Why you should consider MACH solutions for your B2B online store

By Jens Wulfken
MACH solutions blog illustration

Products that require explanation, in-depth specifications, complex shipping processes, and personalised pricing - B2B online stores traditionally had different requirements and features than B2C . However, B2B customer demands are increasingly based on the standards set by B2C ecommerce.

In order to be able to tailor their online offer to the needs of their customers in the future, B2B suppliers are placing higher demands on their ecommerce platform. The MACH Alliance open technology ecosystem can help them to reconcile B2B requirements with B2C standards.

The value of B2B ecommerce has grown quickly in the past few years, estimated at nearly $8 billion globally in 2022. Medium-sized companies in particular, whose sales channels go beyond EDI, are benefiting from the transformation in their business generated by allowing their B2B customers to transact online.

Below we explain how B2B companies can benefit from the same technologies that have been embraced by B2C ecommerce businesses.

B2B online stores have a number of specific features that clearly distinguish them from consumer ecommerce sites:

  • A range of products that require a lot of explanation for new customers
  • Individual price agreements
  • Lengthy, multi-stage decision-making processes from quotation to purchase 
  • Primarily repeat purchases with a high shopping cart value
  • Different billing addresses, delivery specifications, payment methods and payment periods per client company

In order to be able to reliably map these requirements on the technical side, companies usually rely on ecommerce systems developed in-house or specially adapted for them, which are usually hosted on-premises. This allows them to design the online ordering process to match their existing sales process and offers maximum control.

Customer centricity for a B2B online store

However, this type of control offered by classic ecommerce systems can prove to be restrictive if customer demands increase or change. While B2B customers may have less options to move suppliers than B2C customers, convenience is hugely important to both. If online ordering is slightly cumbersome, they will look for alternatives.

B2B customers themselves will be attempting to digitally transform to make their own businesses more efficient, and being able to place orders online will be part of their requirements. In addition, B2B suppliers must expect that their group of buyers will change in the future and that they will have to tap into new target groups. To ensure this, they need to be able  to quickly add new digital offerings or services to their business model.

Technical requirements for B2B ecommerce systems are increasing

In view of growing demands and a continued dynamic market, legacy B2B ecommerce systems can prove to be more of an obstacle in the long term:

  • Lack of agility: With in-house developed software, adding new functions or modifying the online store can entail disproportionately high effort.
  • Expert requirements: Legacy software requires technical know-how and constant support. A problem that could be exacerbated with a shortage of IT specialists.
  • Complex to scale: On-premises hosting usually makes it difficult to scale up in a timely manner in line with demand.
  • High workload for the IT team: Since only the IT team is familiar with the solution, any day-to-day problems with both the front-end and back-end of the online store are their responsibility. 

Many companies recognise that their legacy B2B ecommerce systems could become a dead end in  the future and are looking for ways to solve this problem. What is desired is greater flexibility that allows a fulfilling, seamless customer experience to be provided with efficient effort.

MACH enables excellent customer experiences

With a view to their future competitiveness, B2B online stores want to be able to quickly integrate new services and improve the customer experience. One way to achieve this is to design a B2B online store architecture according to the MACH Alliance principles:

  • Microservices: Monolithic software architectures consist of a coherent block of code provided via a single user interface. This has the disadvantage that in the event of small changes to individual software sections, the entire architecture must always be adapted to ensure smooth operation. In microservice architectures, the functional scope of monolithic software is composed of a large number of individual, modular, decentralised programmed services; each of which addresses a single functionality. This provides a high level of resiliency, as problems with one service do not affect the entirety of the services.
  • API-first: APIs (Application Programming Interface) enable the deployment of microservices. With an API-first approach, programming interfaces are developed to support business requirements, which ensures interoperability and allows the greatest possible flexibility in shop design.
  • Cloud-based: Microservices and API-first approach require a cloud-based infrastructure. This also ensures simple, flexible scalability.
  • Headless Architecture: With a headless architecture, B2B online stores don’t face the limitations of older ecommerce systems, as the customer front-end and back-end are separate from each other. Content in the front-end can be changed quickly or even fed into external marketplaces without impairing the store’s ecommerce processes. 

With MACH, the advantages of standardised shop software such as Magento, Spryker or Big Commerce, which are leaders in terms of customer experience, can also be used for B2B. All in all, B2B online stores with MACH are able to tailor customer experience to the needs  of any target group – with improved agility and efficient use of IT resources.

Could MACH be a good fit for your B2B online store? Or are you wondering whether an ecommerce presence will make sense for you in the future? Our ecommerce and technical experts can discuss your digital roadmap and help you determine an architecture that supports your company’s digital ambitions. Get in touch here to arrange a time to chat.