What are the technical requirements of a B2B marketplace?
Let’s touch up a little bit on the technical issues of the marketplace creation. First we need to understand how marketplaces operate as programs. A marketplace functions thanks to interactions between four basic layers:
- A front office, for buyers to browse and shop the products available
- A middle office for sellers to upload and refresh their product range. In addition to catalogue adjustments, the middle office includes several transaction linked features (editing purchase orders, sales dashboards)
- A back office allows the operator to monitor the transactional and non transactional activity on the marketplace, from early onboarding validation to auto send of customer newsletters
- A fourth layer includes several bricks of software that, even though non mandatory, are embraced as standard in a B2B environment. It could be product information management (PIM) software, or customer relationship management (CRM) softwares, as well as payment enablers…
All in One Solution
The first approach to creating those four bricks is what we could call the unified approach, ie having a single SaaS technology provider for all 3 core layers of the marketplace, with integration capabilities when it comes to the additional bricks. This is one of the solutions we have embraced at Uppler. We believe it gives marketplace designers the solid foundations they need in terms of features and UX/UI, across all layers of the marketplace.
The other approach is more modular. You connect an external front office to a back and middle office built using a proprietary solution. This is a good approach to creating a very tailored and carefully crafted product, but unsurprisingly, this solution comes at the expense of price and time to market. The crux of the problem is the front office layer. Most available technologies are suited for B2C environments. To match the requirements of B2B buyers (in terms of navigation depth of information...) those front office technologies need time consuming and expensive modifications, with mixed results. Once more, it’s all about trading off between convenience and customization.
It is worth noting that those 2 approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Uppler for instance can accommodate complex requirements and modular infrastructures through its open API, that allows for easy integration.