From the time of its inception, the manufacturers and B2B brands have stuck to their traditional approach to business. They deal with bulk quantity products, and the transactions are almost always made with regular customers. If you think about it, not much has changed in the functioning of a Manufacturers or B2B brands. Even though the technology around it has grown by leaps and bounds, it remained unmoved. But, the time has finally come for the manufacturers and B2B brands to step up their game and shift to a more efficient platform - eCommerce.
The eCommerce market value of B2B business is a mind-boggling $14.9 Trillion! That is more than six times that of the B2C market. Not to take your B2B business online now would be foolhardy, and the numbers can vouch for it. More than half the manufacturers don’t have an eCommerce store. The earlier you get into the eCommerce platform, the better it is for your business. This will not only ensure that you have less competition but boosts the number of potential customers as well.
The Urgency of Manufacturers and B2B Brands to Go Online
The traditional way of doing business is slowly but surely becoming obsolete. The eCommerce platform has long since started substituting the conventional way of B2B commerce. We are now entering a new SMART manufacturing era, and the transition has already begun. The B2B business can no longer thrive on the conventional platform. The manufacturers & B2B brands were forced to face this harsh reality when the Pandemic hit. There is not a single business that did not feel its effect on their business.
The Pandemic and eCommerce
The COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic made it clear that traditional businesses are not prepared for an unprecedented crisis, at least not by themselves. It showed us the importance of omnichannel selling, and how eCommerce can help you stay ahead of your competition. While once consumers used to look to eCommerce for convenience it is much more than that now. eCommerce gave them safety for the consumers as well as the store owners, which is the biggest challenge that the store owners are struggling with during the pandemic.
If you are still choosing not to take your B2B business online now, you are intentionally putting your business at risk. And even if by some chance your business makes it out of this pandemic safely, how sure can you be that your business will survive another unprecedented crisis like this?
The M2 Factor: Millennials and Mobile Phones
Today, most of the workforce in a company are millennials. One of the reasons why the traditional way of selling has worked out as far as it has is because of the older generation of workers. They fit into the system very well which was in perfect harmony with each other in the past. But, that is not the case anymore, millennials do not go around calling different suppliers for the right product. Instead, they do their research online and find the product best suited for their purpose.
Millennials work on the go, when a requirement comes up, the millennials lookup for the relevant products on his/her phone. If your B2B business does not have an eCommerce presence, it could mean that the buyer may not even consider your company as a potential supplier.
B2B business has a much more complicated and structured buying process than that of a simple B2C one. There are Procurement Officers employed by your customers whose job it is to find the best product for their requirements. The decision is made only after considering the price, value for money, quality, and other such factors.
Your customers are always on the lookout for ways to cut their costs, and it is more relevant than ever now. The buyers realize that disintermediation is the key to cutting costs without compromising on the quality. With the intermediaries removed from the equation, you can sell at a price favorable for yourself and your customers.
Lack of Digital Transformation
The biggest challenge for a manufacturer or B2B brand is the error by humans, and they can often lead to a marginal loss. Automation is the only viable solution to this problem. Any part of the production that does not require a human’s touch, Manufacturers are trying to bring a minimal error scenario by automation. This further urges manufacturers & B2B brands to adopt digital transformation and smart manufacturing.
With its immense success, Amazon is a brand that has proved time, and again that eCommerce is the present and the future. Amazon is not just an eCommerce giant anymore. With their in-house products & world-class logistics, they’ve revolutionized eCommerce. Amazon is now spreading its wings to the B2B wholesale sector as well. It is evident that if B2B companies need to stay relevant, they need to go digital now!
Logistics and Accounting
The manufacturers and B2B brands handle the logistics and account for bulk quantities of products. We are talking about a massive amount of products here. It is a monstrous task, but eCommerce companies often enjoy the convenience of automating these processes, whereas manufacturers and B2B brands have to struggle to get their affairs in order.
Role of eCommerce in the SMART Manufacturing Era
eCommerce is arguably the only systematic way that is powerful and flexible enough to embrace the new changes in the SMART manufacturing era. The traditional way of selling simply cannot match up with the SMART manufacturing era that’s always evolving. Its characteristic features like agility, connectedness, lead generation, design thinking, experiential buyer journey, and millennials (talent/buyers) let it adapt to the latest changes in the manufacturing industry.
These characteristics act as the pillars that enable eCommerce to support the ever-changing manufacturer requirements. If the characteristics are the pillars that support the eCommerce manufacturing era the eCommerce features are the base on which these pillars stand. Some of the major features offered by eCommerce in the SMART manufacturing era are the following.
The user experience can be the deciding factor of any sales, let it be physical or eCommerce. However, in an eCommerce store, the user experience can be enhanced, modified, and changed entirely to suit the needs of the user. This gives eCommerce an unprecedented level of flexibility over conventional stores.
Consumerization focuses on reorganizing the products and service designs to be consumer-centric. The conventional way of doing this is to follow an organization-oriented offering (B2B). Whereas, consumerization opens up possibilities like D2C (Direct to Consumer).
3. MRP/ERP Systems
MRP or Materials Requirements Planning is an organizational system used by most manufacturers now. It enables you to plan, schedule, and control the materials used in the manufacture. ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning is a system derived from MRP and enables B2B brands (Non-manufacturers) to make use of the capabilities of MRP.
4. Complete 24/7 Availability
An eCommerce store is open for business 24/7 and throughout the year. Your customers can shop online at any given time of the day. There is no worry about the shop being closed and the store owner doesn’t have to worry about losing any business.
No one enjoys being dependent on anyone or anything. And this is true when it comes to making a purchase. Which explains why Self-service is so popular today. eCommerce lets you be your own boss while making a purchase, it gives you the freedom to choose and even compare multiple products together.
6. Digital Marketing
Marketing using massive billboards is a thing of the past, now, all marketing is carried out on the digital platform. Digital marketing lets your customers view products, compare them and buy it with just a few clicks.
7. Content Marketing
Content Marketing makes use of relevant, helpful, and quality content that helps customers understand more about the product and how to use it. eCommerce lets you employ the latest practices like content marketing to raise awareness and also helps the procurement officers to make a well-informed decision.
8. Global Outreach
An eCommerce presence means that you are not bound by the geographical limitations as that of a physical store. Your store is available and accessible from anywhere on the globe. This global outreach can be further enhanced using digital/content marketing.
9. Direct To Consumer (D2C or DTC)
Direct to Consumer, as the names suggest selling your products directly to your consumers. This would mean excluding the middlemen like the retailers, wholesalers, and any third parties. As a company who has worked with numerous D2C companies, Virtina can guide you to build an eCommerce store with D2C capabilities.
10. Automated Logistics and Accounting
eCommerce companies often enjoy the convenience of automating the logistics & accounting processes. The inventory data can also be integrated into your eCommerce store which is automatically updated. Furthermore, eCommerce even enables you to file your tax returns without having to go through the tedious task of documentation and cross-checking.
11. Omni-channel (O2O)
Omni-channel selling refers to being able to sell your products through different channels (Online & Offline) to different customer pools (B2B, B2C, & D2C). The new O2O strategy involves finding the consumers online and bridging them to the physical stores to collect their purchases.
12. Blockchain-based Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs are the way you can ensure that your company has a reliable customer pool that you can count on. The blockchain loyalty programs are the best in the industry right now, which enables the customers to accumulate their reward points and the best part is that it never expires.
How Has eCommerce Become Synonymous to Existence Today?
One thing that the pandemic made clear for manufacturers and B2B brands is that they can no longer ignore their eCommerce possibilities. Unless you don’t want your B2B business to survive even through the tough times like the pandemic, it is inevitable that you take your B2B business online. The best example that proves this is the food and beverage wholesale industry. The F&B wholesale business took the worst hit during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 closed down all public places, no restaurants, bars, or pubs. And this left the wholesale F&B business in a ditch. With no backup plan or whatsoever, they were thrown into a battle for survival, and the fact that their products are perishable goods only made it worse. It is at this point that they realized the only pragmatic way to save their business is through eCommerce. eCommerce is perhaps the only way to run your business even under extreme conditions like a lockdown or any unprecedented events for that matter.
eCommerce is no longer about the convenience of the consumers but a necessity. It is about the very existence of the customer as well as the seller. The pandemic has bought out this necessity to exist, and the manufacturers and B2B brands can no longer turn their heads on this fact. More than half the manufacturers either do not have an online presence or have a weak eCommerce site! In other words, more than half the manufacturers and B2B brands had nothing to save them from the pandemic.
Why Should Manufacturers and B2B Brands Expand to B2B and D2C?
The most obvious answer to this question would be omnichannel selling. It lets you sell to multiple customer pools (B2B, B2B, and D2C) through different channels (online and offline). This makes room for more revenue to be accumulated from your business. But, it doesn’t stop there; the omnichannel capability of your business gives your business flexibility that is unparalleled. It is the lack of this flexibility that caused many companies to go down without being able to put up a fight during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When most of the shops closed down due to the pandemic crisis, it was almost as if the B2B/wholesale market vanished overnight. One of the best examples of this can be seen in the food and beverages wholesale market when the government was forced to shut down restaurants, hotels, and pubs. The uncertainty and panic which rose from it are of unprecedented proportion. Of course, there was no way of predicting that such a crisis would hit us. Now that we have had to learn it the hard way, it is only natural that you expand your business to the B2B & D2C spectrums.
The total absence of face to face interaction during the pandemic is likely the reason behind the success of eCommerce. Innovative solutions like “No Contact Delivery” not only reassured the customers but encouraged them to embrace the eCommerce way. Apart from this, disintermediation is another seductive aspect of the eCommerce business. It allows you to lower the price of products by taking out the intermediaries and thereby offering a better deal to your customers.
Direct to Customer or D2C/DTC is the ultimate strategy for virtually complete disintermediation. In a D2C/DTC business, you are selling directly to your end customer. This means that you can get a better understanding of your client’s needs and gives you absolute control over the brand. The best thing, however, is that you are faster on the market as products can be quickly developed and tested on a D2C business model.
As far as the consumer is concerned, shopping becomes a whole lot easier for him/her. Especially at times like this, when social distancing is uncompromisable for the safety of you and your family. You can leverage the best practices like “Click and Collect” for your D2C business. “Click and Collect” further reduces the need for unnecessary physical interaction. It lets you buy products online and collect them from a local facility.
The “Click and Collect” feature makes your customer’s shopping much more convenient. You no longer have to stand in a long line of people or walk around the supermarket looking through the never-ending aisle of products that you may or may not need. This significantly reduces the number of people you come in contact with, and in turn, helps your customers stay safe through the Pandemic.
When it comes to eCommerce, you have the freedom and flexibility to choose between B2B, B2C, D2C, or even run them altogether if need be. All you need is a reliable eCommerce partner. The B2B, B2C, and D2C businesses have their unique features, and your eCommerce partner needs to be aware of them. The better understanding your eCommerce partner has over the different spectrums, the more accurate your eCommerce store will be for your business.
For example, if you are running a store with both B2B and B2C clientele, then you’d want to display individual pricing for customers belonging to the respective groups. An eCommerce company like Virtina, who has broad experience working on eCommerce regardless of the type of business. Let it be B2B, B2C or D2C. Our experts can make sure that you have everything you’d need on your eCommerce store and more.
What Makes Manufacturers and B2B eCommerce Unique?
The manufacturer and B2B eCommerce is unique from the rest. The first and most evident contrast with conventional eCommerce being the sheer quantity of products. Manufacturers and B2B brands deal with a bulk amount of products, which means it requires immense logistic capabilities as well as a strong workforce. But, the differences don’t stop there. The entire buying process is drastically different from a typical B2C one.
Procurement officers make the B2B buying decisions. They follow a specific set of processes before eventually reaching a buying decision. The procurement officers are switching suppliers, and they no longer turn to your old Yellow Pages. The B2B buying cycle involves a detailed analysis of the requirement where every aspect is considered to make a well-informed decision. With the right content and quality products and fair pricing, manufacturers and B2B brands can easily come on top of the list.
The long consideration journey is perhaps the most significant of the B2B business for both the buyer as well as the seller. The consideration phase is done way before any direct contact is made, and it is your chance to make a good impression on the buyers with quality content and accurate product descriptions. Now, these men (procurement officers) have insulated themselves from most marketing gimmicks, and hence providing quality products with precise description is probably the best way to go about it.
B2B Buyer Persona
The key to being successful at any business is to give your customers what they are craving for, the same holds true for the B2B business as well. The B2B buyer persona is the hypothetical persona of your B2B buyer. By building a B2B buyer persona, you get valuable insight into what the buyer wants and doesn’t want from his products. You get a better understanding of his/her pinpoint and what can be done to remedy it.
By building a B2B buyer persona, you are trying to understand what makes them tick? You dive into their personality, their values, their lifestyles, and needs. Once the B2B buyer persona is defined, it can guide you to optimize the customer’s buying experience. This also lets you match the right kind of messages and offers to your customers.
As an eCommerce company with years of experience working for the B2B industry, Virtina can help you draw an accurate B2B Buyer persona for your business. Our experts can optimize your website to suit the needs of the B2B buyer persona and effectively boost your sales in the process.
Importance of Content on a Manufacturer and B2B eCommerce Store
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the B2B buying cycle and B2B buying process are drastically different from the B2C. And one thing is clear before a product is bought by the Procurement Officers they conduct thorough research on the product before purchase. And what better and convenient way to research than on the internet?
Procurement officers go through your content with utmost precision and attention even before they even get into direct contact with you. So in a way, the content on your eCommerce store could make or break your deal. The more in-depth and specific your content is, the easier it is to convert your potential customers to buyers. But, how exactly do you make use of the content on your website? There are three stages of content utilization shown below.
With conventional marketing little to no results, many businesses are also turning to Content Commerce. Content Commerce can simply be defined as the right combination of content and commerce that helps you sell more. But, that would be the shorter definition. Content Commerce involves making use of captivating content that can complement your products (i.e., the commerce part).