The B2B buying experience is being transformed by ecommerce technology to resemble that of a consumer online shopping experience. B2B sellers have traditionally used their web presence as a brochure site and to generate leads, taking advantage of buyers who have increasingly turned to the internet for all of their product research. However, as vendors have bulked up ecommerce platforms to handle the more complex B2B product, contract management and pricing rules, B2B ecommerce is pushing the final purchase online as well.
B2B ecommerce is being adopted as a new sales channel, augmenting traditional direct and channel sales strategies, delivering on the “do more with less” mantra of today’s business environment. And a new-generation of buyers, with expectations crafted from their consumer ecommerce experiences, are demanding the speed of an ecommerce channel to keep pace with their own on-demand needs.
Better B2B ecommerce technology is helping organizations leverage their existing web presence, turning it into a buyer-facing extension of the company’s CRM or ERP and delivering more intuitive online selling tools. And while today’s B2B ecommerce platforms include full-featured shopping carts with one-click checkout, unfortunately many of these platforms still rely on consumer-oriented payment gateways to process card payments.
The type of cards being used at checkout in business-to-business environments are more likely to be commercial card products like a corporate card, a business card, a purchasing card or GSA (government) purchasing card (or p-card). To properly accept these commercial card payments requires a Level 3 merchant account and a Level 3 payment gateway that can qualify these card transactions for the best Interchange rates available.
Interchange rates have made headlines of late with the passage and implementation of financial overall rules requiring the Fed to govern debit Interchange. Interchange is the single largest component of merchant discount rate pricing and is collected and paid to the card issuing bank. Level 3 processing refers to passing the line item detail from the invoice when submitting the sale transaction for settlement. Level 3 Data is additional information about a transaction which is commonly found on an invoice, such as product/service descriptions, quantities and other details. Visa and MasterCard apply higher Interchange rates for commercial card transactions if Level 3 Data is not included with the transaction. For example, a Level 3 qualified transaction can save up to $11.10 in Interchange fees per $1,000 in sales (or more on Large Ticket transactions). Get an instant Level 3 merchant rate quote now.
In addition to including functionality to accept commercial card payments that meet Level 3 data requirements, B2B ecommerce platforms should provide a secure, PCI certified, Level 3 payment processing technology. Our secure checkout API is a data tokenization solution that provides real-time payment processing without the merchant or the ecommerce platform collecting, transmitting, storing or even touching cardholder data for one-time, recurring and repeat buyers with cards on file for one click checkout.
One company specializing in helping GSA vendors integrate Level 3 processing into their B2B ecommerce solution is PriceReporter.com. Price Reporter empowers ecommerce sites for GSA vendors, including managing multiple pricing models for different user groups and creating special rules such as “don’t charge shipping fees and tax for government users”. Price Reporter synchronizes a client’s web catalog with the GSA Advantage price list, provides the ability to integrate with price-comparison and shopping sites (like Google Shopping, Amazon, Price Grabber, etc), and provides seamless integration with any accounting and/or order processing system.
Social networking is also finding its way to B2B, with customers rating products, submitting reviews, and even posting comments. And B2B sellers should keep an eye on emerging consumer ecommerce trends as social networks become marketplaces for consumers with features to allow buyers to connect and shop collaboratively in real-time. B2B sellers should also follow consumer trends in the use of QR codes and mobile commerce. As history has shown, they too will likely be adapted for B2B channels. But remember, regardless of how you sell, pay close attention to the method of payment and when accepting commercial cards, don’t overlook the savings associated with properly qualifying your transactions at the lowest possible Interchange category.