B2B eCommerce, the half-neglected older sibling to the B2C golden child, is now at the top of the food chain. And it’s here to stay! Research group Frost & Sullivan predicts that global sales will hit $6.7 trillion USD by 2020, doubling the B2C forecasts. This means that 2016 is the time to transform your offline B2B business into an omni-channel powerhouse and take advantage of available online technologies.
Easier said than done, I know. There’s a reason why a lot of B2B businesses are more apprehensive to adopt eCommerce strategies than their B2C counterparts. B2B is typically more complex. Prices can fluctuate from buyer to buyer, volume discounts, multiple languages, complex product specs, shipping, customs and duties, taxes, let alone social media and community engagement: it all requires more work to iron out the kinks than with B2C.
The good news is that now there’s a lot you can glean from those who have gone before you as well as from B2C businesses. Let’s look at a few trends over the past year that have attributed to the rise of B2B eCommerce.
A paradigm shift
B2B companies are realizing that making the shift to invest in eCommerce isn’t really an option anymore. A Forrester study of B2B companies showed that 59% are currently investing in an eCommerce solution, and another 24% said they plan to start within the next 6 months. B2B companies are trying to cater to the new age of more savvy B2B buyers. They're more used to experiences from B2C and are expecting the same from their B2B counterparts. 80% think technology investment is critical to their long-term success and profits as they look to future trends and a more tech savvy customer in the future.
B2C etailers have made their mark on the eCommerce world. They’ve put user-centered design and UX at the forefront of their online shopping experiences. Similar to how we were able help transform Umeboshi into an omni-channel retailer with a responsive online store, B2C etailers are making it equally easy for consumers to shop online and in store. Now it’s time for B2B eCommerce companies to follow suit. B2B purchasers and buyers are getting used to intuitive navigation and user-centric web store design from their experiences as a B2C consumer, and now they’ve come to expect that same experience from their B2B suppliers.
Content is the new sales rep
B2B etailers now have to choose their content as wisely as their next sales person. This is one of the biggest hurdles of a sound B2B eCommerce strategy. Good or Bad - customers have been used to dealing with their account managers, not logging into a self-serve web store. So crafting the perfect product description, capturing a product's quality with high-impact photography, writing out detailed technical specifications, and including descriptive merchandising guidelines have become effective B2B eCommerce sales tools.
Direct vs. Marketplace
B2B companies are exploring their options when it comes to getting into the world of eCommerce. They’re finding it easy to get started with services like Amazon Business - a marketplace for manufacturers and wholesalers to quickly get up and running with their eCommerce and omni-channel strategies. This is an easy way for B2B companies to have an edge over the competition who have yet to start selling online.
As an alternative, many companies are opting for a unified and integrated SaaS solution like Mozu or other similar providers. Their offerings are enabling B2B companies to get up and running with eCommerce a lot quicker without sacrificing the scalability required to handle complex business requirements. As a digital agency and Mozu partner, teams like us are able to get B2B companies from offline to online a lot more efficiently than before.
Over several future posts, I’ll be diving into more specific topics around:
- What B2B eCommerce companies can learn from B2C
- What other successful B2B eCommerce companies can teach you
- Choosing the right technology for your B2B store (Marketplace vs. Direct)
- How to optimize and get the most out your B2B eCommerce store
How does your company plan to react to these B2B eCommerce trends this year? Let me know in the comments.
Image courtesy of commercegurus.com