What Is an MVP In eCommerce and How Does It Work?

Many challenges B2Bs face in our new sales landscape can be solved with the help of digital commerce. It improves customer experience, increases operational efficiencies, establishes a foundation for growth, among other benefits.

However, before you define your B2B eCommerce strategy, you have to lay out the basics. These are your customer needs, business requirements, and resources available for your eCommerce project. Then, you’ll have to communicate your strategy to your teams, identify what can be outsourced, and who will be responsible for what. Once that is out of the way, you’re ready for the next phase in your eCommerce project: the MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

A Minimum Viable Product is defined as the smallest version of your product, with the bare minimum features. The idea is simple: as customers start using the product, they’ll offer you valuable feedback, which can change the course of development of your project.

The primary reasons for MVPs are to test assumptions and hypotheses related to the value proposition to your product, as well as discover whether there is any customer need for it. A common mistake businesses make is releasing a bare-bones MVP with half-finished features. An MVP must stay true to its goal of being usable without wasting time and money on a product that no one wants or needs.

Based on this definition, the form your MVP takes can differ, ranging from a landing page, a product demo video, to a working prototype of your product. Thus, based on business needs, the resources available, as well as feedback from customers, the development path and final iteration your MVP takes can change drastically.

What is an MVP in B2B eCommerce?

An MVP is crucial for B2Bs who are moving online for the first time. It enables businesses to test out the core functions of their stores without any extras. It’s an effective way to test the user experience and determine if the users will return and choose to purchase via a new channel.

For most B2C sellers in a competitive environment, MVPs are not necessary. They have a clear idea of what their customers want and can reach their objectives by investing in advertising, email marketing, or performing A/B testing. If you’re an offline seller within a niche industry looking to move online, would like to explore the benefits or replatforming, or need to evaluate the feasibility of a new user experience – an MVP will help you gauge market interest.

But aside from helping you validate whether your idea will work, an eCommerce MVP also enables you to attract early adopters, optimize development resources, and prioritize work in a way that gets you to market faster.

What are the goals of a B2B eCommerce MVP?

An MVP for your eCommerce business is more than a useful feature, like an improved online catalog or a new payment option. It’s an exercise in organizing your ideas and understanding how your users respond to them. The experience of building an MVP will help you rally your team behind the idea, optimize your resources, and know what to expect during your project. Here are some other goals of an eCommerce MVP:

  • gain insight into the market and use it to your advantage
  • determine whether you’re solving a customer problem
  • test how your audience will react to your solution
  • identify what features are more popular than others
  • fix the flaws in your product and customer experience
  • streamline new technology adoption for your team
  • save money on development and shorten time to market

The effort and resources it takes to build an MVP vary across businesses and industries. Your MVP must align with your goals, customers, processes, and tools you are using. Last but not least, your internal stakeholders must be ready to put the plan into action.

System integrations

A typical B2B seller relies on tools such as ERP, CRM, PIM, payment processors, or external databases. They help deliver personalized customer experiences, reduce manual data entry, and in many cases, are central to the brand’s competitive advantage.

For your MVP, focus on only the necessary integrations. It’s unlikely that your MVP will see lots of orders across your product range. Ultimately, you must balance every integration with how long it takes to implement and how central it is to your business.

Front-end components

Build your MVP around the shopping path of your target audience. You can create a basic storefront with a product catalog, or choose to focus on the customer’s self-service experience. Some brands are fine with using a vendor’s default storefront template for their MVP, while others require a more customized solution.

Back-end processes

B2Bs also have back-end processes such as corporate hierarchies, sales activities, and order workflows. Not all businesses automate processes at the same stage, in the same function or business unit. Chances are, your organization won’t compromise on how it works, so look for an MVP that works with your existing processes in place.

A Successful MVP in B2B eCommerce

Companies looking to go the MVP route with their B2B eCommerce initiatives face many obstacles. Concerns can range from system compatibility, impact on existing workflows to the effort, time, and money required to get their MVP running. One business that benefited from an eCommerce MVP is Werner Electric Supply – they managed to launch a functional storefront that allowed them to test products internally, giving them enough time to decide on a new platform before their vendor license ran out. The biggest benefit of an MVP was that it demonstrated to Werner early on that re-platforming wasn’t going to require an overhaul of their other systems. A product catalog import and ERP integration were significant elements of their MVP, helping them update inventory and pricing data.

MVP: Your First Step In B2B eCommerce

A B2B eCommerce MVP is beneficial for B2Bs and B2B eCommerce vendors alike. An MVP allows B2B brands to be confident that their requirements are met, and the vendor can select the best possible B2B features to meet these needs.

Unfortunately, not every B2B eCommerce vendor can accommodate the MVP needs of B2B brands. Many cloud giants are simply not agile and flexible enough to support the creation of MVPs. Start your vendor selection process with your MVP goals in mind, and don’t compromise on your B2B user experience.

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