Ecommerce strategy innovation is not just for consumer brands or retailers – B2B companies must also embrace new trends and technologies to remain competitive. Today, B2B buyers have more choices than ever and gather information independently of sales representatives or channel partners. As a result, there is a real need for B2B organisations to digitise their online B2B buying experience. Those businesses that don’t evolve to meet customer expectations for convenience and personalisation will increasingly risk losing out — not just to their traditional competitors, but also new threats like Amazon as it encroaches more and more into B2B territory.
Interestingly, Elastic Path’s recent report found that nearly all (91%) of the 300 B2B eCommerce decision makers they surveyed felt that their companies were investing a sufficient amount into improving B2B eCommerce platforms and experiences for their customers. While this statistic seems promising, there appears to be a disconnect in many B2B businesses between ecommerce strategy investments and the customer experience. They found that 45% of B2B commerce decision makers report losing customers due to the quality of their customer experiences. Meanwhile, 82% believe that they will lose more customers if they don’t improve the commerce experience within the next year.
In many cases, B2B customer retention suffers because platforms are designed for consumer sales. This means the platforms lack nuances like contract-based pricing, or tailored product information. B2C platforms can’t cater to a B2B buyer’s desire to quickly order a specific product without emptying their existing shopping cart or set up a repeat order with flexible pricing, depending on the volume purchased.
B2B businesses require a purpose-built system that can be tailored to the needs and complexities of B2B buying and selling. Systems need to support how B2B customers want to buy across all digital and physical touchpoints. From sophisticated account management to customer-specific catalogues, eCommerce tools designed specifically for B2B give businesses a leg up in an increasingly competitive landscape.
For brands looking to solve their B2B eCommerce puzzle, here are four tips that can kickstart the process:
1. Make your catalogue available and discoverable
Remember you must walk before you can run. Start off by digitising your catalogue to make your products more visible and easily discoverable. This will help attract more customers who are increasingly turning to B2B businesses directly for product information and to make purchases.
2. Enable self-service
After digitising your product catalogue, offer self-service to customers for simple orders. This will make customers’ lives easier, particularly when it comes to reordering products, allowing them to focus their time on other elements of their business. Importantly, they will also see you as a convenient supplier for future purchases.
3. Secure long-term revenue with consultative selling
When self-service capabilities free up time for sales reps, they are able to move from order taker toward more consultative selling. This increases their value and allows sales reps to build relationships with customers by sharing their insights.
4. Look to automate your selling process
For many B2B businesses, automation is a new and daunting concept. However, automating eCommerce transactions has benefits, ranging from reducing cost per order, to transitioning businesses into managed services. This makes the buying and selling process more seamless for all involved.
It’s all about the customer
B2B buyers have specific expectations for sellers that aren’t well supported by B2C systems. The time is now to tailor and configure experiences to meet B2B requirements like service level agreements, negotiated pricing and product assortment, so that brands deliver on customer demands.
Businesses that have achieved success through investments in B2B digital buying report loyal customers and profit margin growth. Improving the B2B buying experience is good for buyers and business, so it’s time for B2B brands to invest in the right digital buying experience.
Credit: John Bruno, VP of Product Management at Elastic Path.