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B2B ecommerce – is it just for customer retention?

It would seem there are two schools of thought. One claims ecommerce as the perfect tool for B2B customer retention. After all, it allows customers to buy in their own time, on their own terms.

• A well-executed B2B ecommerce offering is utterly customer-focused, and as such, retention will follow naturally.
• Purchasing, particularly for complex needs or high-value products are often based on an established, negotiated contract. In this instance, the customer retention is assumed, and the extra service/support provided to the customer by virtue of the ecommerce site, adds to the customer experience. • Sales appointments and contract renegotiating times can be easier too, as the sales person can focus on relationships rather than product, we re-enter the era of “Sales as a Service” and the ecommerce site is a major part of the service.
B2B ecommerce for customer acquisition

The second school of thought cites B2B ecommerce as a key tool for customer acquisition. Of course, when it comes to B2C ecommerce, one can easily view the site as the new-business tool. Often it’s the first and largest funnel in the sales pipeline. However, it’s only recently that B2B is a key driver for new sales and customer acquisition and this has tended to be because of the complexity of the B2B offering in the past.

The change, or flip in the process from B2B ecommerce being purely for customer retention, seems to be coming from a change in customer demands themselves. An acceleration in the numbers of B2B buyers who want to buy using the same tools that they use for their consumer purchasing, is driving the demand for their business transactions to also be easily conducted online. This, in turn is forcing the hand of many companies to offer a B2B ecommerce experience for their customers.

In short, the very tools that mean B2B ecommerce is perfect for customer retention, also mean it’s ideal for customer acquisition. And this means with a rapid upwards spiral, companies who get their B2B ecommerce solution right first time can reap the rewards – not just of new customer acquisition, but of gaining the sorts of customers who will stay for the long term. Loyal customers, and more of them.
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