In any large-scale business-to-business (B2B) organization, there are a variety of reasons that you want to maintain customer records in your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. This helps you track sales by customer account, aids you in navigating a customer's past purchase history, gives you insight to the types of products in which a particular customer is interested, and gives you a better understanding of how you can serve those customers in the future.
Additionally, by having a personal account, your customers have access themselves to their past invoices and purchase history. They can view and export invoices and easily find products that they've purchased in the past. They can also expand their account to save multiple ship-to addresses, mark products as "Favorites" and create saved carts for checkout later.
Today, purchasing agents and consumers alike are accustomed to the option to make purchases WITHOUT creating an account online (if they choose to do so). Your eCommerce configuration should accommodate what is best for your business needs, your customer's buying experience, and, subsequently, should lead to more conversions.
If you do allow Guest Checkout, how will that impact your business?
Customers provide a lot of information when checking out, and getting that information into your business system (i.e., forcing them to create an account) could have some great benefits. If you have their contact information as a registered user, you could continue to engage with them via email marketing and offer additional promotions or special offers. And you can more easily track their engagement with your business website.
From our experience, it's best to communicate these benefits to your customer. Ultimately having an account can create a better buying experience for them, and it helps your organization continue to capture a 360-degree understanding of your customers. By sharing these details during the buying experience, you'll help them make the best win-win decision which should — in the long run — work in your favor.
Your system should support your decisions
When choosing a B2B eCommerce platform, you must ensure the system can accommodate your specific needs. You should be able to choose whether you want to allow customers to checkout as "Guest" or not. Better yet, you should be able to toggle these settings off and on easily on your own.
By having the following options available, your organization has the ability to optimize your customers' buying experience
- Prompt your customers to create an account on the eCommerce site before they can make a purchase, so that all of their data would be saved as an Account in the ERP
- Allow users to checkout as a guest, and their info will still be recorded as a contact in the ERP
- If necessary, you can require customers to contact you for account set up, as an appreciated feature for businesses that need to validate their employee permissions before they can make a purchase
- Or, allow your customer to checkout as a guest, then automatically create an account for them and send access information via email (the best of both worlds)
In this series, I will repeat this over and over: Find a system that is flexible and can be molded into your needs. It's the most important first step toward building a successful B2B eCommerce experience for you and your customers.
As I promised, this is the next in a series of blog posts that introduces you to the xTupleCommerce system. Look for more upcoming information, and please don’t hesitate to contact me and the xTuple Web Services Group (WSG) team with questions.
My last post in the series was: What is your third biggest B2B eCommerce Challenge? Multiple Users