Using a B2B eCommerce solution brings numerous benefits to consumer goods companies. You can maximize the potential of digital channels and add B2B self-service capabilities. You can increase sales through creating tailored offerings based on specific geographies, customer segments, product lines and more.
The benefits of B2B eCommerce are clear, but as the world is constantly changing, you need to stay aware of the latest B2B eCommerce trends to make sure you are maximizing the potential of this great business tool.
What are the latest trends you need to be aware of?
Trend No.1: Offer the convenience of B2C while enjoying the empowering features of B2B
Although it’s good practice to borrow features from B2C online stores, it’s also important to remember that there are major differences between B2C and B2B.
Brands’ and wholesalers’ main goal is to increase sales. In order for that to happen, they need a strong B2B eCommerce solution that will provide them with the tools they need to sell to retailers and distributors.
Segment-tailored pricing, catalogs, and promotions
Segmentation is key for B2B eCommerce. You can use what you know about your customers and enrich your data based on past and current interactions. You can then use this data and to segment your customers and create business rules, price lists, campaigns and more based on the segments. Examples include giving an extra discount to every customer spending over $10,000 a month, or offering a promotion is only certain areas of the country.
One of the most important growth-driving tools that you have is segment-specific trade promotions. Consider parameters such as purchasing volume, frequency and long-term relationship value. How can you help your loyal customers improve their bottom line? How can you encourage occasional buyers to become permanent one?
Purchase approval process
Another main difference between B2B and B2C purchasing is the number of people involved in the purchase approval process. When you buy a pair of shoes online, you don’t consult with anyone else, you make the decision yourself. But in B2B purchasing, the average number of stakeholders involved in one B2B purchase has increased from 5.4 two years ago, to 6.8 today.
Each of those stakeholders will have a different role in the company and may even reside in different countries. Your B2B ecommerce platform needs to accommodate the complexity and variety of processes involved in making each B2B purchase, by providing a digitized purchase approval workflow to ease the whole process for your customers.
The addition of an administrator function to delegate purchasing authority to individuals, groups, or departments, means the individual closest to the purchase can identify the product that best fits their need but, vitally, still have their spending monitored.
Unlike consumers who pay immediately for an online purchase, B2B buyers have individualized payment terms. But they still expect the convenience of electronic invoicing and payments, allowing them to easily track their payments and expenses and to report on them. By providing as many options as possible for invoicing and payment you can ensure you will meet your customers’ needs.
When your e-commerce software platform integrates seamlessly to all popular payment gateways and accounting systems, your customers can securely enter and store payment information without compromising financial data integrity.
The B2B eCommerce basics you mustn’t forget
- Your wholesale eCommerce platform must be simple and intuitive. For a customer unfamiliar with buying online, anything that’s not clear will make them want to give up.
- First impressions count. Use great imagery and comprehensive product descriptions. Make sure to include multiple, high-quality images, fabrication details, dimensions, and other relevant details in your e-catalog software allowing buyers to easily visualize what they are purchasing.
- When buying in bulk, shipping costs are far more important to your B2B customers, as is any tax that will be payable. Your solution must provide the full cost and include calculations in the shopping cart, so your customers don’t get any nasty surprises when they are checking out.
- Ensure your help and contact info is always available and easy to find. B2B sales are far more complex and expensive than B2C sales, so wanting to speak with a sales representative is more common. Plug-ins such as online chat options are a good motivator as your customer knows they can get immediate help and won’t leave your site never to return.
- Your field reps are key – they are your e-Commerce site promoters, and you should encourage them by offering bonuses based also on their customers’ online purchases.
Trend no.2 – Omnichannel
According to a Forrester report, omnichannel customers are a B2B Company’s best customer. They are more active, they spend more, and are less expensive to support than single channel customers.
Shifting your customers online enables you to develop better customer engagement strategies and create a deeper level of customer intimacy that drives more purchases.
However, brands today must use different channels when working with their retailers and distributors: they have retail execution staff and sales reps in the field or the office, and they also offer self-service B2B e-Commerce as an option.
These channels are typically managed by different groups within the organization, namely, field teams, marketing and sales. It’s not unusual for each group to use a different solution to manage each channel, so every change the organization wants to make, such as introducing a new sales campaign or adding a new product, must be managed separately by each department, and in each solution.
But in a world where Omnichannel is ruling the customer experience, different solutions for each group will not work. Your B2B eCommerce platform can no longer stand in isolation. The B2B eCommerce trend is to manage all your channels at once, from a single platform and using a single management console.
By seamlessly combining your ecommerce data with detailed customer interaction history, every team member can access the same holistic overview. Sales, marketing and customer service teams can cooperate efficiently.
The companies that will be successful in the future are those that can have all their separate technology needs answered by a single platform, so they work together in a way that maximizes efficiency.
Trend No.3: B2B buyers are changing
More and more B2B buyers are now millennials. They are younger, tech-savvy and sophisticated. They’re no longer the ‘typical’ B2B buyer, stuck in their ways, assuming things will be done how they’ve been carried out before. Unlike their older counterparts, millennials expect to have the B2B purchasing experience they are accustomed to on B2C websites, including ease-of-use, personalization and mobility.
So, the first B2B eCommerce trend to be aware of is to ensure that you understand the unique purchasing preferences of these younger buyers. It is critical to your long-term growth.
What are their preferences?
84% of millennials feel that using a mobile device to conduct business is vital, followed by 76% of Gen X and 60% of baby boomers. And these figures are predicted to grow year on year.
These buyers demand intuitive, self-service interfaces and 24/7 eCommerce availability and will not tolerate cumbersome or time-consuming purchasing processes that require significant human interaction.
According to Google’s recent report, ‘The Changing Face of B2B Marketing,’ 42% of B2B customers use mobile devices during their purchasing process. They use their mobile device for everything from initial research to comparing prices and product features. They use it to contact you with queries and even to complete their transactions. It is second nature to them and they depend on their mobile device for the entire purchase process.
As a result, you should offer a B2B eCommerce app to complement the use of a website. An online/offline app can make ordering faster and easier regardless of the quality of a local mobile or WiFi network. A mobile app also offers you the opportunity to establish your presence in the app stores and on the buyer’s device. Making mobile ordering easy is simply a must.
Listen to their needs
Another key expectation of your new B2B buyer is to show them you are listening to their individual needs. They want to know you care about them or they will go elsewhere. Offer easy to find FAQs on your Storefront so they feel supported, send an email tempting them with new personalized (more about that later) offers, let them know about similar or recommended products that you think will work for their business.
If they haven’t been active in your online store for a while, let them know you are thinking about them. Email them discount links, or offers for free shipping, encouraging them to revisit. You can generate a report of their unique sales history and send them a link, so it’s child’s-play for them to reorder.
Brands and wholesalers that take note of the three B2B eCommerce trends above are the ones that will be winning in 2018 and beyond.