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How to Avoid the Toughest B2B Ecommerce Challenges

How to Avoid the Toughest B2B Ecommerce Challenges

Effective change management for B2B companies demands close attention to operational requirements, capabilities, and challenges. Continuing our investigative approach to ecommerce, the Redstage team regularly meets with B2B executives to discuss the challenges inherent in driving change on a massive scale. In this interview, we speak with a marketing specialist responsible for guiding multiple B2B companies through the ecommerce transformation process.

In the Q&A that follows, we explore learnings from the cultural, technological, and organizational hurdles he’s faced to help others understand the procedures that drive successful transformations. As he notes, leading digital change is no easy feat. As you will learn, the outcome is entirely dependent on forming a united front within your organization.


Q1: What have been your biggest digital transformation challenges in the past year?



“It’s tough to find the right partners that can communicate what you’re planning and bring your vision to reality.”



A: That depends on your perspective. Mindset and process change are the biggest part, because going digital is very different if your company hasn’t adopted digital already. Internally, trying to take people-oriented processes and digitize them for an ecommerce experience means creating new roles and departments; making people at all levels take on new responsibilities, and combating a lot of kicking and screaming on whether or not this is a good direction for the company.

Externally, it’s tough to find the right partners that can articulate what you’re planning and bring your vision to reality. It’s usually hard getting them to understand your business and how to get you to where you want to go.


Q2: What has been your biggest challenge with regard to ecommerce?



“If the data isn’t already in your ERP, you have to change the way you do business in order to make it all fit.”



A: Ecommerce is such a big universe. There are so many moving parts involved in making a B2B ecommerce experience a reality. With many SKUs, our focus was putting a PIM (product information management system) in place to create a more robust, data-driven experience for the end user. If your company is not data-driven already, restructuring your company for ecommerce is a tremendous undertaking. All of your info needs to be there. If the data isn’t already in your ERP, you have to change the way you do business in order to make it all fit… and if you don’t, you end up attempting all kinds of customizations that will ultimately lead to failure.


Q3: What are some solutions you would recommend that allowed you to solve past challenges?


“More or less, the ecommerce initiative needs to be driven from the top down.”



A: More or less, an ecommerce initiative needs to be driven from the top down. If you don’t have the backing of the executive group and the resources and patience to do this — that’s the challenge.


Q4: What are your biggest fears and challenges about digital transformation in the year ahead and why?



“Executive management needs patience.”



A: There are so many obstacles along the way and pressures to quickly launch – but do not launch a site until it’s ready. Set the right expectations with executive management and allow yourself extra time on your roll-out plan for unforeseen circumstances. Ecommerce implementations can fail if you don’t have everything working in sync, but I’d also recommend you get the entire roadmap planned out and not just pieces of it.



Some system integrators we’ve worked with, the big guns come into the office, they’re very knowledgeable, and then you don’t see them again…”



I had yet to come across a partner that says “Okay, you’re looking at Magento and here’s the 10 things you should worry about…” No questions about the quality of data you have, where you’re going to house product images, your plans internationally, or how you’re going to implement tokenization to meet privacy laws.

Some system integrators we’ve worked with, the big guns come into the office, they’re very knowledgeable, and then you don’t see them again… or the people hired for your initiative start working on another project, and you need to reach them but can’t. Delay, delay, delay, delay.


Q5:  If you could give one piece of advice to B2B business owners, what would it be?



You’re going to need to solve an awful lot of problems along the way, and you need to make sure you have the right people.”



A: Be a problem solver. You’re going to need to solve an awful lot of problems along the way, and you need to make sure you have the right people involved in your project. Lastly, don’t announce to the world what you’re doing until you’re ready, so there are no expectations. When the expectations are set, make sure you’ve given all parties involved an accurate and well-informed scope of what’s coming, and be investigative with your partners.


Final Thoughts:

At Redstage, our engineers are dedicated to helping B2B companies understand the full extent of their needs, challenges and obstacles. Download our B2B Power Index for Manufacturing, Wholesale & Distribution for a better understanding of your current tech stack, and the technologies that can help you become a true digital leader.

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

Whether your product is bottles of lemonade or festive bikinis for the summer; if you’re new to B2B e-commerce, it’s important to have a plan when selecting the best platform for your business.

The explosion of online shopping popularity projects ecommerce transactions to out-pace in-store sales in the next few years. Nielsen confirms this with research and offers up some of the browse to buy rates for goods & services. Recent trends show B2B customers seeking more of the e-commerce experience as opposed to shopping offline. So who exactly are these customers?

B2B ecommerce has several types of customers, each with their individual requirements for how they define their success. These customer types include B2B consumers (the company plans to resell the product or service to them). Other customer types include wholesalers/distributors who will sell your products and services to other B2B companies and dealers who sometimes resell the company’s product for them.

Knowing your customers, here’s a few things to consider when selecting the best e-commerce platform for your online store.

1. What are your company’s objectives for your B2B e-commerce store?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • It is important to know what you want to achieve when you’re building an e-commerce store. Choosing the platform with the best deployment method for your store will ensure your business needs and your brand objectives are supported.

2. Is the platform best for B2B e-commerce?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • The platform you choose should have documented successful experience meeting the demands of e-commerce online stores. Conduct your own research to see what similar online stores are using and if the platforms of their choice have sufficient experience to meet the demands of an e- commerce store such as a high traffic volume, search engine optimization and mobile friendliness. B2B stores operate best on an open source platform such as Magento. The demands of an online B2B store are much greater than that of a B2C. Magento software caters to this need with such benefits as bulk order management and inventory tracking across multiple warehouse locations.

3. Is the platform customizable?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • For companies like Zoetis, it was important to have an online B2B store that provides a B2C experience for their customers. Catering to the needs of veterinary professionals in over 50 countries 24/7, they needed an e-commerce platform that provided world class customer experience, met the needs of their complex business rules, featured promotions and included 40+ database feeds. The best option for them was to use the Magento Enterprise Edition to implement their online store.

4. Can you integrate any existing software into your new platform?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • Integration is very important to the success of your online store. Large businesses that are typical users of B2B e-commerce platforms understand that integration of pre-existing software such as your CRM to your back office is critical. Building an IT environment that improves company efficiency is vitally important; if your existing software does not integrate with the new e-commerce platform it will negatively impact your overall result.

5. Does the platform provide the best user experience for your customers?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • Today’s customers expect and demand a user experience that is second to none when they visit e-commerce stores. The platform chosen for your store should provide streamlined features like one click purchasing for both software and professional training, providing an easier buyer experience. Staying up to date on how buyers utilize the internet in non B2B environments will enhance your store’s B2B experience. According to Magento, “93 percent of business-to-business buyers prefer to purchase online, with self-serve information, direct from vendors,” so an intuitive experience is key. Learn more about Magento’s B2B module here.

When choosing a B2B e-commerce platform choose a platform with a proven success rate of developing B2B e-commerce stores and can adapt to the changing needs of your company.

Here at Redstage, as a Shopify Plus Partner and Magento Enterprise Partner, we believe one of these great platforms may be the right fit for your B2B store and personally vouch for their abilities. Give us a call anytime for a free consultation on options, features and considerations for each to find the perfect platform for your business.

Where Did That Button Go? From Magento 1 To Magento 2

Where Did That Button Go? From Magento 1 To Magento 2

Where Did That Button Go? From Magento 1 To Magento 2

The Old Switcheroo

The transition from Magento 1 to Magento 2 is anything but simple. Just ask our Developers and Project Managers who work directly on M1->M2 migrations for clients all the time. Even after you get past the migration itself, there are a few updates to the platform that can throw users for a loop, namely menu buttons being moved around between versions. We do so many migrations, we thought we’d make this helpful chart to assist M2 first-timers, and even some of the more seasoned M2 pros. Here are a handful of menu directions to help you find out, “Where did that button go?” from Magento 1 to Magento 2.

Here are the questions we’ll be answering in this post:


1. Update Design Theme

You may be looking for where you used to update your design theme. In Magento 2, there is a new main menu item labeled “Content” which is the new home for numerous menu options.  In M1, you would go to System > Configuration for a majority of settings but they are now recategorized in different locations.  Here’s where the options used to live in M1:

Magento 1
System > Configuration > Design > ::Package::, ::Themes::

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Content > :: Design:: > Themes


2. Promotions (Catalog price rules & Cart Price Rules (coupons))

One of the most widely used and most powerful features in Magento is the ability to create powerful discounts and pricing rules.  In Magento 2, this too has changed locations to live inside a new high-level menu labeled, “Marketing”.

Magento 1
Promotions > Catalog Price Rule, Cart Price Rules
Magento 2
Marketing > ::Promotions:: > Catalog Price Rule, Cart Price Rules


3. Update Email Templates

You’re sending so many emails to every customer in your store and you should have every one of them optimized.  Now you’ve migrated to Magento 2 and you’re wondering how to add a new template or edit your existing ones.  Here is where these settings used to be and where they have migrated to.

Magento 1
System > Transactional Emails

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Marketing > ::Communications::> Email Templates


Want some custom, fresh and highly engaging transactional email designs?
Redstage’s design and dev teams are ready to help!

Click Here to Learn More


4. URL Rewrites

URL Rewrites are a useful way to create shorter links from complex URLs and manage the automatically created rewrites that Magento generates.  This is another items that moved into the new “Marketing” section whereas it used to be part of the Catalog in Magento 1:

Magento 1
Catalog > URL Rewrite Management

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Marketing > ::SEO & Search:: > URL Rewrites


5. Search Terms & Synonyms

If you’re finding that users are searching for certain terms but not getting the right results, forward them to the right page.  A past Redstage client was selling musical equipment along with some t-shirts.  However, they found that people were searching for “t shirt”, “tee shirt” and sometimes, “tshirt”, along with the plural versions of all of these.  In the default Magento search, the customer searching for these would never find themselves on the “t-shirts” category page but with the search terms and synonyms feature, we were able to direct the searchers to the right category.  In Magento 1, this useful feature used to live in:

Magento 1
Catalog > Search Terms

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Marketing > ::SEO & Search:: > Search Terms


6. Manage Reviews

Reviews are the most powerful social proof your site has out of the box and effectively managing them is crucial for your business growth.  Now, reviews are a part of the Marketing section in Magento 2, and in Magento 1 they were part of the catalog settings:

Magento 1
Catalog > Reviews and Ratings > Manage Reviews

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Marketing > ::User Content:: > Reviews


7.Manage Ratings

In Magento 2, the setup for your reviews section has moved into a very different section.  In Magento 1, it was considered part of the Reviews and Ratings section within the Catalog heading.  Now, the ratings are considered part of the Attributes section, in Magento 2.

Magento 1
Catalog > Reviews and Ratings > Manage Ratings

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Stores > ::Attributes:: > Rating


8. Customer Groups

Managing existing  and creating new customer groups is one of the settings that has moved the most and may be tricky to find.  In M1, these settings were a part of the customers grouping but in Magento 2 it is in the “Stores” Tab under Other settings:

Magento 1
Customers > Customer Groups

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Stores > ::Other Settings:: > Customer Groups


9. Update Design Configuration

Design configuration used to be in the system -> Configuration tab, however, it was moved to live in a new high level tab for “Content”.  This is the section that would allow you to add code to the <head> or before </body>, update the copyright and many more.  This is where these settings were in M1:

Magento 1
M1 – System > Configuration > Design

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
M2 – Content > ::Design:: > Configuration > choose theme scope


10. Configuration

You were probably very used to going to “System -> Configuration” all the time in M1.  Now, the configuration settings you exptected to be in the system /config are in the stores dropdown -> configuration .

Magento 1

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2


11. CMS Pages/Blocks/etc

Content is still king!  Managing your pages is always going to be important but more importantly, where did the setting go?!  Managing pages and static block content is now in the “Content” menu instead of the CMS heading in M1.

Magento 1

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Content> Elements>Pages/blocks/etc


12. Products/Category Administration

One of the more substantial changes from M1 to M2 is the change of the high level category from “Catalog” to “Products”.  If you’re looking for the place to manage the categories, here is where it was in Magento 1:

Magento 1
Catalog>Manage Products or Catalog>{Categories}>Manage Categories (the middle categories is enterprise only)

…and now in Magento 2:

Magento 2
Products>Catalog or Products>Categories


13. Manage Attributes/Attribute Sets

Attributes + Layered navigation create the best way to allow your customers to find what they are looking for in your store.  Making sure your attributes are organized and up to date is critical so let’s find where this setting moved to.

Magento 1
Catalog>Attributes>Manage Attributes or Catalog>Attributes>Manage Attribute Sets
Magento 2
Stores>Attributes>Product or Stores>Attributes>Attribute Set

If you have noticed any additional big changes to the admin, share them in the comments below!


Setting up Design Files For Development – Best Practices

Setting up Design Files For Development – Best Practices


Over the years, we’ve made a lot of changes and improvements to our internal design process. Being able to work closely with our development team has helped our designers put together high quality design mockups that are ready and easy to work with. However, not everyone has the luxury of working closely with a developer to make sure the designs they are creating are organized and ready for a developer to implement.

The tips below should help you and your design team put together a stunning design that is ready to go to development.

Be As Detailed As Possible

Don’t assume that developers will always know what you intended for a particular page or design element. That said, a designer doesn’t need to create a design for every possible page on a site (and that can get quite time-consuming) As a guideline, the requested pages are a minimum requirement to style your site. For an Ecommerce site, usually we ask clients for designs for:

  • Home Page
  • Category/Search Results
  • Product Page
  • Shopping Cart
  • Checkout

For blogs/content sites, we ask for:

  • Home Page
  • Category/Search Results
  • Single Post Page

Plus, include designs for any other custom pages that contain any functionality that isn’t inherent in the platform. Developers need to know how they will look and how users will interact with them. For example, for eCommerce sites, a category landing page, a timed sale or daily-deal product, a video gallery, or a bulk order form for wholesale buyers are usually custom features. For blogs, custom pages might include a custom contact page with a map, or a restaurant booking system.

For each of these, however, be aware of the functionality of your platform. In Magento, for example, a typical Checkout page is a multi-step process, whereas one step checkout has a completely different layout and requires an extension and usually some further customization (see example below). Be aware of budget concerns when implementing elements like this.

One Step Checkout Example

One Step Checkout Example

For responsive design, we include all of the above listed design comps for the three major viewports:

  • Desktop
  • Tablet
  • Mobile

So, for eCommerce website designs, multiply this by the five pages above and that’s 15 page designs.

Other Pages

Do you have a custom 404 Error page? Want to style your user account page a certain way? These types of pages will need a separate design if it doesn’t follow what you’ve already provided your developers. Going responsive? Make sure you design for each viewport above!

Show Different States

What does it look like when you hover over a link? Does your navigation bar have a different state when hovered over? Does mousing over an image have any functionality? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to provide your developers with another comp of this state. You can also use different layers/groups to display these custom states which is convenient so your developer doesn’t need to work with multiple files for the same viewport. Just be sure to communicate that these layers/groups are there and make sure your developer understands what you are trying to accomplish.

How do downloadable products look versus simple, or configurable products? If there is a different experience on these pages, be sure to design it. Don’t leave it up to your developer to decide where any extra elements go – you’ll end up unhappy and have to pay extra for a change.

Other Considerations

Choose the right Resolution – the majority of monitors today display at a resolution of 72DPI. Be sure that your designs are in this resolution because that is what your developer will probably be working with and what most people visiting your site will see.

Color Mode – much like resolution, you want to make sure to use a color mode that is common across the majority of devices that will be viewing your site. For color mode, we recommend using RGB color mode. If you work on a lot of print media, you probably do most of your designs in CMYK color mode, so be sure to change this when you start working on your design comps.

Responsive Design – if you are designing a responsive site, start with mobile. Since it is the most restricting viewport due to limited space, it is important to make a design that is clean and works in a mobile experience. Then work your way up to tablet and desktop designs. When you are working with more space, it is easy to increase the size of elements or add extra elements that are extraneous in a mobile experience.

Organize your Layers and Folders – keep your designs neat and organized to make it easier for your developer to work with them. Label things so they make sense and group layers together into folders so everything is easy to find.

Include All Fonts – if you’re working with non-standard fonts, be sure to include them in your design files so the output from development is exactly what you intended. If you can’t provide the developer with the appropriate font for their machine, provide them with a list of the fonts you used so they can get them before working on your site.

Delete Extraneous Layers – we all know that designs evolve and change as you work on them. Sometimes you’ll create a layer or an element that you don’t want in your final design and simply hide it and forget about it. When you’re done with your design, go through and clean up any extra layers that aren’t being used. It’ll make it much easier for your developer to work with and avoid any confusion.

Want some help with your next project? Call Redstage today!

5 Easy Steps to Increase Magento Site Performance

Magento is a massive system with tons of files which can really slow your site down if not set up properly. There are plenty of ways that you can optimize your site to improve performance (optimized code, upgraded servers optimized for Magento, etc.). These things can always help, but sometimes, it’s nice to have options available to you without needing a CS degree or spending a ton on hosting. This list will give you some times for how to optimize your sites admin settings to improve your websites performance.

1. Disable Logging – Logging is a feature in Magento which can be useful for testing while developing a site. It creates records of how various features in your site are working/communicating with internal and external systems. But once your site is live, logging is less necessary. Moreover, it is a big drain on your servers resources. This feature is enabled in all Magento releases by default, so you’ll need to go into the admin to disable it. To do so, go to:

  • System>Configuraiton>Advanced>Advanced
  • Expand the “Disable Modules Output” list and look for “Mage_Log”
  • Set this to “Disable” and click the “Save Config” button at the top right of the screen.

2. Enable compilation – Compilation has been a part of Magento for the last few releases (since Magento CE 1.4.x.x). Essentially, this feature reorganizes site files and scopes into a more easily accessible blocks of HTML. According to Magento, this feature can increase performance by 25-50% depending on the page requested. The caveat to using compilation is that you need to recompile the website each time that changes are made (especially if new extensions are installed – we recommend disabling compilation when installing new extensions and re-enabling it when the installation is complete). To enable compilation, go to:

  • System>Tools>Compilation
  • Clicking the Orange button to “Run Compilation Process” will turn on compilation for the site.

3. Combine JS and CSS files – This is another feature that has been around for a while now (since Magento CE 1.4.x.x). While this feature doesn’t decrease the file sizes for your JS or CSS files, it combines them into one which can yield significant improvement in browser rendering time. To enable this setting, go to:

  • System>Configuration>Advanced>Developer
  • Expand the sections for “Javascript Settings” and “CSS Settings”
  • For the “Merge Files” options, set the value to “yes”

4. Enable Flat Catalog – Magento uses the EAV database model, so loading a category or product page requires several different database queries from different database tables storing product data. Enabling the Flat Catalog allows these pages to be built using a single DB query from a single DB table. This reduces the performance bottleneck of loading a product/category page significantly. To enable this setting, go to:

  • System>Configuration>Catalog>Catalog
  • Expand the Frontend section
  • Look for the options “Use Flat Catalog Product” and “Use Flat Catalog Category” and set the value to “Yes”

Note: If you can’t set these values to yes (they are grayed out) it likely means you need to enable indexing for these features under System>Index Management.

5. Keep it Simple – This should go without saying, but it bears repeating: just because extensions are out there, DOES NOT mean you need to install all of them. The more files you add to your site, the more server resources you are wasting. Be critical about what features you want to add to your store. If you do want to try out a new feature, consider setting up a development environment so you can test that feature out without affecting your live sites performance.

Like these tips and want to know more? Contact us today to discuss your site and how Redstage can help grow your business!