In this article, we’ll cover a range of B2B ecommerce best practices, along with examining the current and future trends B2B companies will need to know to succeed in the B2B ecommerce space.
Firstly, What is B2B Ecommerce?
Exactly as you might think the description indicates, business-to-business or B2B ecommerce describes the online sales and transactions which cover the ordering of products and services between businesses and business customers.
On the other hand, B2C (business-to-consumer) ecommerce describes a different type of commerce relationship between a business and individual consumers. A brand such as Pepsi or Dell, for example, can equally engage in B2B ecommerce transactions (selling products to distributors or aggregators) as well as B2C transactions (selling them direct to end consumers). Other brands may engage in just one or the other, depending on the business and its strategy, online presence, and category of products or services.
B2B ecommerce is distinct from the traditional world of in-store, on-site, and face-to-face B2B transactions and is by definition digital. That means browsing, purchasing, and tracking orders all happens online. This provides all manner of efficiencies and scale for B2B sellers which typically include manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers.
Key B2B Market Growth Statistics You Need to Know
B2B ecommerce is a huge industry that shows no signs of slowing down. McKinsey research from 2020 notes that B2B enterprises which harness the benefits of digital transformation will have 8% higher shareholder returns and 5x greater revenue growth than their competitors which do not. The market is certainly growing at pace: US-based studies from Forrester report that B2B ecommerce transactions should reach $1.8 trillion by 2023, which accounts for 17% of B2B sales across America alone.
The global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated B2B sales across all channels, specifically due to the digital transformation efforts of B2B ecommerce platform companies, which began prior to the pandemic and then greatly accelerated throughout it. As reported by the Global B2B E-Commerce Market Dynamics Report 2021, total sales on B2B ecommerce platform sites grew 10% to USD$1.39 trillion in 2020. When e-procurement sales are included, digital B2B sales totalled over USD$2.19 trillion.
While both B2B and B2C ecommerce are experiencing rapid global growth, today B2B ecommerce volumes exceed B2C ecommerce volumes, largely due to effects from the pandemic when business-to-business shifted almost entirely online. Analysts expect this to persist as companies and economies adjust to an amalgamated business ecosystem moving into the future.
The Importance of B2B Customer Experience
Similar to the B2C world, buyers and sellers in the B2B ecommerce sector are placing an increased importance on the quality and depth of the B2B customer experience, a critical factor for increasing customer loyalty. This makes sense when you consider the fact that as consumers we’ve all become accustomed to the great online experiences we enjoy with digital platforms such as Netflix and Spotify.
What’s stopping B2B buyers from accessing the same quality of customer experience when buying products and services via B2B ecommerce platforms too? B2B sellers need to prioritise customer experience and ensure they’re equipped to exceed expectations.
According to research from Salesforce, 80% of B2B buyers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time, just like their B2C company counterparts do. Furthermore, 65% of B2B buyers will strongly consider jumping ship to another supplier if they do not receive personalised communications from the vendor. Simply put, buyers want to be attracted with quality products, services, and online experiences, and the same sentiment is echoed across all industries and categories.
Key B2B Ecommerce Best Practices Enterprises Can Apply
Now that we’ve looked at the market and the value of customer experience, let’s look at specific factors and tactics that businesses can adopt for their ecommerce site to make sure they get the most from their B2B ecommerce strategies and platforms.
1. Good Design, Easy Navigation, and Simple Sign-Up and Checkout Processes
These elements relate to delivering a high quality online customer experience. An attractive site design and user-friendly interface are essential for B2B ecommerce digital platforms. Ecommerce sites should be super easy to navigate with a simple design that’s easy on the eye. In addition, products need to be logically and intuitively arranged in well-defined categories to allow buyers to select what they need with ease, which can contribute to an increase in sales. It’s crucial to ensure that all sign up, register, and checkout processes are straightforward to prevent customers from being turned off and abandoning the purchase along the way. For example, some B2B sellers offer a “guest checkout” to make sure a sale is not lost when a prospect isn’t yet ready to register their details.
2. Mobile-Friendly Every Step of the Way
The above point applies just as much to the mobile experience but this best practice is so critical, it deserves its own special mention! Buyers of all descriptions and in all categories expect a good mobile commerce experience today and constant optimisations will be crucial given that 78% of B2B companies think mobile will be the future of online commerce. Most modern web development platforms cater for the mobile experience, with features and functionality that allow businesses to create experiences that are as robust and satisfying on a mobile device as they would be via a laptop or desktop computer.
3. Multiple Orders, Convenient Payments, Flexible Pricing, and Discounts
In B2B ecommerce, bulk and repeated orders are commonplace. That means B2B sellers need to make it easy for customers to reorder what they've previously bought quickly and effortlessly. A best practice B2B ecommerce platform will keep track of previous orders and customer preferences to facilitate easy reordering. It should allow for multiple orders across different geographies, integrating seamlessly with order history information and stock levels that are held in your CRM, ERP, and inventory management systems. Any specific discounts or special pricing for a particular customer should be integrated and displayed for that customer, and that customer alone. Flexible in-part or in-full payment options should be provided, along with the ability to pay with credit cards, 3rd party payment options (such as PayPal or Google Wallet), or via any other agreed invoicing terms specific to each customer. It’s all a part of delivering a favourable B2B customer buying experience.
4. The Right Level of Product Description and Information
Just like in a B2C online setting, B2B ecommerce websites should display just the right degree of product detail. Not enough information can raise questions about integrity and quality, while copious unedited product or solution descriptions can indicate carelessness and lack of attention to detail - not to mention being a turn off and too exhausting for your buyers. Strike the right balance and satisfy just enough curiosity to facilitate a sale. Full cost details including shipping fees should be included on ecommerce sites to ensure a level of transparency and trust, once again helping to round out a satisfying customer experience.
For a deeper dive into B2B ecommerce best practices, check out this e-book which explores 7 Best Practices for B2B Ecommerce Success.
Top 3 Trends for Innovative B2B Ecommerce Companies
Let’s take a look at three of the most ubiquitous and beneficial trends being put to use by B2B ecommerce companies around the world:
- Chatbots - This is an easy and fast way to automate and answer often repeated questions from buyers, while accelerating customer service levels. At the vanguard of digital transformation, they can harness conversational AI and machine learning without incurring higher costs associated with hiring extra staff.
- Dropshipping - This delivers added convenience and reduces costs for B2B customers by harnessing the supply chain. For example, when an e-tailer or retailer purchases from a wholesaler or manufacturer, they can have the product shipped directly to their customer without having to worry about the delivery process themselves.
- Data analytics - When used effectively, analytics and customer data can enhance the ROI of a B2B ecommerce platform by helping companies fine tune the buying experience, build out more effective loyalty programs, ascertain which products and categories are performing best, predict future performance, and much more.
Key Advantages and Benefits of B2B Ecommerce
In terms of efficiencies, scale, and broadening market opportunities, B2B ecommerce platforms allow companies to realise a wide range of advantages as compared to traditional offline sales and business channels.
- Automation and scale - By virtue of digitalisation, B2B ecommerce companies are able to automate a range of previously manual functions including pricing, ordering, and checkout processes. Also, since ecommerce platforms are digital, the options to scale transactions and orders are limited only by product supply chains.
- Multiple sites and locations - With B2B ecommerce across the web, limited geographies are a thing of the past. Expand into new territories using multiple sites for different locations or product categories, complete with localised languages and currencies.
- Efficiency through integration - The right B2B ecommerce platform can integrate, sync, and centralise data across your business. This helps to remove silos, improve internal processes and communication, and act on opportunities faster.
Deliver Best-in-Class B2B Ecommerce Experiences with Liferay
Liferay’s B2B ecommerce solution is preferred by some of the world’s leading brands that have adopted ecommerce business models. Being an experience-led digital commerce platform that puts B2B first, it enables businesses to deliver rich content experiences and enables integrations with other key business platforms.
Some of the key features include:
- Catalogue and product browsing - Showcase your product offerings in your ecommerce store with beautiful experiences tailored for your buyers.
- Product content management - Enhance product content with full support for knowledge bases and rich media in your catalogue.
- Pricing and discounts - Reflect B2B pricing models, discounts, and customer-specific catalogues across your ecommerce store.
- Order management - Efficiently manage and update orders with views for assignments, transaction history, and shipments.
- Payments and tax management - Payment and tax integrations along with multi-currency support enable you to grow into any market.
- Sales rep support - Reps see exactly what each customer sees on your site, from real-time order history to their personalised content and recommendations.
Interested in Learning More About Liferay's B2B Commerce Solution?
Discover more about Liferay’s B2B ecommerce platform by booking a demonstration at your convenience. We’re happy to host a live session and show you how best practice B2B ecommerce platforms can transform the experience for both your organisation and your customers.