B2B Ecommerce Strategies: Top Challenges & How to Overcome Them

B2B Ecommerce Strategies

While nearly all organizations struggle with designing and executing effective ecommerce strategies, B2B organizations using ecommerce channels face special challenges.

According to a recent report by Forrester, these challenges stem from firms struggling to simultaneously serve two distinct sets of buyers, namely 1. The corporate end user and 2. The purchasing manager or department that controls the company’s intranet.

Creating Effective B2B Ecommerce Strategies: Top Challenges

Here are the fundamental hurdles that B2B digital business professionals must overcome to create effective ecommerce strategies.

Serving Two Different Buyers Simultaneously

For those advancing ecommerce strategies within B2B organizations, the challenge is in addressing the needs of both the business end user who ultimately makes or influences the purchase decision, and the purchasing manager or someone from the IT side who controls the solution.

The former will actually use the solution internally, whereas the latter will need to support and maintain the solution after it's gone live. Ultimately, it can be difficult to sell something to these two differing personas.

Balancing Assisted Direct Sales with Unassisted Electronic Sales

A successful B2B ecommerce strategy must incorporate a two-tiered customer interaction framework, because in today’s business world, customers have different preferences:

  • Some prefer DIY or self-service buying, using guided buying capabilities facilitated by configurators and automated customer support
  • Others prefer full-service customer support with live salespeople
  • And there are still those who prefer to alternate between the two options depending on the circumstances

Overcoming These Challenges

So how can businesses successfully overcome these hurdles?

Forrester suggests you convert your typical, generic strategy into an “active” one. (An “active” strategy is one that is assigned, calibrated, time-bound, integrated, vetted, and executable. You can read this post to learn more about the six characteristics of an active ecommerce strategy.) By so doing, you’ll improve your company’s ability to “achieve its goals and fulfill its vision”, but be warned—creating an active strategy alone won’t deliver success, you have to build a larger, continuous improvement ecosystem. Here’s how.

Reward Small and Large Innovations

B2B leaders who “seek out and recognize small innovations promote a cycle of continuous, not episodic, improvement”:

“In a world where the number of customer touchpoints is exploding and reaction times are necessarily shrinking, you must structure B2B eCommerce organizations for rapid and constant change.”

Incorporate Rapid Testing and Iteration

Don’t allow perfect to be the enemy of good. When it comes to putting out new product releases, incorporate rapid testing and iteration into all projects at all levels. Here are some things you should start doing today to get the ball rolling:

  • Conduct experiments (A/B testing, etc.)
  • Test everything in alpha and private beta before launch
  • Operate on short-term or rapid product release cycles

Encourage Employee Feedback

Discover your own errors first before customers or competitors do. This requires that you foster an unapologetic and self-critical internal culture, where employees are encouraged to provide candid assessments and honest feedback.


The process of converting generic B2B ecommerce strategies into active ones can help them transform from simply directional to fully actionable, and from a vicious cycle of execution to a virtuous one.

vicious vs virtuous execution styleImage via Forrester


Mark Bartlett

Mark Bartlett

Mark Bartlett is a practitioner of eCommerce and digital transformation, with more than 20 years of experience. With his blend of industry and commerce category expertise, Mr. Bartlett helps FPX continue to modernize the way businesses buy and sell across all channels through FPX’s enterprise CPQ solution.

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