The functioning and requirements of a B2B business are not the same as that of a B2C one. Optimizing the eCommerce store with B2B capabilities can be a challenging task, to say the least. Typically, a B2B company sells its products or services to other companies who may or may not be the product’s end consumer. The product or services a B2B provides may be in the form of SaaS (Software as a Service), subscriptions, security solutions, and more.
B2B businesses need a specially optimized eCommerce store for their business because the B2B audience or buyers have a very different set of requirements from that of a B2C consumer. They have a much longer decision-making phase and a significantly bigger order value. Unlike B2C, they are not inclined to market their products based purely on its desirability. The relationship between B2B businesses and their buyers is also unique. The long-term clients are not treated the same as for first-time buyers. In fact, each client may need to be treated differently based on the kind of business they bring.
The demand for these custom requirements is not easily met and even when they are met, it’s not nearly efficient enough. B2B eCommerce stores often require a plethora of integrations to be implemented on them. But having more integrations does not mean that your B2B store will be successful because the practical challenges that arise are often overlooked. This article will discuss the major challenges faced by B2B businesses online and how they can be rectified with effective eCommerce implementation.
1. Inconsistent Pricing
Pricing is perhaps the most challenging part to implement for a B2B eCommerce store. Why? Because a B2B business’s relationship with its buyers is unlike any other, and the prices are never fixed. Although most B2B companies base their pricing structure on volume, that is not the only aspect considered.
Pricing Based on Customer
As far as pricing goes, the biggest mistake you can make is to treat every single customer indifferently. It is quintessential for B2B businesses to create long-term relationships with their buyers. Treating first-time buyers and long-term customers indifferently can potentially break your valuable business relations. B2B eCommerce stores have to make sure that long-term customers receive an incentive in the form of discounts or some other method.
Pricing Based on Volume
This is the most common type of pricing seen on B2B eCommerce stores. The deciding factor here is the volume of purchase. When implementing bulk-deal pricing, you need to encourage the buyers to make high-volume purchases by offering discounts and other offers- depending on the volume ordered. Although many B2B eCommerce stores implement this pricing feature, they often fail to set up automated discounts to be applied to the orders.
Pricing Based on Tier
Although similar to pricing based on volume, it is a more streamlined and adaptive form of pricing. Here, the price is defined for a unit within a range- unlike volume pricing which cuts the price when the order crosses a certain mark. The orders are classified into tiers based on the range within which the order quantity falls. For example, if 1-10 units cost $10, the next tier of 11-20 units will cost only $7, and so on. Although the logic is simple, many B2B stores fail to make a fully functional pricing system based on the tier system.
Custom or Personalized Pricing
Implement a pricing logic with predefined rules that can automatically manage the price displayed to the customer. You can even use the contract terms with your buyers to determine the custom pricing. This often involves grouping the buyers into different categories based on their buying patterns. Pair it with auto-applied discounts for long-term or return customers.
Volume pricing is popular in B2B eCommerce stores and can be easily integrated into your store. Volume pricing permits discounts on orders when companies buy a specific quantity of products or more. You can either opt for a standard plugin available in the market, or equip it with custom features for your specific requirements.
Many believe that multi-tiered pricing is better suited for B2B eCommerce. Unlike volume pricing- which lets the customers get a discount upon placing an order of a specified quantity, the tiered pricing provides incentives for shopping more. This implies the bigger the order quantity, the bigger the reward or discount, which encourages customers to buy more from your B2B store.
Dynamic pricing allows you to charge higher prices from the customers when the demand is high and vice versa. Although dynamic pricing for B2B is not easily implemented- like in B2C, the right eCommerce partner can make all the difference. Virtina helps B2B companies implement multiple pricing strategies on their online stores to maximize their revenue.
2. Inability to Order Without the Help of a Sales Representative
Sales representatives are an important part of B2B businesses. Despite our tech advancements, they influence the corporate-decision makers to sell a product or service. They used to be a vital part of B2B businesses- even in eCommerce. Over the years with advancements in technology, we have minimized the need for them on the eCommerce platform. The modern-day B2B buyers demand self-service capability without having to consult a representative. Therefore, it is necessary to provide them the ability to order without a sales representative’s help.
B2B eCommerce and Inbound Sales Representatives
The visitors who came to a B2B eCommerce store used to be attended by an inbound sales representative. The practice still exists in many eCommerce stores. You need to provide a digital alternative to your users who prefer self-service over dealing with a sales rep. The key is to provide a sales representative assistance only if and when the buyer requires it. You need to ensure that you provide relevant information to the potential buyers that enables them to make a purchase without consulting a sales representative.
Providing Too Much Information
One of the main challenges faced by B2B eCommerce stores when implementing a self-service capability is that they have to provide the right information to the buyers. The problem arises when they overwhelm the users with too much content so that they can avoid the need for a sales representative on the site. In the end, the B2B buyers end up seeking support to find the details they want because finding them on the website is arduous and time-consuming.
Absence of Experts
Did you know that the B2B buyer goes through 12 touchpoints before contacting a seller? At this point, the buyer may even be more informed about the product than your sales representative. In this case, the buyer is looking for an enlightened Subject Matter Expert (SME) and not a marketer who simply wants to make the sale.
Substitute Sales Representative With Useful Content
Perhaps the only viable solution to minimize a sales representative’s involvement in a B2B store is to provide all the relevant information the buyer may need. To present this information to the users without overwhelming them with the details, use multimedia content like short videos. Videos are a great way of communicating your product or service’s major takeaways without having to divulge unnecessary information. Similarly, make use of infographics, product-specific FAQs, and pointers to the buyers. Ensure that the data you provide addresses all possible questions the buyer may have about your product or service.
Concise and Relevant Information
Many B2B eCommerce stores, in an attempt to fully automate their buying process, get rid of sales representatives, and substitute them with a plethora of content. This is one of the most common mistakes B2B companies make. They flood their website with content that goes down to the minuscule detail of the product. Irrelevant and lengthy content can only overwhelm the buyer to abandon the purchase or call a sales representative. Therefore, you need to provide concise and relevant content that is tailor-made for your target audience.
B2B buyers have an elaborate buying process that involves in-depth research of the product and its features. It is highly likely that the B2B buyer will contact your business only after being satisfied with your product’s specifications. At this point, the buyer needs help from a subject expert who can actually help him or her make the best buying division. The sales representatives can only provide the same information that the buyer already has access to. So, instead of providing the service of a sales representative on your store, employ a subject expert who can help your customer constructively.
3. Inaccurate or Flawed Product Information
Regardless of whether they are buying a product for their own needs or for their company’s, the B2B buyer wants to know everything about the product. Product information is of vital importance when it comes to B2B businesses. B2B buyers will conduct extensive research into the product. This research would cover all the factors- including its price, what it is used for, and even your competitor product data before finally making a buying decision. However, inaccurate or flawed product information still remains one of the biggest challenges B2B eCommerce faces today.
No Product Information
Providing no product information at all may be the easiest way to implement an eCommerce store for your B2B business. However, such a website is bound to fail. In the absence of comprehensive product information, B2B buyers will not even bother to get in touch with you and it wouldn't matter how good or well-priced your product is. Providing accurate and thorough information becomes harder, depending on the complexity of your product.
Bad Product Information
One reason that B2B businesses choose not to have detailed product information is that it is not easy to keep the information accurate and consistent. B2B buyers will abandon your website if they feel that the website is giving them inaccurate or inconsistent information. Your website needs to provide all of the information the buyer needs- including the price they’d be paying, the actual product information, and the delivery date.
Hidden Product Information
This could potentially be the worst kind of problem that you can have on your B2B eCommerce store as far as product information is concerned. There is nothing more frustrating to a B2B buyer than not finding the information they are looking for in the vendor site. The product information you have must be easily accessible. Not just by the users, but also by the search engines. This ensures that your product comes up whenever the B2B buyer uses a search engine to find the products.
Product Information Management (PIM)
Product Information Management or PIM enables you to manage all the data, content, and other materials you need to market and sell your products. It gives you superior product data management capabilities and improved customer experience while saving valuable time.
Product Experience Management (PXM)
Product Experience Management or PXM software enables you to provide your B2B buyers with a personalized, dynamic, and targeted experience. When coupled with the right PIM, you can enrich your eCommerce store with accurate, consistent, and compelling information that can help your users.
4. Inaccurate Shipping Information
Shipping has always been one of the weak spots for a B2B business. It deals with considerably larger consignments than the B2C or retail industries. Transporting a large shipment to the buyer can be hard and what’s even more challenging, is to provide the most accurate shipping information to the B2B buyer.
Limited In-Transit Visibility
B2B orders often don’t support in-transit visibility due to its large size and international orders, which often take longer transit time. They also have a higher chance of getting stuck in customs or docking areas. Although the process has improved over time, it is still no match for in-transit visibility offered by B2C businesses. B2B businesses today, need to provide the major pitstops of the shipments, at least.
Unavailability of Exact Delivery Dates
B2B orders generally have a date range for delivery rather than having an exact date of delivery. The shipping may be subjected to unpredictable events like a customs check. However, this is expected of B2B businesses, which is why there are usually no penalties for shipment delays, nor are there any incentives for on-time delivery. Although providing a more accurate date range can have a positive impact on your B2B customers.
Real-time Sensor Tracking
Logistics providers are adding real-time sensor tracking for large shipments. Although the system is yet to be perfected, this does give you a significant advantage. You can make the tracking data accessible directly from your B2B eCommerce store or redirect it to the logistic provider.
Latest Shipment Status
Even if you do not yet have real-time sensor tracking at your disposal, you can make the order and shipment tracking information easily accessible via customer portals. The tracking info can include the major stops of the consignment. Couple this with push notifications and email alerts, and you have an efficient tracking system for B2B business.
5. Insufficient or Inaccurate Inventory Information
Insufficient or inaccurate inventory information can have adverse effects on a B2B eCommerce store. Unlike a B2C business, the B2B buyer is likely looking to purchase a large number of products. They cannot afford to buy from a store with insufficient or inaccurate inventory information. The importance of showing accurate and real-time inventory is quintessential in B2B eCommerce.
B2B customers fully expect to see the inventory level on any eCommerce website they consider to buy from. B2B businesses typically order in bulk. The insufficient or inaccurate inventory information on your website could mean that the user will most likely abandon your website.
Implementing a Strong Inventory Management Strategy
The main challenge is to develop a strong inventory management strategy for your B2B business. It must show your customers that you are completely transparent with them about your inventory stock.
Real-time Inventory Management
Make use of best-in-class inventory management software for wholesale that supports real-time inventory management. By providing real-time status of your inventory, you can save your customers from website abandonment. It also lets you save them the trouble of making a call to your customer center. Ultimately, the accurate inventory data that you provide enhance your eCommerce store’s convenience, leading to higher conversions.
6. Inferior or No Self-Service Capability
90% of customers expect your eCommerce store to have an online self-service capability and not having one could mean losing potential customers. Ideally, a self-service portal will act as a part of a much larger customer service strategy. This empowers you to implement a flawless omnichannel experience for your customers.
Selling Complex Parts
B2B businesses often sell products that are complex in nature. Most of the time, the parts that are sold by the business belong to a much larger assembly. The products’ complex nature makes it almost impossible to tell the difference between one part and another.
Complex Software Customization
Implementing a well-functioning self-service portal is easier said than done. It is easy to implement for the initial phase of your business and standardized products. However, to be able to employ self-service capability for more advanced products, you’ll need complex software customizations.
Scope of Misunderstanding
When you use a self-servicing portal for your B2B business, there is a higher risk of misunderstanding your customer’s unique requirements. Companies may be unable to communicate their functional requirements into physical products.
The straight-forward solution for implementing a self-service feature on your store is custom software. However, creating software or tools that are capable of handling slightly complex products is not easy. Furthermore, you can also try alternatives like MOPUS or Manufacturer Online Pickup at Store. They enable the buyer to collect the product from its very origin.
7. Inefficient Reorder Process
Having a reorder process can do wonders for your eCommerce store. Although it may seem trivial, a reorder process holds significant value in B2B eCommerce. B2B businesses usually order the same product in large quantities. This implies that having a reorder process is a convenience that can appeal greatly to the B2B buyer.
Complex Parts and Components
B2B purchases are not as easy as B2C ones as they deal with more complex parts and components. For a significant part, they depend on direct contact with the seller to specify the right product. And it may take multiple discussions before actually making the sale in B2B.
Inability to Edit Previous Orders
One of the characteristics of B2B purchases is that they are almost always the same. However, that is not always the case. Certain aspects, like the number of items, may vary depending on their requirements. Your eCommerce should at least have the capability to change the quantity or number of items during reordering.
Previous Order Functionality
Implement a previous order functionality in your eCommerce store that’ll enable them to access and edit the previous orders. Make sure that the customer can edit important fields like quantity in the reorder. This will allow your returning customers to make orders easily.
The reorder process can be optimizing it with a couple of useful features that can be easily implemented. You could make use of a “Buy Again” button corresponding to the past order. Ideally, it’d also have the capability to edit the order as well. Apart from this, you can also use the “Add a Note” feature on the reorder process. Here the customer can specify any changes that they may require on the previous orders.
8. Complicated Checkout Process
The checkout process is the last step before conversion. Its importance is crucial as it is also the stage your customer can change his or her mind and abandon the cart. Hence it is pivotal that your communication throughout the checkout process is crystal clear. B2B customer relationships are different from those of B2C as they are more complex and dynamic. The B2B consumer expects customization on everything from the specification of the product to its delivery. The ideal checkout process for a B2B must be able to communicate all the relevant and unique information to the buyer.
Complex Pricing Tiers
The B2B pricing needs to provide customers with personalized pricing, and often tiered pricing is implemented in a B2B store. You need to ensure that the personalized price is communicated to the customer during the checkout process. If the price during checkout is different from the price displayed in their catalog, it may lead to cart abandonment.
Diverse Consumer Teams
Today’s typical B2B consumer team consists of product supervisors, procurement experts, and quality assurance managers. Various features of the product are evaluated by the team, and the checkout page can act as a final checkpoint for the buyer.
B2B businesses need to ensure that their eCommerce store can handle all kinds of payment methods. At least all the major payment gateways must be integrated into the store. You also need to ensure that the website supports price quotation forms and purchase order payments.
Cross-geographic Delivery, Pricing, and Quotation
Having a cross-geographic delivery, pricing, and quotation features is a necessity today. The B2B buyer should have the ability to see the details of the cross-geographic purchases. Being able to see the details like delivery and pricing for a cross-geographic purchase instill trust and reassures the buyers.
Transparent and Streamlined Checkout
Having a transparent checkout process is quintessential to avoid cart abandonment during the final stage. Your checkout portal must be concise, compact, and streamlined to be hassle-free. The pricing of the product no matter how complex or personalized it is, must be broken down and conveyed to the buyer in a comprehensive manner in the checkout process. Communicate all the important information during checkout. Get rid of all redundant checkout features through automation. Enabling features like auto-fill for addresses and previous order details can further streamline the checkout process.
Integrate all the major payment gateways to your eCommerce store. An expert like Virtina can easily implement payment gateway integrations. We can ensure that all your customers can make payments on your store.
9. Below Par Online Customer Service
Customer service decides whether or not you get to keep your customers and establish a long-lasting relationship with them. Providing exceptional service to the customers can be challenging for B2B eCommerce sites owing to the absence of in-store service capability. However, customer care is just as crucial for B2B eCommerce sites.
Absence of Face-to-face Interactions
Communicating with your customers face-to-face is the best approach for understanding the customer’s issues. Online customer service can not quite come in par with in-person customer service. But, with advanced features and functionalities implementable today you can reduce the gap between online and in-store customer service. Use advanced tech and features at our disposal today to accomplish this.
Service As a Product
Most B2B websites make the mistake of thinking customer service as something secondary, but that can do you more harm than good. The service you provide should be considered as a part of the product you sell. This means you’d have to employ advanced features and capabilities to ensure that the customer can always reach out to you.
Customer Service Optimization
The optimization of your customer service has to be perfect. Set up the eCommerce store with features that make communication with your B2B business easy, fast, and convenient. Multiple features, including AI-assisted 24/7 chat support, and self-service capability, can be used to optimize the customer service. You can even use customer reviews strategically to give valuable insights about the product.
Measure, Optimize, Repeat
Attention must also be given to the quality of the service you provide. Ensure the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are well educated about the products similar to that of a Product Matter Expert (PME). Follow a measure, optimize, repeat approach to perfect your store’s customer service.
10. Poor eCommerce Site Experiences
Unlike B2C, the buying decisions in B2B business generally take longer, are non-impulsive, and are more complex. Furthermore, B2B businesses often have to deal with multiple types of B2B buyer personas, including researchers, decision-makers, facilitators, influencers, and more. Each of these personas has its unique traits, and your eCommerce website needs to appeal to the requirements of all of them.
Content is the first tool at your disposal to appeal to the B2B buyer personas. The content must be crafted carefully to address all the questions that each of the buyer personas may have about the product. What makes it challenging is that although you need to address all the questions, you can not, at the same time, overwhelm the buyers with too much content. The content has to be concise and short with high visibility.
Cart and Pricing Experience
B2B buyer requirements are unique. A personalized experience is expected from you, especially from returning customers. This means you need to optimize the cart and pricing experience with capabilities to display personalized pricing, discount offers, and more.
B2B businesses today need to be able to serve their buyers in any way possible, and to do that, having advanced capabilities is inevitable. This includes the ability to input parameters via voice and visual aids. You can optimize your store to accommodate features like multi-language support, auto-suggest text, and more.
Optimized Site Experience
Your user experience needs to be optimized throughout the entire website. Equip your website with a personalized experience, simplify the cart, and customer experience. With the help of an expert like Virtina, you can carry out advanced analysis of your website to find and remove friction elements and streamline your customer’s purchase journey.
Custom or Personalized Pricing
Personalized pricing can be set up on your B2B eCommerce store by integration. But, you need an expert like Virtina to implement custom pricing parameters that can suit your customers and their buying patterns. This includes tiered, dynamic, and personalized pricing.