How do your business customers communicate with you? Business-to-business (B2B) customer portals make it simple for customers to place orders, request invoices, and track shipments all from one place.
To get the most from your B2B customer portal, build it according to best practices. These essential features will help you streamline orders and engage with your customers deeply.
What is an Effective B2B Customer Portal?
A B2B customer portal is a user-friendly digital platform that one business provides to another business (either a customer or a trade partner). The primary role of the B2B customer portal is to facilitate simpler and faster transactions and communications between businesses.
For example, one common type of B2B customer portal is a digital store. Just like a business-to-customer (B2C) store, a B2B store lets business customers browse and place orders for products and services. Unlike B2C online stores, B2B customer portals are often protected by a password and designed specifically for that business customer’s needs. Some B2B portals also have additional services like invoice generation and inventory tracking.
B2B customer portals are most common in the manufacturing, wholesale and distribution industries. Usually, the business providing the portal is selling bulk products to smaller businesses like shops or local grocery stores.
However, many manufacturers and wholesalers neglect their B2B customer portals. This is a serious problem because a flawed B2B portal will make it much more difficult for business customers to place orders and ask questions. If your portal is too confusing or you don’t offer one at all, potential customers could look elsewhere.
To stay competitive and offer your customers the best service, Here are B2B customer portal best practices. By improving your web portal, you’ll attract more customers and improve efficiency across your entire enterprise.
B2B Customer Portal Best Practices
There are 10 B2B customer portal best practices that every enterprise should follow:
- Create a custom user experience (UX). Each B2B customer portal should be tailored specifically to every customer. This means that you’ll likely operate multiple B2B portals that look fairly similar but have slightly different features. Analyze exactly what each of your customers needs based on their workflows and strategies. Make sure that every portal user is able to find everything directly from the platform’s dashboard.
- Design a custom user interface (UI). Make your portal aesthetically-pleasing and intuitive to use. The most intuitive portals are those that are most similar to what your customer already uses. For example, you could use the same colors that are in the business customer’s logo. Or, you could design the portal so that it operates similarly to the business customer’s own B2C web store.
- Make it easy to place orders. This is the most important function of a B2B customer portal, so it should be seamless. Your customers should be able to see exactly which products are available and specify how many they need. You should also offer options like recurring order schedules so that your customer doesn’t have to remember to do this manually every time.
- Remove unnecessary visual clutter. While your B2B customer portal should look attractive, it should only contain functional features. The more buttons and text you have on the dashboard, the harder it is to navigate. Go with a minimal look.
- Offer unique user profiles. Most business customers have multiple employees who need to use the B2B portal for different tasks. For example, a manager will use the system to place orders, while an accountant will only use the system to pay for orders and access invoices. Give unique logins and permissions to limit what each user can see and do. This makes the system easier to navigate and use. It also prevents users from making mistakes, like placing an order by accident.
- Provide self-service options. When users access the portal, they should be able to do everything without assistance. The UX and UI design make this possible, but so do other features like a detailed FAQ page or user manual.
- Have excellent customer service and troubleshooting. Sometimes, even the most self-reliant users need help navigating the portal. You should have a 24/7 customer support line open to answer all of your customers’ questions.
- Anticipate your customers’ needs. Make your customers’ lives easier every step of the way. Simplify and automate everything for them whenever possible, from invoices and billing information to inventory and shipments. The best B2B portal is one where the customer puts in very little effort.
- Use data analytics to improve your services. With your customer’s permission, you can collect data about the portal features they use most often and which products they order most frequently. By analyzing this data, you can better anticipate your customers’ needs and improve efficiency.
- Balance human interaction with digital features. Most of the B2B customer portal best practices listed above are related to digital features. However, it’s important to provide your customers with occasional human interaction when they need it. Live online chats and customer support phone numbers let users get in touch with real human beings if they need one-on-one support or advice.
These B2B customer portal best practices are absolutely essential, but they can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming to design and implement. Many large enterprises have to hire a massive in-house IT department to design and manage these portals for them.
However, even if you don’t have these resources, you can still create an effective B2B customer portal. By outsourcing your needs to an IT firm that specializes in making and managing B2B customer portals, you’ll provide your customers with beautiful, user-friendly platforms.
How to Implement These B2B Customer Portal Best Practices
The best way to design a B2B customer portal is to hire an IT firm to handle all of the details for you. There are a number of benefits to outsourcing this process:
- You’ll build a higher-quality portal because experts understand B2B customer portal best practices.
- You can design a unique portal for every business customer you have based on their specific business strategies.
- It costs much less to outsource compared with building and managing the portals yourself.
- Customers can start using their portals much sooner, as the IT team builds them very quickly.
- The IT firm can integrate the portals with data analytics tools to help you make better business decisions.
- The IT firm keeps all of the software up to date, manages servers, and provides your customers with reliable troubleshooting support.
- The IT team can answer your customers’ questions 24/7.
When you hire a team to help you create streamlined B2B customer portals, you’ll maximize the benefits of this useful business tool. Not only will your customers be very happy with the results, but you’ll also address all of your customers’ pain points effortlessly.
If you’re ready to design a fantastic B2B customer portal, contact Tek Leaders today. Our team of experienced portal creators will help you identify the features your customers will find most valuable. If you have more questions about B2B customer portal best practices, you can reach us by email directly.