Despite huge revenue-earning opportunities for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, many B2B eCommerce initiatives are still failing to realise their potential. Analysts report that a large number of B2B eCommerce systems currently generate less than 10% of a company’s overall turnover, and while most have trialled some kind of B2B eCommerce activity, many small and medium size organisations have yet to adopt an authentic B2B eCommerce platform.
But the eCommerce landscape is changing fast as more and more B2B sellers embrace digital transformation. Here are some of the key considerations that are helping these companies make smarter decisions about transitioning to eCommerce…
Firstly, although increasing revenue will inevitably be a high priority, it should not be the only goal. With the right eCommerce solution, companies can make dramatic improvements to operational cost and efficiency through automating low value tasks and cutting out manual processes to eliminate errors, as well as enhancing customer service. It’s the sum of all these benefits that makes the real difference in terms of improved profitability and increased customer loyalty.
Secondly, it is critical for companies to understand the role of every team member involved in the buying cycle, how an eCommerce channel will impact those roles, and what needs to be done to secure support from all interested parties. For example, sales reps may feel threatened by the introduction of online selling, seeing it as rendering their services redundant. As a result, they may be reluctant to onboard existing customers. Likewise, if customers fail to embrace eCommerce, customer services team members end up having to manage yet another sales channel without the business enjoying any significant returns. To secure strong buy-in from all staff, the eCommerce platform must support the jobs of everyone involved in the customer lifecycle.
Next, the complexities of B2B selling are often overlooked or misunderstood. This is most obvious in eCommerce platforms that were originally designed as B2C systems and are unable to deal with requirements such as account-specific pricing, discounts and payment terms, personalised order histories, detailed product specifications, real-time stock visibility, and customised promotions. The best performing B2B platforms are developed from the ground up and seamlessly integrate with other business and accounting systems (such as Sage and Pegasus) to address the specific challenges of selling online to other companies.
In addition, although B2B selling is becoming increasingly automated, (particularly for lower ticket items and regular repeat purchases), there will always be a requirement for ‘the personal touch’ from sales reps or customer services teams – especially when it comes to higher value, lower frequency sales. It is therefore essential that customer-facing personnel have easy access to the platform so that they are able to troubleshoot any issues and stay informed of all customer activity.
In summary: Choosing the right B2B eCommerce platform is also about choosing the right B2B eCommerce technology partner. Companies need to be able to rely on responsive and expert support for their integrated eCommerce ecosystem, which means partnering with a provider that understands the complexities of B2B online selling, and how technology can add value for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors across the entire organisation.