Analysts forecast that by 2021, b2b ecommerce sales will account for around 13% of all b2b sales – substantially more than retail ecommerce, both in financial spend and units sold.
Analysts also say that manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors moving to ecommerce open up significant opportunities to enhance business performance through acquiring new customers, encouraging greater customer loyalty, increasing sales and boosting margin.
Many of the companies we work with have benefitted in these ways. With our help, these companies have all been able to avoid some of the most common traps that all too often compromise b2b ecommerce performance…
In our experience, the most successful b2b ecommerce sites provide their visitors with comprehensive and detailed information for each product so that buyers can make well-informed purchase decisions without having to contact sales reps or customer services. Titles, descriptions and specifications need to be clear, unambiguous and easy to find, and information such as model or part number, weight, minimum order quantity, delivery cost, real-time availability and lead time should be displayed where appropriate, alongside technical data and high quality product photography.
Customer experience is now probably the single most important differentiator for b2b companies. So it’s vital to build in as many features as possible to your site to at least cover the basics of a delivering an acceptable user experience. These cover (but are not limited to) ensuring that your site is fast-loading, accessible and well-designed, easy to search and navigate and optimised for mobile use. Remember, b2b buyers expect the best b2c-style experience when they’re using your b2b ecommerce platform.
Business-to-business buyers want the same payment terms and options online as they have for their offline transactions. So rather than just providing a simple ‘pay now’ credit card option, make sure your ecommerce system is able to cope with offering customised credit terms, along with a range of payment alternatives, including direct bank transfers. Your ecommerce platform must make it as easy and comfortable as possible for customers to do business with you.
One of the fundamental ways that b2b differs from b2c is that not all customers pay the same price for the same product. Business buyers often have specially negotiated prices, discounts or terms, and these can vary by category or individual product. Ecommerce platforms need to have the capabilities to automatically apply the right prices and terms to the right accounts – or companies risk alienating buyers and losing ecommerce customers.
Ecommerce is rapidly becoming an essential sales channel for any b2b seller. When companies make the move to online selling they need to ensure that their ecommerce platform can be integrated with their business and accounting systems (such as Sage and Pegasus). The right integrated ecommerce platform can support high performance features and a rich level of functionality that automates processes and enhances the customer experience – from providing complex personalisation capabilities (like account-specific pricing, payment terms and individual customer promotions), to displaying real-time inventory levels.
We often see b2b companies with long-standing sales teams fail to involve these teams in their ecommerce plans or explain that they still have an important part to play in the business. With the introduction of an ecommerce platform, many salespeople fear they will lose out on commission, or even worse, lose their jobs. If you want your sales team to support your ecommerce initiative and help to on-board your customers, you need to involve them in your plans from the start. Explain how it will make their jobs easier, how they’ll get paid for ecommerce sales, and how they’ll be able to focus on higher ticket sales and developing customer relationships.