The B2B eCommerce market is growing fast. It was reported that 78 percent of buyers purchase online from a B2B website at least twice a month. It’s even catching up to B2C and is set to soon outperform it.
As technology continues to evolve, more than 70 percent of B2B buyers have said they find purchasing on a website more convenient than buying from a sales rep. This means big things for B2B eCommerce.
But just like in B2C, buyers have high expectations that need to be met. Businesses entering the B2B eCommerce space need to form new strategies to keep up. Planning for long-term growth and competing with online retail giants needs a well thought out plan and a scalable platform that can support your goals.
What is B2B eCommerce?
B2B eCommerce is an online order transaction between a business and another business. As orders are processed digitally, buying efficiency and convenience is increased for all types of B2B sellers and buyers.
The different types of B2B eCommerce
- Wholesale: Involving businesses buying products in bulk for a lower price before marking them up to retail price, wholesale goods are usually purchased from the manufacturer or distributor. Traditionally wholesale transactions would take place over the phone, email or via order forms. However, in today’s digital world, eCommerce platforms allow wholesalers to display products online for a better buying experience.
- Distributors: Distributors work closely with manufacturers to support the supply of their products to the market and raise awareness of their offering to buyers. Typically trade only, distributors mainly sell to businesses who supply other businesses. Taking things digital creates an opportunity for further growth by shortening the lead time from point of sale to delivery and creates efficiency gains for the distributor by automating more of the selling process.
- Manufacturers: Manufacturers produce goods on a large scale using raw materials and manual labour and/or machines. While D2C selling is on the rise, the B2B model of selling goods via wholesalers and distributors – whether white labelled or branded – is also being taken online.
- Business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C): B2B2C stands for business to business to consumer. This model involves business 1 selling their product or service in partnership with business 2 to an end consumer. This is different to white labelling a product as the end consumer is aware they are buying a product or service from business 1. An ideal platform for a B2B2C business offers both B2B and B2C commerce features while allowing extensive customisation to form seamless shopping experiences for both audiences. It should also support partner, system and app integrations to assist with complex B2B2C transactions.
The challenges of B2B eCommerce
Just like B2C eCommerce, B2B has its fair share of challenges to overcome:
- Complex sales models: B2B business models tend to be more complex than B2C, with systems needing to cope with data fed by multiple suppliers, made up of many different SKUs and the ability to manage pricelists and concessions. Even the way products are ‘created’ ready to ship could well require a platform that can deal with kit lists and bundles that comprise of parts sourced from different suppliers.
- Sales management: Another key challenge B2B eCommerce faces are managing who they can sell to online as you need to approve who you’re selling to – particularly when selling to trade. This makes the account management and account creation functionality of a store vital.
- Connecting traditional with digital: It’s also critical that your B2B online store is aligned with your traditional selling models such as phone, email and in-person transactions to form a true omnichannel experience. For example, you ideally want your audience to be able to buy over the phone and check their order status online. Saved quote capability or converting a quote to an order is also an important part of this. As the buyer may shop around with other businesses, functionality should be used that allows them to come back to your quote within a valid time period and convert it into an order if/when they are ready.
- Managing deals: Managing deals and discounts within B2B eCommerce can also be tricky too, especially when these deals are only available on certain products. Your platform needs to be able to support this, allowing you to set different discounts for different products.
- Linked items: There may be many different options or alternatives within the B2B product set and so it is important that items can be linked such as accessories, service contracts or alternative products.
Creating an effective B2B eCommerce buyer journey
While B2B eCommerce makes up a large part of the global eCommerce market, it still doesn’t receive the same attention as its innovative B2C counterpart.
However, B2B buyers are beginning to demand better customer service and user experiences. If you’re looking to improve your B2B eCommerce strategy, these ideas will help you form a more seamless, enjoyable buying journey.
Personalisation is becoming the way to improve eCommerce sales. Allowing B2B buyers to create a personal connection with your brand, it replicates the more traditional approach to B2B selling.
Pre-digital age, manufacturer supplier relationships were key. It was a must to form loyal customers who would feel comfortable signing long-term contracts. In today’s online world, personalisation tactics go a long way to support building these same solid relationships.
At the heart of personalisation is your customer data. More than simply an ‘account’ area, a B2B eCommerce platform offers the means to tap into customer data, leveraging behaviour patterns, browsing and even purchase history to create a customised experience tailored to that business account. This could include displaying the right pricing structure to different users.
Analytical functionality is important for B2B eCommerce too. You want to be able to dig deeper into who your audience is and how they like to shop, empowering you to make informed changes to improve the buying experience. Using a platform such as Adobe Commerce, you can make use of the advanced analytical features up for grabs. This functionality enables you to personalise interactions from the first moment a B2B customer engages with the platform by automatically recognising location, language and currency.
Powerful search capabilities
It’s not uncommon to find B2B product categories with thousands of products and numerous variations such as model, functionality and colour. As such, your site search functionality needs to be much more advanced with a filter capable of handling more targeted search queries so the most relevant and accurate results can be displayed.
If you don’t implement enhanced search functionality onsite such as a robust B2B solution like Klevu, it’s sure to hamper your customers’ site experience, particularly if you have a high volume of products to browse. In this case, a drop in conversions and revenue may be experienced.
Cart abandonment rates are notoriously high in eCommerce. Creating an easy-to-use checkout will empower your B2B buyers to convert within a few clicks as possible. It’s a good idea to incorporate a quick order form and offer multiple, recognised payment methods such as PayPal, Adyen and Braintree. This will help to instil trust in your customers, reducing cart abandonment and increasing conversion rates.
Clear delivery timescales and costs can also be included at the checkout allowing you to manage delivery expectations and ensure the shopper is aware of any extra costs to their order.
A USP bar is another worthwhile feature that can be used at all stages of the shopping journey including the checkout. This can be placed at either the top of your header or underneath for maximum exposure. Use it to reinforce why a customer should choose to shop with you over the competition or highlight features such as discounts, events or free delivery.
Real-time inventory management
Poor inventory management can hugely impact your business reputation and sales. If a customer makes an order through your website only to find that item is out of stock, they will swiftly move onto a competitor and could even leave a negative review too.
The majority of eCommerce businesses advertise and sell across multiple sales channels. This makes real-time inventory all the more crucial to a smooth-running business. A unified inventory management system will allow buyers to see accurate stock levels for each product cutting out the risk of them being disappointed when they go to place an order. It will also allow you as the manufacturer or wholesaler to keep tabs on your stock count and restock your inventory in plenty of time.
Whether B2B or B2C, your eCommerce efforts are practically void if you haven’t considered the mobile shopping experience. Mobile speeds up the decision-making process with purchases happening on average 20 percent faster than on desktop. There’s no surprise that nine out of ten B2B buyers will buy from a website with a first-class mobile experience again.
If you don’t prioritise your mobile experience, not only will you risk disappointing customers and losing sales, but you may also experience a loss of organic visibility in the search engines too.
Are you ready to take your B2B business online?
B2B eCommerce is still evolving and is likely to experience considerable advancements over the coming years. There’s still time for you to define and scale your online presence.
To succeed in the long-term, you need a flexible, robust and scalable eCommerce platform that can support your business as you seize new opportunities and adapt to growth.
Fortunately, with Adobe Commerce’s B2B solution, you can develop your B2B eCommerce business to meet the market requirements and your customer needs. Get products to market faster, open new sales channels and connect with your audience online.
Are you considering taking your B2B business online? If you want guidance, we’re extremely familiar with the topic. Get in touch with our team of eCommerce experts to talk more.