In today’s digital world, there is no escaping eCommerce. It is there, and it is there all around as more and more people are using the internet today.
According to the Global Digital suite 2018 reports from Hootsuite, there are more than 4 billion internet users now.
The phrase ‘using the internet’ does not mean just surfing the web but using the internet for their day to day activities including shopping and doing business.
All the above factors are also contributing to B2B e-commerce popularity all over the world.
What Is B2B e-Commerce, Anyway?
B2B businesses include MWDs (manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors), and suppliers who provide goods to resellers.
Business-to-business e-commerce, or electronic commerce is the process of carrying out order transactions through online methods.
Though most B2C businesses globally have embraced eCommerce culture, the percentage of B2B eCommerce is still far behind. Today, despite eCommerce being the buzzword for small and big businesses across the world, there is still hesitation in many MWDs about going online.
It may be due to the many misconceptions that surround eCommerce especially when it comes to B2B businesses.
B2B e-Commerce Myths And Facts:
The many myths that are floating around about B2B eCommerce are also reasons why many B2Bs still hesitate to take the e-commerce plunge. The truth is these are just that — myths!
Myth: e-commerce is a lot of work!
Most B2B businesses prefer to work the traditional way because they feel going online is too much work and involves complexities. It is like those people who still prefer handwritten notes and diaries as compared to typing on a computer. It is not that they think less about the latter, but they are more comfortable with the former.
Yes, eCommerce is a lot of work, but at the same time, it helps decrease complexities that come with the traditional process. eCommerce is all about making your business processes simpler, easier and faster!
Myth: B2B customers do not prefer eCommerce
Most of the B2B customers are already scouting for products and deals online because that is the norm today. The internet offers the information, and the customers of B2B are taking advantage of it to educate themselves about goods as well as to look for options.
As per a Google Paper, ‘The Changing Face of B2B Marketing’ published in 2015, 89% of B2B researchers prefer to do web research to finalize their purchase.
Most B2B customers are B2C businesses. They offer their customers the convenience of online transactions. In that case, they too would want to see the transfer of the same convenience to their buying as well.
It is also important to note that as millennials are taking up more roles in businesses, they prefer the new method of purchasing to conventional processes. They would rather order online than pick up a phone.
A new study by Forrester finds that around 49 percent of B2B buyers browse through consumer websites to decide on their purchases. They studied 930 B2B buyers in Europe and North America.
The study points out to the drastic change in purchasing patterns of B2B customers. Apart from convenience, what drives the change is better efficiency in fulfillment capabilities and more inventory visibility with eCommerce.
What you need to understand that unlike B2C customers, B2B customers work with a team and have multiple responsibilities. Through eCommerce, you get a chance to understand their needs and create an experience that attempts the solutions.
Myth: eCommerce mandates price visibility
As competition gets fierce, and they face underbidding attempts from rivals, there is hesitation amongst many B2B businesses to display their prices publicly.
It is not mandatory to display your prices with the products. What many online B2Bs do is to share the prices with only those who have logged in. It allows only genuine customers to access the pricing and you can present the negotiated prices as per each customer.
Myth: eCommerce deters custom ordering
Custom orders are essential for B2Bs as they foster personal relationships, one of the most critical factors in B2B. eCommerce allows better-customized ordering for B2Bs.
B2Bs can take assistance from custom quoting tools to make the process smoother for their customers. They can ask for quotes in PDF format and revert soon after. The online tools also facilitate grouping of customers so that for their next order, they don’t even have to go through the quote process all through again. They can order directly.
Such customer groups also help you to offer personalized attention to your customers. They can see products that are not available publicly, get to know about pre-negotiated pricing and even get the easy one-click procedure when they want to repeat an order.
Myth: Online stores are cold
The fundamental factor to ensure loyal customers is building a lasting personal relationship. You will find that most B2B enterprises are family-run businesses and that their relationship with many customers span generations. Hence, many B2Bs fear they may not be able to provide a personal touch to their customers with the online business.
It needn’t be. You can have a 24/7 chat window on your site that can take customer queries as they browse and allow you to get back to them promptly.
The modern chat windows can get the queries directly onto your phone via text. You will find such chat windows now on almost every site. Even lawyers’ sites and pet store sites incorporate such chat windows.
Ensure your site is user-friendly to allow easy navigation, less loading time and easier accessibility.
In the ‘McKinsey B2B customer decision journey survey, 2016’, 40% of respondents shared that slow loading sites were a deterrent. The user-friendliness of your site is one of the most important ways to ensure your site is not cold.
B2B eCommerce is the buzzword for tomorrow!
If you are still hesitant about e-commerce, look at the different statistics available from different parts of the world that find and predict a massive growth in B2B e-commerce profits.
A 2018 Forrester Research projects that business-to-business e-commerce in the US will reach $9 trillion this year. The figure includes business through suppliers’ sites, business networks and also EDI.
This figure is 30 times the B2C e-commerce turnover which stands at $470 billion!
Studies also indicate the readiness of many B2Bs to adopt e-commerce to optimize their business processes. A B2BecNews s2018 e-commerce and Manufacturing Survey found that a whopping 70% of manufacturers who have not entered e-commerce yet, will do so in the next two years.
The excitement about e-commerce amongst B2Bs has also to do with the many benefits that come with technology. It gives you the advantage on many fronts making the whole process more comfortable not just to you but also to all your stakeholders.
The benefits of B2B e-commerce
The main advantage that e-commerce provides is more growth opportunities through online sales by using e-commerce sites. It is common knowledge that most customers today would invariably check online for more product information. Having an online presence means you are visible to more potential customers.
When 89% of your customers are using the internet for their research, you have to be online ready to showcase your products and encourage them to choose you.
Your product catalog online can help. At the same time, you also have the option of sharing it only with logged in customers.
eCommerce is the best way to acquire new customers spanning countries and continents. You can also conquer new markets and get new customers from every nook and corner of the world. eCommerce has the capability of a wider reach. Scaling up your business is now easier with eCommerce.
Millennials now constitute a significant percentage of B2B customers. Heinz and SnapApp found in a study that around 41% of millennials are making decisions related to purchases. Also, 82% of millennials constitute groups or committees that are in charge of buying.
They prefer online processes to traditional channels. It is only via eCommerce that B2Bs can reach this set of new buyers.
A majority of the world population uses mobile phones for internet usage. As millennials form a major chunk of B2B purchase influencers, a mobile-friendly site can only do wonders for your business. You also get to reach customers who gather information on the internet via their mobile phones.
2. Get a boost to your offline channel as well!
Going online does not mean you need to ignore your offline business set up. A well-presented website can aid in shooting up your offline sales as well. eCommerce is also about offering more visibility to your company and helping you reach those who have not heard of you until today.
It is just like the B2C businesses. You can see that most of them have online as well as offline presence. It is more convenient to sit at your home and search for stores that sell the products you want.
When you go to the site, you get all the information you need with which you can visit their brick and mortar store if need be. The same idea works with B2B business customers as well.
As per a Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper, at least 49% of B2B customers prefer to make purchases online. It was an interesting as well as surprising finding since the general assumption was that B2B buyers were the ones who made purchases after browsing through print catalogs or via face-to-face interactions with MWDs.
The study also pointed out that 72% of the B2B buyers preferred self-service, that is, they wanted to operate an online account on their own.
3. Improved customer experience:
B2B businesses have a more special connect with their customers, considering many of their customers span decades and even generations.
When you include eCommerce in your business practice, you provide better customer service in the form of easy viewing of products and features, customized service, facilitation of tracking information, etc.
You can also reduce your response time. You can increase customer satisfaction by building a user-friendly website that offers easy accessibility, faster loading pages, and prompt replies through chat windows. Better interactive functionality in your website will make it an exceptional customer-centric site, drawing in more customers.
You can also integrate your site with the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system of your business. Your site can then show customer-specific products and also negotiated pricings to logged in customers. It will also help to provide detailed sales statistics and even calculate discounts in no time. Your customers needn’t be satisfied with vague estimates.
If you thought doing business offline helps to provide a personal touch to your customers, then think again. eCommerce has the potential to redefine personalized customer service in ways that can take customer experience to a different level altogether. For example, why not provide some suggestions related to purchase?
A December 2017 research put forward by Cloudcraze, 55% of B2B businesses were able to provide personalized recommendations to their buyers through the e-commerce process.
The study surveyed 460 B2B decision-makers in the US and Europe. Cloudcraze is now a part of Salesforce, a cloud-based CRM or Customer Relationship Management Platform.
4. Minimize costs:
Lowering costs is one of the main benefits of going the eCommerce route. When you use automation to optimize business processes, you can easily cut down costs on many fronts. You can carry out different aspects of your business digitally, that not just cuts costs but also enhances the efficiency of your business practices. Remember, all these come along with an increase in your revenue.
As per a Conference Paper, ‘The Adoption of B2B e-commerce Initiatives by the Indonesian Grocery Industry, available on www.researchgate.net, adopting e-commerce has benefited the industry in many ways including more efficiency, better accuracy, and speed which in turn has led to significant cost savings.
The paper studied eight B2Bs dealing with groceries in Indonesia.
One of the best advantages of e-commerce is that it helps B2Bs with analytics campaigns. It allows businesses to measure marketing campaigns, sales efficiency, inventories, and customer engagement much more effectively.
You can also utilize Google Analytics to track your online strategies and practices. Integrating your ERP with analytics will empower you with essential data that provide practical insights. It can then be incorporated to optimize business practices to enable more efficiency in business processes.
New technology such as Predictive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, etc., can contribute to the success of businesses in more ways than one. The future is exciting for B2B e-commerce!
6. Enhanced relationship management:
As a B2B business, you have to ensure a personal rapport with your suppliers, wholesalers, manufacturers or distributors. If you are a manufacturer, you will have to deal with various suppliers and wholesalers at a time. If you are a distributor, you have to ensure the supply of different products or interacting with multiple wholesalers or manufacturers. The process will mean numerous phone calls, manual preparation of order forms, hiring assistants and so on.
Here is where digital transactions help. You can connect with others in your business spectrum electronically enabling a more convenient process that works faster. You can also find about inventory position, which products to order and from whom instantly with due automation. The result is quicker purchase decisions that not only save time and money but also ensures minimal errors.
There is also the advantage of being able to launch multiple channels such as microsites to your valuable clients. You can also target foreign audience by allowing content translation in different languages.
B2B eCommerce is not just the present, but it is the future. Today, for B2Bs to succeed as well to be ahead of their competitors, digital strategies are a must. Get your e-commerce site today to taste bigger success while enjoying the advantages of technology.