: Easily apply widgets across multiple pages. Widget examples include images, videos, banner sliders, product lists, forms, and facets.
      6. Global Content: Znode’s CMS is headless, allowing content to be published globally across any platform with an API connection to Znode.

    • Multi-Channel Ecommerce and Multi-Store Management: While other platforms claim to support multiple storefronts in a single instance, they do not natively address the complexity of serving different business models per storefront or accounts. Znode allows merchants to quickly launch and manage multiple ecommerce storefronts using a single platform and administration console. Then, administrators can apply catalogs, categories, profiles, rules, and attributes at a storefront level to serve new accounts, enter new markets quickly, and more.
  2. Ease of Implementation and B2B Ecommerce Integration

    Beyond B2B ecommerce configuration, the ability to launch a minimal viable product (MVP) customer experience is necessary to gain the competitive advantage of being first to market. Ensuring that integrations to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems do not require a big lift for a merchant is a significant aspect of a B2B ecommerce platform’s speed-to-market capability. Znode’s architecture enables rapid MVP implementation and business system integration through:
    • Znode Commerce Connector is a framework for integrating a merchant’s existing business systems with the ecommerce platform in less time and ensures integrations will be sustainable through platform updates. The Commerce Connector is a prebuilt component of Znode’s software development kit (SDK).
    • Znode SDK enables merchants to customize Znode’s native storefront and administration console applications through .NET code. The Znode SDK provides code samples and allows a faster compilation of code than writing customizations directly to the API layer.
    • Znode’s API-First Architecture provides access to all native features and data points for custom code communicating with API endpoints rather than through any of the native frameworks. This route of customization and integration provides the most freedom for a merchant.
  3. Ecommerce Platform Capabilities vs. Team Size

    Data shows that B2B organizations are lagging in comparison to their B2C counterparts. [...] Only 27% of leaders at B2B organizations say [they have the talent and performance to drive and deliver their digital commerce strategy].*

    Digital maturity impacts a merchant’s ecommerce strategy success, but a capable team should be able to make any ecommerce platform function. Terms like bandaids and workarounds are not known in tech just because they’re fun to say. What if platforms didn’t constrain teams?

    Merchants could measure deployments in days instead of months. Znode delivers more native B2B ecommerce capabilities than any other platform, and its multi-channel capabilities allow the repetition of channel launches exponentially faster than other ecommerce platforms on the market. Merchants can define business processes, clean data sets, load data, configure entities and search, and launch an MVP in Znode.

    *CMOs: These Are the Digital Commerce Trends to Know for Long-Term Growth, Gartner

Znode Examples of Speed to Market Success

A B2B ecommerce platform that delivers configuration for a rapid customer experience MVP and flexibility for customer experience optimization with ongoing release cycles needs proof. Here’s some of Znode’s proof:

  • Summit Group provides memorable branded merchandise and creates storefronts for business customers, selling products through digital pop-up shops and customer-branded storefronts. To quickly deliver personalized shopping experiences, Summit Group needed to set up nearly 20 different configurations for storefronts.

    Znode’s attribution engine enabled Summit Group to build additional storefront attributes without the need for the database to be touched by an outside developer. With Znode, administrators can create unique storefronts personalized to customer-specific requirements. Time and effort required from the technical team were significantly reduced, down to 2 to 6 weeks per storefront launch. Read the full Summit Group customer profile.

  • Bradley Corporation, a leading manufacturer of commercial plumbing fixtures and washroom accessories, strongly believes that creating great customer experiences, increasing sales, and differentiating from competitors requires investing in technology.

    Znode solved Bradley’s primary need for a single centralized user interface for all channels and customers. This allowed distributor sales representatives to manage orders and internal customer service teams to process and support all orders. Bradley now launches updates via releases every two weeks to improve the customer experience for all transaction stakeholders. Read the full Bradley Corporation customer profile.

Ecommerce Time to Market Questions for Platforms

Here are the top questions for merchants to ask ecommerce platforms to evaluate speed-to-market capabilities:

  • What are data points natively configurable within the ecommerce platform?
  • How easily can data be migrated from the current platform?
  • What are ecommerce use cases natively supported by the platform?
  • Does the ecommerce platform provide frameworks to expedite customizations?
  • What size team is needed to launch the platform/migrate from a current platform?
Unlock the greatest growth differentiator in B2B ecommerce, speed. Request a demo of Znode today.

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