As digital natives come of age, e-commerce is becoming a must even in B2B
Ecommerce has revolutionized the way we make buying decisions and execute purchase transactions. Typically, the lion’s share of the discussion around eCommerce focuses on the B2C space, where products are geared for direct consumer use. However, as technology has improved and customers have grown more dependent on online sales channels, B2B companies are increasingly discovering that adapting to eCommerce is their next challenge.
Researchers in 2019 predicted that 75% of B2B procurement would take place online by 2024. This prediction was made before the COVID pandemic hit and accelerated digital adoption amongst buyers. As research firm Gartner points out, enterprise eCommerce marketplace models fit B2B needs perfectly, thanks to their cost efficiency and improved customer experiences.
Ecommerce is increasingly becoming more than a nice feature for B2B companies to have. It’s moving to occupy the central portions of their businesses. Here are the benefits the eCommerce promises for B2B companies.
The number of digital natives, people who grew up with smartphones and eCommerce as the standard, is increasing every day, and as these people grow older, they’re rising the ranks of business buyer committees and demanding procurement experiences that are self-service in nature and stretch across multiple channels.
To complete a sale, businesses need to consistently establish touchpoints with consumers in a coherent fashion.
The pandemic accelerated omnichannel sales experiences due to the lack of physical contact. However, omnichannel digital commerce is more than just a workaround – it’s here to stay in B2B sales. Consumers are more empowered than ever before and understand how to conduct product research without the aid of a sales associate, and when reordering, sales reps only add friction.
Whether it’s looking up product information on an app while browsing its technical specs or reading reviews on a third-party platform while visiting its website, consumers are considering a wider range of factors than ever before.
In response, companies will need to empower the self-guided buyer’s journey. At the same time, they need to ramp up hybrid selling efforts, with sales teams contacting customers via phone, emails, and chat. The more personalized these communications are, the more likely a customer will complete their buying journey with that organization.
Ultimately, B2B eCommerce offers companies the easiest way to establish an omnichannel presence. Consumers expect businesses to have a website and contact channels through social media. Catering to these demands will automatically help organizations establish a consistent presence online and give consumers what they want.
Sales and marketing integration
Often, one of the key bottlenecks in B2B organizations is the lack of integration between sales and marketing teams. Sales teams receive less time with prospects these days, and marketing collateral might not communicate the message with which sales teams are on board. The result is a disjointed buying experience for the consumer.
Ecommerce integrates marketing and sales automatically since the majority of the buying journey is automated. A customer consumes marketing content on a website or social media platform, and sales teams can track their engagement levels.
When it comes to onsite marketing content, “This is where a carefully-curated and skillfully-written blog can be highly useful – one that is relevant to your users’ lives and needs and that establishes your brand as a category leader,” says David Laxer, who heads The Brief Company, a global network of brand strategists.
“But don’t just write to your heart’s content,” Laxer continues. “Collect data from user activity on your eCommerce website and cross-reference that data with insights from the sales team (since they are the ones that get ‘face-time with end-customers), to distill informative and actionable content that demonstrate that your brand has its finger on the pulse when it comes to market trends.”
KPIs highlight the most effective means to engage consumers. As TrustRadius points out, research shows that 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before purchase. Sales and marketing teams can track customer actions leading up to abandonment and work on the same page to develop effective retention and engagement campaigns.
The result is a leaner, more dynamic marketing and sales teams that are always in sync and providing consumers with the help they need.
Better analytics and insight
Customers these days demand more personalization than ever before. Thanks to social media’s engagement-driven algorithms presenting them with content they want, consumers have become accustomed to their buying experiences fitting them like a glove.
Ecommerce channels allow companies to use tools that monitor and test their marketing campaigns. These tools provide them with insight into consumer buying trends and behaviors. For instance, a drop-off in page visits for a previously best-selling product indicates a possible need for an enhancement or the presence of a better competitive product.
Confining the majority of the buyer journey online will also allow companies to leverage AI and ML algorithms that can crunch data faster. As a result, companies can create even greater customization through product recommendations and marketing campaigns that increase engagement.
Better vendor and customer management
Online channels allow companies to migrate documentation and performance tracking onto electronic platforms. Vendors can log in with their credentials and manage their inventories and access the latest company policies.
By creating dedicated portals, B2B companies can track and measure vendor performance via comprehensive metrics. These portals also reduce the paperwork and man-hours their employees spend tracking vendor deliveries. Vendors can self-serve requests and raise attention to only the most urgent issues, thus reducing man-hour costs for organizations.
Thanks to selling activity moving online, customer service can be always-on and designed in the most cost-effective ways. Organizations can also use automated options such as AI-powered chatbots and email autoresponders. The result is quicker customer issue redressal which only serves to increase satisfaction and engagement.
An online revolution
B2B eCommerce is much more than just a move to sell products online. It’s a complete revolution in the way companies look at their business models and evaluate customer actions. With more consumers expecting tailored buying experiences, eCommerce is only set to grow in the B2B sphere.