All you need to know about B2B ordering portals

B2B Portal, B2B Ecommerce, AmeriCommerce by, B2B Ording Portal

In today’s market, businesses have to be as lean as possible in all areas—including employee equipment. That means being aware of what’s been issued, who’s ordering what, and how much stock is remaining. Does that mean accountants should follow employees around with clipboards, noting every time a tool is used?

Absolutely not! Digital offers a much more scalable (and less intrusive) alternative. In order to keep track of all this data while still helping employees do their jobs efficiently, more businesses are relying on online B2B portals. These B2B ecommerce solutions allow for seamless tracking and efficient order management.

But what exactly do we mean by “portal?” B2B portals are a popular term—one might even say overused. B2B portals are loosely defined as digital environments where companies can interact with each other in a controlled environment. As you can probably tell, this definition is fairly generic and can apply to any number of business-to-business relationships. That’s why we at AmeriCommerce by prefer to use the term B2B ordering portal for the purposes of this discussion.

What is a B2B ordering portal?

A B2B ordering portal is a private shopping experience where the shopper is either an employee or a member of an organization. Unlike your typical D2C ecommerce site, the ordering portal is closed to the public. This type of B2B ecommerce ensures that only authorized users are allowed to view and purchase items, and all the items available for purchase/order have been vetted by the organization and sourced through approved suppliers.

When are B2B ordering portals used?

As mentioned above, B2B ordering portals are frequently used to ensure employees have an efficient way to request equipment like uniforms, tools, and other assets. Let’s use Walmart as an example: Walmart employees would go onto their ordering portal to order branded smocks to wear on the job. This would be a portal run by Walmart, used by the employee, managed by Walmart managers, and powered by tools like AmeriCommerce by

Portals could also be used for franchises and multi-location businesses. For instance, Dollar General uses the AmeriCommerce by platform to power a unique catalog of products specific to each of their brick-and-mortar stores. Each store manager can access this portal and purchase materials from their Nashville headquarters: signage, storage materials, safety equipment, and more. All of this in a closed environment not accessible to the public.

But who’s paying for all of this? Do employees have to pay out of pocket for items they’ll use on the job?

Although software like AmeriCommerce by can allow employees to also use their own funds if elected to do so, typically they do not. In a B2B portal, employees are given points or credit allowances they can use to purchase equipment. One company that uses such a system is Interform, a uniform personalization company that supplies work garments for multi-location businesses. Each Interform employee is given a monthly point allowance to purchase uniforms. Location managers would log onto their AmeriCommerce by portals to assign points to employees and approve or reject orders.

This use case could easily expand to franchises, restaurants, refineries, hospitals, government agencies, firefighters, law enforcement precincts, and more—and that’s just for uniforms.

Pros of ordering portals:

We’ve already noted some of the major advantages of using B2B ordering portals; but now let’s dive into more detail about how businesses benefit:

1. No more manual orders

With an ordering portal, businesses no longer have to rely on manual ordering processes like printed catalogs, mail-in forms, spreadsheets, or even PDF submission. No need to bury yourself in literal paperwork; everything is done via online checkout and gated with pre-requisites as defined by the company, which is easier for employees to learn and faster to use.

2. Faster product turnaround time

Because employees can more easily purchase items on-demand, managers no longer have to take care of placing the orders themselves, instead only having to review orders and approve them which allows faster turnaround times from the time of needing a product to receiving it. Speaking of which…

3. Fewer issues with approving orders

Companies that use platforms like AmeriCommerce by experience fewer issues with approving digital orders thanks to flexible options when reviewing POs. If a certain item in a large order is problematic, the manager can reject that item while allowing the rest of the order to proceed, thus saving time and increasing efficiency in procurement. Set rules for when to require approval and when not to allowing for even some commonly placed orders to pass through without moderation.

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4. Secure digital environment

Portals come equipped with tight yet flexible digital security that can suit the needs of companies of any size, from SMB to enterprise. Administrators have the option of locking down part of the environment, while another is open to the public.

For example, a business might only restrict access to the catalog or to product pricing, while leaving the rest of the portal open to the public. Or it might do the reverse, where the catalog and prices can be viewed by anyone at any time, while requiring a login to make a purchase.

If you want to make it easy for approved users to access the site, most portals have single sign-on (SSO) capabilities that allow employees to log in without needing to enter their credentials every five minutes.

5. Clients can self-manage users

If you’re a business granting your clients their own ordering portal, you don’t have to be the one working as their admin. You can, through the miracle of permissions and user roles, give clients the ability to self-manage. Now, large clients with lots of employees that come and go won’t be your responsibility. They can appoint their own managers to handle creating and removing users, while you only step in for the serious stuff.

6. Segmenting employees into Customer Types

At AmeriCommerce by, employees can be segmented into groups called “customer types,” which allows you to restrict which items they see. The benefit of this is that there’s less noise and distraction. They only see the items that matter to them, so there are fewer incidents of them ordering the wrong products (because let’s be honest; that happens a lot). Maybe a company has a marketing team only purchasing marketing materials or a production supervisor only ordering safety equipment - perfect for limiting your catalog using customer type roles.

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7. Allow pricing by segment

Customer types also allow you to adjust the product pricing shown to an employee or client based on the customer type they’re assigned. This is useful for applying discounts, reflecting negotiated pricing, and more. These price settings can be applied to specific segments, curated catalogs, or an entire product list.

8. Synchronizing with third party supplier catalogs

Updating catalogs manually can be incredibly painful and inefficient, which is why online ordering portals (the good ones) allow you to sync catalogs via API or flat file integrations. This becomes more valuable the more SKUs you have, and the more suppliers you work with. If you have supplier catalogs that don’t support API connections, we proudly support automated flat file exports and imports for older systems that can be scheduled at your desired speeds.

9. Up-to-the-minute inventory reports for end users

Speaking of stock, check to see if your online ordering portal provides live stock reports (AmeriCommerce by does). In these reports, the client can receive updates on product stock levels, order velocity, shipped items, and more right within their typical front-end login. If they have multiple suppliers and warehouses, the reports will show stock levels for every individual warehouse with velocity reports showing when to expect new purchase orders for inventory. A great tool for also understanding the most popular selling items in your catalog!

10. Location management

With location management, managers can create company locations and assign them to employees as designated ship-to addresses. Not only are the stock levels for each location tracked (as noted earlier), but whenever an employee orders something, it’s shipped to their assigned location and nowhere else. It takes manager or admin permission to have that changed, which reduces the chances of equipment going somewhere it’s not supposed to. An employee can be assigned to a single location, multiple locations, or have the ability to enter their own location as well if desired.

11. Custom email notifications

Notifications aren’t annoying if they’re actually useful. In B2B ordering portals, they are. Site administrators can create custom notifications to alert employees if their credits are expiring soon (prompting a purchase), or if they have an order whose status just changed from pending to approved. Every email notification and transactional email is completely customizable by the store admin and can reflect custom messaging and fields as desired for best-in-class communication.

12. Integrate with third party applications

AmeriCommerce by allows D2C payment methods for portals like PayPal, Klarna, Affirm, GooglePay, and ApplePay for employees requesting easier ways to pay. We also allow custom payment types like purchase orders and credits/allowances (which are determined by managers and site admins) and integrations with over 50 gateway and processing providers. Various ERPs, accounting platforms, and OMS/WMS systems are supported as well in case you need those third-party connections to operate seamlessly with your portal. If an integration doesn’t exist with a system your company relies on, our development team can be utilized for building custom integrations with detailed scopes and assumptions with transparent pricing.

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Cons of ordering portals:

Ordering portals can be a huge advantage to businesses, but there are some things that you should know about if you’re considering setting one up—things that may affect how you use it (or if you use it at all).

1. Changing orders mid-flight can be a challenge

Processing orders can be done pretty quickly in an online portal, but there are times when requirements change after an employee hits that “purchase” button and an order has been approved by an admin or manager. It’s annoying, but it comes with the territory when working in a B2B environment. If your portal of choice doesn’t have a way for users to amend requests post-submission, they’ll have to reach out to you directly in order to get that sorted out.

2. Portals, portals, and more portals

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, portals are everywhere these days. Your average customer probably juggles half a dozen already, both for work and for their personal use. By adding one more to the mix, you’re complicating their life even further.

The best thing to do in this case would be to make your portal simple to use and easy to navigate. Not only is this good for the user, but it also helps them to view your portal (and by extension your brand) in a positive light compared to all the others they have to deal with.

3. AP management is hit-or-miss

Let’s face it: B2B accounting can be a bit batty. You’ve got split shipments, customer-specific discounts, special payment terms, and multiple payment methods on a single account—heck, on a single order. This requires a lot of extra attention from accountants who are trying to balance the books.

While there are some portal platforms that can handle these special arrangements (AmeriCommerce by, for instance, can handle customer-specific discounts and special payment terms), the fact of the matter is that there’s no one solution that can easily accommodate every special case.

4. Requires technology training for best results

The customer-facing side of an ordering portal looks easy because there’s a lot going on under the hood. Different systems and features have to work together in order to build a seamless user experience.

The complexity of AmeriCommerce by and platforms like it could result in you missing features that could automate manual tasks or reduce unnecessary burdens. This can be attenuated through proper manager onboarding and ongoing reinforcement training as updates are released and new capabilities are added.

5. Risk of being too private

Most ordering platforms let you wall off your site from the public in whatever arrangement you want. But just because you can do it a certain way, doesn’t mean you should. There are still best practices to follow if you want your portal to achieve your goals.

For example, if you’re a wholesaler trying to sell to distributors, don’t hide your site behind a login screen. That will drive away most potential customers who just want to browse. Instead, let them see the catalog but hide the prices or the ability to add to cart. Make sure you’re gating content appropriately. Understand what should be available to the public, and what shouldn’t.

Key features of B2B ordering portals:

There are lots of B2B ordering platforms in the market, each with its own combination of features and capabilities. And (let’s be honest here) while we’d love for you to pick AmeriCommerce by right away, you really should try out several options before you make your final decision.

To make the evaluation process easier, here are B2B ordering portal features that we consider to be must-haves:

Online shopping cart

Before you say, “duh, no kidding,” let us just say that there are good shopping carts, and there are bad shopping carts. Make it a point to always test an online portal’s shopping cart for user experience, loading speed, and customizability. This is where the bulk of the action happens, so you want to make sure employees will like using it. Have a few of them take it for a spin as well and get their feedback.

In-depth manager-level controls

An online ordering portal is supposed to facilitate more efficient ordering and processing of equipment requests across the organization. For this to happen, managers need to be given the authority to do important tasks like approving or rejecting orders, setting up new employees, and other related tasks. Determine the ideal process for your own managers, and then see if the portal you’re reviewing can make it happen.

Cash alternatives

A business setting up an ordering portal for internal use probably doesn’t want employees paying out of pocket for company equipment (unless they’re working for 19th century robber-barons). Instead, employees can use points or credits to purchase items. Each employee will have their own points wallet, which can be renewed every month or allocated on a case-to-case basis, depending on how the company operates.

For example, a maintenance worker might need a set of coveralls and safety gloves to replace a damaged set. He would log into the portal and use all his allotted points for the period to obtain a new set. If he needs to order anything else, he can either wait for the points to refresh to next quarter or ask his manager for more.

Reports and analytics on purchase data

One of the biggest advantages of doing things digitally is the amount of data and analytics one can pull. In paper-based systems, “analytics” were more fortune-telling than math. Now, however, a properly built platform can tell you what’s being purchased, who’s doing the purchasing, and how much.

AmeriCommerce by in particular can generate a velocity report that tells you when you’re likely to run out of a specific SKU based on order history. If your ordering platform doesn’t give you that capability out of the box, then you should probably start asking them questions (or look for another vendor).

Grouping items

Employees will sometimes need to buy an odd item or two just to replace something that was damaged or lost. However, equipment is purchased in kits. For example, a full uniform could involve a shirt, a cap, and pants. A full safety kit would need gloves, a hard hat, and eye protection.

Instead of manually adding all those items to the cart (and thus increasing the chances of forgetting something), the online portal can (and should) allow SKUs to be bought in a group or set. That way, the employee only needs to order a single item, and everything in that group can still be tracked individually.

Reminder notifications

At AmeriCommerce by, email reminders can be sent to buyers whose points are about to expire. This isn’t a common feature for online ordering platforms (yet), but it definitely should be. This is often overlooked during implementation, which can lead to confusion among team members when they try to order new uniforms, only to discover their points disappeared.


Ordering portals are useful pieces of technology, but they’re specialized tools and don’t do everything. However, integrations can expand their capabilities and help them fit better into the business’ tech stack.

As you evaluate ordering platform candidates, look for those that can integrate (and integrate well) with the ERPs and other applications that are being used. Also check their plugin library to see if there are any third-party integrations that can help make your life (and that of the employees) simpler or more productive.

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Individual user accounts with SSO access

Remember what we said earlier about reporting on employee purchase activity? Well, that’s going to be a little hard to do if employees are all using one shared login. In an ideal situation, every employee should get their own account, their own points wallet, and therefore their own activity history on the system. Anything less would be anarchy.

An added bonus would be to have single sign-on (SSO) access too, so that users don’t have to enter their passwords every single time they attempt to purchase something. This would be a big-time saver, especially for employees who don’t have access to a computer and need to order on their mobile device.

Interested in learning more?

We’ve only scratched the surface of what B2B ordering portals are and how they benefit suppliers, businesses, and employees. If you’d like to know more about portals like AmeriCommerce by, or have a need that you think a platform like this can solve, then reach out to us and we’ll connect you with one of our ecommerce experts.