B2B e-commerce: a solution for non-EDI customers

Illustration of two hands holding gears together

It’s time to move your B2B sales process online and you have some decisions to make. While some of your larger customers may already be using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), most of your smaller ones can’t afford it. Added to this, your reps are spending way too much time servicing those smaller, non-EDI clients.

Do you risk leaving your small yet collectively valuable clients behind, or do you bring them with you on your e-commerce journey?

Implementing B2B e-commerce takes care of your smaller customers whilst your bigger customers continue on EDI, or offers an alternative to using EDI.

How do EDI and B2B e-commerce differ?

Both EDI systems and B2B e-commerce eliminate the need for rekeying orders and other manual interventions. This automatically improves accuracy throughout the system and reduces the cost of transactions.


EDI facilitates dataflow between businesses and works especially well when your customers place a high volume of recurring orders. It allows you or your customers to automate orders of pre-defined products based on inventory levels. However, it can be expensive to implement and you need to allocate ongoing resources to proactively manage the EDI process and infrastructure – and so does your customer or supplier. As a result, you may experience some resistance going this route, especially from smaller customers.

electronic data interchange

B2B e-commerce

B2B is a wider solution than EDI. Your full range of products is displayed, along with product information and related products you want to up-sell or cross-sell. Customers can place new orders or easily re-order a previous purchase, and they have self-service access to all their purchase and account information. A B2B e-commerce site is effectively a whole new revenue channel, which means that successfully launching it requires buy-in from your entire team, from the top down and bottom up.

B2B e-commerce

In essence, the two systems differ as follows:

EDI B2B e-commerce
Tight standards define how business documents (invoices, purchase orders, etc) are transferred between parties Integration with your ERP system allows more leeway in how information is passed between parties
Does not support mobile e-commerce Supports mobile e-commerce
Good for large, recurring orders Can do large, recurring orders, but also good for browsing a large range of products and buying as and when needed
Good for products that are pre-defined and known Allows freedom to either specify pre-defined and known products per customer – or give them an open catalogue with their own specific pricing and discount rules
Excellent for automating orders based on specific inventory levels Good for automating orders to suppliers based on inventory levels, as well as for upselling and cross selling to customers
No product information needed or included Detailed product information drives higher sales, especially when manuals, how to videos, blogs, etc are provided
Purpose is mostly transactional in nature Purpose is self-service in nature i.e. it supports transactions but is also a one-stop portal for the customer’s information, such as account details, history, customer-specific terms and conditions
Requires infrastructure at your own and the customer’s or supplier’s premises Cloud-based service so your suppliers and customers only need an internet connection and a browser – no infrastructure or extra resources required
Focused on existing customers or suppliers Effective for existing customers or suppliers but also expands your customer base, penetrating new markets and showcaseing your brand

Why should you consider B2B e-commerce?

While both EDI and B2B e-commerce have their place, if some of your customers don’t have the resources for EDI, you may lose them. B2B overcomes this challenge and so much more.

B2B e-commerce works for customers

The Harvard Business Review tells us that reducing the number of different touchpoints a customer needs to interact with may boost their loyalty and satisfaction. In other words, the more we can reduce their dependence on human intervention in a transaction, the better.

B2B e-commerce creates one convenient, fast and accurate touchpoint that meets all your customers’ needs:

  • B2B e-commerce is hosted in the cloud, so transacting with it simply requires an internet connection and browser – which is much cheaper for everyone than implementing EDI
  • Your customers can easily navigate your site to find what they want
  • They can buy exactly what they want when they want it
  • Their orders are accurately and automatically captured in your ERP
  • They can see exactly where in the process their order is
  • They can choose the place and time of their delivery online
  • They can access all their information, including their account history, specific prices or credit limits, any time they want
  • The whole sales process happens automatically, saving them time (and therefore money)

B2B e-commerce works for your business

Research by McKinsey shows that high levels of customer satisfaction can reduce the cost of customer interactions by 10 – 20% and boost revenue by up to 15%. In other words, happy customers require less support and buy more of your products.

With one touchpoint, your customers will already be more satisfied and open to spending more money. B2B e-commerce encourages this further:

  • When they can easily browse your site, customers often buy products they may not have considered before
  • An integration with your ERP system keeps your customer information, product information and stock levels up to date, so you won’t lose credibility
  • You can effortlessly cross- and up-sell

Added benefits for your business include:

  • You can choose your level of automation and integration with your partner and supplier networks, and up-level whenever you’re ready – read more about our Three Layered approach for growth.
  • Your sales team is freed from servicing day-to-day customer needs and can do what you’re paying them for i.e. help you build your company.

The bottom line…

Both your big and small customers can benefit from B2B e-commerce. Or if your big customers are already using EDI, then your non-EDI customers can benefit from implementing a B2B e-commerce system. Equally important, your business benefits too, operating with increased efficiency and reduced costs. The improved customer service of B2B e-commerce helps you stand out from the crowd and builds customer loyalty and trust. That translates into a successful business on every level.

Contact us to discuss the best B2B e-commerce system for your business.

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