Why B2B E-Commerce Needs IT Voices at the Table

by Tim Beyer

When COVID-19 arrived on our doorstep, the shift in B2B buying preferences from in-person to online was already well underway. The pandemic simply sped up the tide of change by pressing the digitally reluctant to take the leap.

Newbies soon found that B2B e-commerce offered them a slew of advantages. For buyers, online purchasing made it easier to identify suppliers and compare products as well as to place and manage orders. Sellers also reaped benefits. Compared to in-person, telephone or email orders, a well-thought-out e-commerce strategy allowed suppliers to grow revenue and decrease operational costs by expanding customer reach, eliminating human error and better managing inventory.

As a result, web stores have become the most frequent channel through which B2B buyers place orders today. And very few buyers plan to return to in-person or email transactions now that the pandemic panic has abated, according to McKinsey research. In such a digital-first world, e-commerce is key to an organization’s ongoing success. But the successful deployment of an e-commerce solution often depends upon how well it aligns with a company’s existing technology base. Unfortunately, it is all too common that the keepers of this tech, the IT leaders, are not consulted during the e-commerce search.

Growing Waves of Discontent

B2B leadership teams who purchase e-commerce software anticipate only positive business outcomes from their investments. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always meet those expectations, especially from the viewpoint of those who oversee an organization’s technology. In fact, recent research into the impact of B2B e-commerce solution effectiveness has found that 84% of IT leaders believe their company’s chosen solution actually has a negative impact on business.

Why? When enthusiastic non-IT business leaders are sold an e-commerce solution without the extensive input of their IT team, the chosen technology actually may hurt rather than help the organization. Executives who understand business goals often lack a full view of their own business’s technology ecosystem. They forget to consider IT basics — how a solution fits into the current tech stack, deployment complexity, team capabilities and training requirements, software upgrades. Overlooking these fundamental issues can cause waves of problems. 

One impact of a poorly aligned e-commerce solution is a high maintenance requirement. IT leaders report that, on average, two to three of their team members are tasked to work on the B2B portal, with 41% of their time spent on maintenance. They also noted spending 37% of their budget on integration. The ripple effect of diverting IT resources — both time and money — to e-commerce software problems not only limits capabilities for other necessary IT projects (such as security), but it also decreases budget available for innovation. When constantly putting out fires, IT simply cannot perform as leadership or others in the organization expect it to perform.

A business’s revenue is at risk, as well. A web store that goes down or isn’t working as expected leads to frustrated customers who are less likely to return. A solution with an outdated design, poor user experience and lack of desired features means low e-commerce adoption. On average, 188 orders are at risk each month due to web store downtime, according to a survey of IT leaders.

When the finger pointing begins, more often than not those fingers are aimed at the IT team. Sixty-seven percent of IT leaders say their relationship with commercial teams has been harmed because customers don’t use the online store as much as expected. And when the team’s performance doesn’t meet internal expectations because it must devote an inordinate amount of time and energy to one problem software system, its reputation within the organization takes another hit.

Avoiding a Tsunami

To avoid e-commerce collapse, businesses must embrace the idea that in today’s digital-first ecosystem, IT is the business. Every single functional area needs technology to meet its and the overall organization’s mission. 

A business that wants to stop problem waves from forming must, therefore, treat its IT leaders as equal stakeholders when it comes time to evaluate the efficacy of any software solution. When e-commerce tools or software are under consideration, IT leaders are the ones best positioned to understand how prospective software will align with a current tech stack, recognize the true cost of the software beyond software fees (e.g., IT labor, budget) and provide the tech intelligence required to evaluate platform capabilities. 

The truth is that IT leaders serve as the bridge between strategy and technology. When the perspectives of IT leaders are not heard by the highest levels of management, the waves of consequences can be huge. By serving as the bridge that connects strategy with operational processes — whether discussions are centered on e-commerce solutions or, for that matter, any other significant tech tool — IT leaders who have an equal seat at the table with other key decision makers are able to help ensure that an organization’s efforts in digital transformation and optimization ultimately lead to business success. 

Tim Beyer is the chief operating officer of Sana Commerce, as well as president and CEO for the Americas region. He is based in New York City. 

Speak Your Mind

In Business Dailies

Sign up for a complimentary year of In Business Dailies with a bonus Digital Subscription of In Business Magazine delivered to your inbox each month!

  • Get the day’s Top Stories
  • Relevant In-depth Articles
  • Daily Offers
  • Coming Events