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5 Must-Have Features of Enterprise E-Commerce


5 Must-Have Features of Enterprise E-Commerce

E-commerce is everywhere — unless, of course, you look in the B2B space. Unfortunately, one segment lags behind all the rest when it comes to online sales: manufacturers. Just 38% of manufacturers have e-commerce websites, and only 6% of all manufacturer sales come through this particular channel. 

Part of the reason manufacturers are so slow to adopt e-commerce can be traced back to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The traditional ways of doing business largely haven’t posed a problem yet, so many manufacturers don’t feel a real sense of urgency to explore the increasingly relevant direct-to-consumer model. 

It also has a lot to do with technical hurdles. For many manufacturers, moving to e-commerce involves taking on yet one more system to master — that or an expensive integration with their current enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. It’s nearly impossible to get an e-commerce platform to talk to an old “closed” mainframe, so plans to upgrade often involve a two-year timeframe or longer to get everything up and running. They might also involve a million-dollar price tag. Not surprisingly, this tends to put e-commerce on the back burner pretty quickly. 

And it’s important to note, too, that most manufacturers work through distributors and dealers, making e-commerce seem like nothing more than a mere alternative to their current traditional sales channels. 

A Missed Opportunity

What many manufacturers seem to be missing, though, is that B2B customers are also B2C customers. Chances are that they’re already shopping online for their personal needs, and not having a way to buy their business products and services online can have a hefty negative impact on the customer experience. If you’re manufacturing a commodity product and your sales process lacks the convenience of shopping for that product online, your customers might begin to look elsewhere. 

Remaining passive about e-commerce is simply the wrong approach, especially with B2B buyers moving more of their purchases online all the time. As it stands, nearly half of all companies utilize online channels for 50% to 74% of all their corporate purchases. Not being online just means you’ve missed out on an opportunity — not only to secure additional sales, but also to broaden your reach to a global level

Also, remember that it’s easier than ever for competition and new players in the market to get in front of your customers via Google, Facebook, and email. Not having an e-commerce site could easily cost you market share, even if the competition’s product isn’t as good as yours.

Beyond the Basics

Knowing that it isn’t enough to conduct all business offline, know, too, that it isn’t enough to just invest in getting an e-commerce platform, leave it there, and call it good. Your site has to offer the functionalities necessary to run an online business. If your system doesn’t support multiple pricing tiers, it probably also doesn’t mimic your current sales process. Clearly, that’s not a good thing. 

Your site needs to be able to support multiple buying options, such as “requests for quotes” as opposed to a shopping cart model. It can take time to arrive at a number in a complex B2B transaction, and the last thing you want is for a customer to have to take the interaction offline just to finalize scope and nail down specifics. 

This naturally leads to my next point. Assuming your e-commerce site comes equipped with all the basics like browse, add to cart, checkout, email confirmation, etc., there are a few features to look out for at the enterprise level. Those often include the following:

System integration options

In e-commerce, a certain amount of coordination is necessary between the website itself and your back-end system that you use for inventory and accounting purposes. Without proper integration, order fulfillment can easily get problematic. Focus on maintenance, data input, and offering a seamless user experience. Most of all, understand all the system integration options of your marketplace website before going with one provider over another.

Proper data to support search

Product information is important. It’s what consumers see prior to making a purchase decision. But it can sometimes pale in comparison to the product data used behind the scenes. A number of data fields and HTML tags enable your products and website to rank in both Google and on-site search results. Make sure your platform accommodates these options. Also, inquire about the tracking capabilities of your on-site search function. It can be useful to monitor what users found — and didn’t find — during a visit.

Customer tiers

At the enterprise level, you’ll likely run across different types of customers. Being able to segment these customers into various tiers can come in handy. Based on their purchase history, for example, you might determine that one tier would respond well to a certain promotion while another’s browsing behavior could inform subsequent product recommendations. In other words, segmenting tiers allows you to personalize your messaging, pricing, and other marketing efforts to fit the needs of your customers. So look into this functionality while reviewing your e-commerce options.

Analytics integration

Whether you’re looking at an off-the-shelf platform or a custom solution, reporting is very important. At a bare minimum, make sure a standard tool like Google Analytics can be integrated with your e-commerce system. You’ll also want to inquire about the setup of advanced features like e-commerce tracking.


Generally, any platform you go with will provide the functionality of assigning products to categories. This can help with on-site search and make it easier for visitors to browse your product line. Beyond that, you might wish to feature certain products. The question, then, is what ability do you have in the platform to create banner ads, highlight related products on a product page, create landing pages around a spotlight topic for the month, and feature products in other ways? 

Providing a good online experience naturally makes customers feel good about doing business with you. It also increases the likelihood of driving new customers to your business without needing to invest in additional resources. 

Ultimately, you can handle more transactions with an e-commerce site in your corner. Just make sure your site provides you with all of the functionalities you need to keep your business running smoothly and your customers happy. 


Michael Bird is the CEO of Spindustry, a digital agency focused on e-commerce, SharePoint portals, and enterprise websites. He has almost 30 years of experience in interactive development, user behavior, and business solutions. His successful agency, Spindustry, puts these strategies into practice to help businesses grow.

The USMCA: State of Play on Internet Intermediary Liability

Two important elements of U.S. law that protect internet intermediaries are reflected in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, signed November 30, 2018).  Under the first element, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, online service providers are not considered “publishers” of third-party content that is posted or shared through their sites.  Under the second, the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, online service providers can take certain specified actions to protect themselves from monetary liability for copyright infringement arising from the actions of their users.  Because the USMCA reflects these principles and is likely to be used as a template for future trade agreements, it is reasonable to suppose that current U.S. law on intermediary liability is poised to make inroads around the world.

There will, however, be pushback, and it is possible that the agreement might be modified or that U.S. implementing legislation will introduce refinements.  Organizations dedicated to protecting potential victims of indecent online communication, for example, will seek to limit and/or clarify the section 230-type immunity built into the USMCA.  Similarly, digital content industries consider the incorporation of existing safe harbor provisions to be a missed opportunity to reinforce the effort against online piracy, and they will press for requiring internet intermediaries to be more proactive in policing such theft.

One cannot know at this juncture how these issues will ultimately be resolved, especially given the changeover in the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives resulting from the 2018 elections.  Nevertheless, the dynamics of the debate – explained below – are important to potentially affected companies.

The Digital Trade section of the USMCA closely tracks Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  It provides in Article 19.17(2) that the member states shall not “adopt or maintain measures” that create civil liability for suppliers or users of “an interactive computer service as an information content provider … except to the extent the supplier or user has, in whole or in part, created, or developed the information.”  Note, however, that the agreement also grants immunity for good faith actions taken to limit access to “harmful or objectionable” content, and – in any event – the restriction on imposing liability for indecent content merely confers immunity from civil liability “as an information content provider.”  In other words, the internet service provider cannot be treated as if it supplied the content, but there remains the question of whether it can be held liable for damages under a theory of secondary liability.

Consequently, one can expect organizations dedicated to protecting potential victims of indecent online communication to seek clarification of the extent to which internet providers can be held liable for harms resulting from “knowing” or “reckless” failures to act to prevent abuses on their platforms.

Turning to digital piracy, back when the internet was in its infancy, in 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which established what is known as “notice-and-takedown.”  Under that approach, if someone uploads a work to a website, the owner of the work may send a notice of copyright infringement to the relevant internet intermediary, pointing to a specific violation and identifying the internet address of the allegedly infringing material.  Once the intermediary receives the notice, it must “expeditiously” disable access to, or remove, the material and inform the entity that posted the material of its action.  If the entity that posted the material believes it has a legal right not to be subject to takedown, it may file a counter-notification.

Upon receipt of the counter-notification, the intermediary must inform the copyright holder that it will restore the status quo ante after ten days unless the intermediary is notified that the copyright holder has “filed an action seeking a court order to restrain the [entity] from engaging in infringing activity.”  By following these and other procedures, the intermediary is shielded from copyright infringement liability for unknowingly posting infringing content.

The USMCA embraces the notice-and-takedown concept and generally requires internet service providers who have not already done so to implement such a system.  There is an exception, however, that preserves Canada’s current “notice-and-notice” system – under that approach, internet service providers are merely required to forward notice of infringement to the host of the pirated material.

Content industries have been seeking greater protection from the USMCA.  They tend to favor what is known as “notice and stay-down,” which requires a more proactive approach from the intermediary than notice-and-takedown.  Under notice and stay-down, when the intermediary receives a notice of copyright infringement, it would be required to search out and delete all copies of the material in question and block that material from being uploaded again.

Content industries believe this is necessary to address the fact that copyright-infringing material can be transferred easily from website to website, thereby putting the content producer in the position of trying to “whack-a-mole” and being forever a step behind the infringer.  As one might expect, however, internet service providers argue that notice and stay-down is overly onerous and would, if legally required, cripple the commercial exploitation of cyberspace.

The debate will go on regarding limitations on the liability of online service providers for indecent or infringing content posted on their platforms, and stakeholders are advised to pay close attention as the relevant provisions of the USMCA are debated and implementing legislation is formulated.  If those provisions are implemented as is, the USMCA would represent a move in the direction of international adoption of current U.S. principles governing the liability of intermediaries for online content.


Dean A. Pinkert is a partner in Hughes Hubbard’s International Trade practice. He is a former Commissioner of the U.S. International Trade Commission. Dean was nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2007,and was designated Vice Chairman by President Obama in 2014.