Earlier this month, Magento launched its B2B (Business to Business) platform to provide B2B buyers with ‘an easy, intuitive, self-serve shopping experience’ that includes streamlined bulk ordering, mobile-responsive design, and negotiated pricing terms. According to Magento, B2B eCommerce should be as fluid and seamless as B2C (Business to customer) and we couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re a single customer buying flip flops for your next holiday or a business ordering bulk branded stock, the process should not be a hassle.
We think the same should apply for B2B eCommerce fulfilment. Both operations require different processes within the warehouse but that isn’t to say that B2B has to be any more complicated than B2C. With a suitable warehouse management system (WMS) B2B fulfilment can not only be as easy as B2C, but can also be managed within the same warehouse - but more on that later.
So what are the main considerations for B2B fulfilment?
1. Delayed payments
With B2B eCommerce, it is common that the payment may not be taken in advance as with B2C. For example, some companies will have 30, 60, 90 day terms that need to be matched by the retailer. In order to handle this, you will need warehouse management software that can configure the payment state in which orders can be imported from your eCommerce platform. Once they’re imported, they will need to be picked and despatched without payment being taken, which is a stark contrast to B2C eCommerce where payment is almost always taken on order or at the point of despatch.
2. Pallets and cases
When it comes to B2B fulfilment, pallets will help with your pick, pack and despatch. Customers may be ordering bulk quantities and the ability to pick by inner case or box, outer case, or a suggested pallet quantity can save time when you’re working to a pickup deadline.
3. Multiple packages per order
If you are a retailer of large products, such as garden furniture, shipping higher volumes of these for B2B orders may mean that you reach your package weight or dimension limit with your carriers. As a result, it makes sense to split your parcels into two orders, but you need to be wary of one part going missing.
With a WMS that can handle eCommerce, you should be able to create multiple despatches for the order and scan each item as part of the process. This means that you will know exactly what items are in each package.
4. Carrier assessment
Royal Mail don’t ship pallets and you’ll confuse your bulk-shipment driver if you try to have him deliver a large letter. As such, if you’re going to pursue B2B eCommerce fulfilment you will need to reassess your current carriers and accept that you may need to take on new ones.
We have found that a lot of B2B companies are partnering with services like MetaPack and Temando for their carrier management as they can help you shop around for the best rates as well as taking away a great deal of the work required at the pack benches.
What about running B2B and B2C from the same warehouse?
If you started out doing B2B, then you’re lucky because your large inventory count will be maximised with the addition of consumer orders. The key thing to remember here is to log everything as one inventory figure.
If you started out doing B2C then your old method of having every item unboxed on a pick face is not going to be suitable. Instead, what you’ll want to do is keep bulk parcels stored in the warehouse, as well as having loose stock keeping units.
If you’re going to put both of your B2B and B2C operations in the same warehouse, consider the materials handling equipment you will need, and the level of training your staff will require to use such equipment safely.
To learn more about how you can achieve the ultimate eCommerce warehouse, download our free eBook.