- 1. The technical and business dimensions of scaling a B2B eCommerce platform
- 2. The preparation for the process of scaling a B2B eCommerce platform
- 3. Development inhibitors when scaling a B2B eCommerce platform
- 4. The best business practices for conducting the scaling of a B2B eCommerce business
The key to success and an obvious element that most businesses forget about.
The development of a scaling strategy for a B2B eCommerce platform is accompanied by several technical and business challenges, especially when the transformation involves integration with existing systems, such as ERP, CRM, payment gateways, warehousing software, marketing automation, etc. In this article, we will analyze the main points that should be taken into consideration in scaling your eCommerce business. We will direct our attention to potential problems and show how not to make the same mistakes that are common for B2B companies. We will also present several reliable methods that we implemented for our Clients that may help in your scaling efforts too.
1. The technical and business dimensions of scaling a B2B eCommerce platform
The technical aspects that need to be focused on are connected to IT infrastructure, software and integration with existing systems.
Platform performance and stability
One of the most important qualities of every B2B eCommerce platform is its ability to service a growing number of transactions, both at the level of individual user sessions, as well as the general number of parallel sessions. How to improve this aspect? One can scale servers (vertically – by adding more resources to existing servers – or horizontally – by adding extra servers), optimize the site, monitor and test the implemented solutions, or make use of CDN services. However, the actions will always depend on the specifics of the business, the size of the store and the shopping cart, the number of transactions, customer expectations and – most of all – the strategic plans for further expansion.
Data security & business continuity
Data security is connected to both, the protection of the personal information of customers, as well as the company. This doesn’t concern only legal matters, but also ethical and business-related aspects. Data security violations may lead to serious consequences, including fines, a loss of reputation or customer trust. This is why strong data protection should be the key characteristic of every B2B eCommerce solution. Thanks to SLA-type services, eCommerce businesses are monitored, and thus, protected 24/7. A properly arranged SLA also guarantees a specific reaction time and a promise of effective problem removal. From our experience, we know that even local eCommerce businesses can be targeted by an attack several times a month. On a global scale, this risk grows exponentially.
The choice of the platform or framework for the construction and scaling of eCommerce business is a key decision. There are many resources on the market, some of which are characterized by high flexibility thanks to which they adapt to the changing business needs. These solutions include Magento, Shopify Plus, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
The selection of the right platform is one thing, but to ensure the software’s capability to service a growing number of users, transactions and the accumulation of data without the loss of performance, it is necessary to focus on system architecture (the architecture of micro platforms may react better to scaling than a monolithic structure), a dynamic database, hosting, load balancing, automation and CI/CD.
Integration with existing systems
ERP, CRM, etc. – the improvement of operational performance and user effectiveness largely depends on the systems we integrate and how we do it. Systems usually include key business data that has to be available for the eCommerce platform. In practice, this means the selection of appropriate tools that make integration possible. The most common ones in the B2B world are Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERPs): SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics; Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs): Salesforce, Zoho CRM or Microsoft Dynamics; Supply Chain Management systems (SCMs): Infor SCM, Blue Yonder or SAP SCM; Content Management Systems (CMS): WordPress, Drupal, Joomla; Payment systems: Bluemedia (now Autopay), PayPal, Stripe, and credit card systems; Product Information Management systems (PIMs): inRiver, Pimcore or Salsify and marketing tools (GTM, GA4).
Business goals form the foundation for the technical aspects. Even if a platform is carefully planned from the technical point of view, it will not be successful if it doesn’t reflect the business strategy and pursue its goals. This might sound cliche, but in fact, it is one of the most common “traps” in business. Scaling without a core idea, with no market knowledge and data is difficult, frustrating, and – very often – ineffective. The business preparation for scaling should be initiated by validating the idea itself and by conducting a business analysis. The results of the BA in conjunction with a development strategy, a market and competition analysis, an understanding of local behaviors and client expectations will allow us to determine the technologies, integrations and solutions that should be implemented to achieve the goal. More importantly, we will know how to build an implementation team so the scaling process proceeds according to plan.
2. The preparation for the process of scaling a B2B eCommerce platform
The process of scaling your eCommerce business is deeply rooted in planning the scaling stages, the identification of needs and potential difficulties. The key stages of the process include:
Business and technical analyses
This phase covers the evaluation of the current infrastructure and the business potential of target markets. It requires a thorough understanding of the current state of the company – a technological and process-oriented audit and the knowledge of differences between the current and new competition.
The development of a strategy that determines the elements that will be scaled, where and when. This is the moment when decisions are made on the basis of accumulated data and the evaluation of market potential. This strategy should also take into account backup plans and responses to potential obstacles that may appear during the scaling process. In the scaling strategy itself, one should already consider the technological side, human resources and potential activities that will be delegated to subcontractors that are experts in the respective areas.
The implementation plan should be built based on a detailed project roadmap. It should also include the project flow and integrate all side implementation plans of the different subcontractors and teams. The plan should cover technical details, the rules of managing the project, its goals and KPIs that will help evaluate the progress and effectiveness of the scaling process.
Testing and optimization
This stage focuses on testing the changes, the optimization of processes and on the potential adaptation of strategies to the changing conditions and environment.
Another element that often strongly inhibits the expansion and scaling of systems is the fear of change. Yes, it’s the fear our teams feel against that which is new. The lack of understanding of the need, or the simple lack of information in our teams leads to prolonged or interrupted scaling processes. Thanks to regular team meetings and the engagement of our teams in the process, our Clients evade internal obstacles. It is important for us to clearly and precisely state why we make the technical choices we make – we translate our decisions into business.
3. Development inhibitors when scaling a B2B eCommerce platform
It’s incredible how many inhibitors we can create in order to avoid change. They are most often the result of a lack of data and trust in the teams. The inhibitors seem greater the more difficult and bigger the project seems. Below are a few examples of barriers that can be easily overcome in the system, in ourselves and in the teams responsible for scaling – one only has to be aware of them.
Technological barriers – insufficient infrastructure, the lack of compatibility with current systems, problems with integrations or the lack of specialized knowledge on how to integrate additional systems so they all operate effectively.
Organizational changes – the necessity to adapt structures, processes and company culture, the lack of sufficient resources within the organization to conduct a global process of change. The creation of dedicated teams, or teams in the outsourcing model.
Provider selection – make sure the provider you selected has worked on similar projects, that he understands your project, and that you speak the same language. It is also worth looking into the references of the provider. See his last projects, the legal conditions, and the terms for further cooperation or termination of the agreement.
Internal opposition and data insufficiency – information about scaling should always be based on data, it should be overt and be clearly presented to the teams. The more you care about good PR for project scaling, the bigger the engagement of your teams. Few people will gladly take up new obligations and responsibilities not knowing the details. However, if they understand the idea and believe in it, they will happily become a part of this success.
4. The best business practices for conducting the scaling of a B2B eCommerce business
Fast iterations and testing – the introduction of changes is gradual, allowing for quick reactions to problems, and for the adaptation of solutions to customer requirements. In this context, tests and iterations become a key tool for dialogue and cooperation between the client and the provider.
Constant accumulation of knowledge – a new project for a subcontractor is always a chance to share knowledge from the area and, on the basis of the data provided by the Client, it’s also a chance to look for better connections and integrations. The understanding of the specifics of a given project allows for its accelerated development and stable scaling in the future.
Flexible strategy – the ability to quickly adapt the strategy to changing conditions is invaluable in a dynamically evolving environment. Both subcontractors and the client have to be open to changes – their cooperation should be based on the readiness to adapt and constantly improve the offered solutions.
Scaling your eCommerce business is a big challenge. One has to consider the technical aspects, be open to change and select the right people for the team as well as subcontractors. This will make it possible to avoid mistakes that are often made by B2B companies, which can cost not just money, but also time – the most valuable resource for your business.