Everything on B2B self-service portals

16 January 2023

An online environment to place orders, contact customer service and searching information is a given in B2C. Luckily, we also see an increasing number of B2B companies investing in these kinds of portals. We’ll explain what a B2B self-service portal is and what the benefits for both companies and customers are.


What’s a B2B self-service portal?

A secluded web environment where your B2B customers can order products, book appointments and/or find information, that’s a B2B self-service portal.

Many webshops, for instance, have a public webshop for consumers and a separate environment where shops and wholesalers can order the same products in larger quantities at a reduced rate. And don’t forget service providers who create a separate environment where B2B customers can check their appointments and schedules.

In a B2B self-service portal, customers can:

  • Easily search for products and place orders 24/7

  • Book maintenance appointments and schedule mechanic visits

  • Check stock, invoices, contracts and shipment statuses

  • Manage service tickets

  • Contact customer service

A B2B portal is also known as a customer portal, B2B e-commerce portal, digital customer portal or sales portal.

What are the benefits?

When you log onto a webshop or your insurance, you can take care of many things yourself. Place orders, view invoices or your insurance policy, track the shipment of parcels, contact someone if problems arise, etc. It’s something we’ve grown accustomed to in B2C, but somehow for B2B, it isn’t that common. Many orders and a lot of communication are still handled over the phone or by email. Shame, because using a self-service portal in B2B has its advantages:

1. Save time and money for the organisation

First and foremost, a self-service portal saves you time and money (the cost of personnel). Repetitive tasks are automated and (unnecessary) customer contact is minimised, freeing up some time for your team to handle other tasks or customer questions that do require time and attention. Having a B2B self-service portal built is a one-time investment, but it practically pays for itself.

2. Save time for the customer or partner

Customer and partners will save precious time, as well. In a self-service portal, they can quickly take care of the most important things themselves without having to contact your organisation. That alone can turn a self-service portal into a real USP for customers to choose your company.

3. Centralised

Both for your organisation and the customer, it’s nice to have everything in one system. All communication, invoices, contracts and other documentation are collected in the same place and aren’t scattered across countless emails or systems.

4. Independent and up-to-date

Customers want to search for information, place orders and fix issues independently. Just like they would in B2C. Microsoft research has shown that 90% of B2B customers would like to have self-service options. It would mean that they are no longer bound to a certain place or office hours. And, more importantly, information on products, schedules, waiting times and supplies is always up-to-date and accessible online.

5. More data available

Some organisations fear losing the personal aspect by digitalising some processes. But we don’t believe that for a second. A self-service portal can do the exact opposite and make your service even more personal.

You’ll have more personal data available to you and you can see what people are doing, watching and buying. That creates opportunities for interaction and personalisation, bringing new business opportunities to your doorstep.

6. Insights all around

Buying a service or product takes a bit longer than the average B2C webshop purchase. It’s handy to see how far along in the process you are, what has been discussed and what the current state of affairs is.

A B2B self-service portal presents the history and communication on a timeline in a clear overview. That’s better than having to sift through a series of emails.

7. Standardised way of working

A self-service portal allows you to take charge and determine how quotes are signed, documents are delivered or applications need to be submitted. By integrating set flows, you create a standardised way of working. Based on the data, you can optimise those processes time and time again, to make the experience more efficient and pleasant for everyone involved.

A user-friendly self-service portal in 5 steps

Find out how to set up a strong digital strategy for a self-service portal, how to map out the needs and demands of your target audiences, what the best practices of an optimal user experience are, and more.


Best practices for building and implementing a B2B self-service portal

Building a self-service portal goes beyond duplicating your current B2C environment and locking up other information. Keep these pointers in mind:

1. Take ‘to be done’ into consideration

Start by researching what your (most important) customers would like to see in your portal. What do they need to be done when it comes to your products? By analysing customer communication or conducting interviews and questionnaires, you can get a good image of these. At iO, we thoroughly research these things during the digital strategy phase of a project (i.e. UX exploration with stakeholders).

2. Look beyond B2C best practices

Yes, B2B customers want self-service, up-to-date information and a pleasant customer service experience. But they also have other needs. In B2C, for instance, you get an invoice for each order you place. In B2B, your customers may prefer getting their invoice at the end of the month. It’s also possible that your customers will need the same products at regular intervals. Offer them a button to place the same order again, set up automated orders or send automated reminders.

3. Keep optimising the portal

Start small and work in stages. Launch an MVP (minimum viable product, a prototype) first so you can learn and use insights and customer feedback to expand the B2B portal. Start with a few customers and find out what bothers them. Then, you can elaborate and allow more customers to join. Collect all their feedback and use it to optimise your portal even further.

A B2B self-service portal for your business?

You know what a B2B self-service portal can do, what the benefits are and what you need to consider when you build and implement it. Are you looking for a partner to build your portal with? Contact us.

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