Not so long ago, a misconception used to circulate in the business world that online commerce was all about business to consumer (B2C) channels, via the Amazon’s, fashion brands, and eBay’s of the world. This storyline presumed business to business (B2B) buyers demanded in-person transactions.
But that perception has given way to a very different reality. Today, more than 50% of B2B buyers are willing to spend over $50,000 entirely through an end-to-end digital self-service purchase process, according to McKinsey. This presents a strong opportunity for B2B sellers.
A well-designed B2B ecommerce portal can improve the customer experience, in addition to accelerating sales and business growth. In this article, we’ll share a range of benefits you can expect from a well-performing B2B ecommerce portal to help empower your own decision-making and business success.
What is a B2B Ecommerce Portal?
Alternatively known as a B2B web portal or a B2B self-service portal, a B2B ecommerce portal is essentially a website that facilitates business to business commerce. That is, the buying and selling of goods, products, and services between various businesses - wholesalers, vendors, manufacturers, distributors, and end-customer businesses - via online order transactions.
It is not a small market by any means. According to Statista, the global B2B ecommerce market was worth $12.2 trillion in 2019, and double-digital growth is predicted for sales through to 2024.
In 2020, McKinsey reported another striking fact: that 75% of B2B buyers prefer online purchasing and remote sales over in-person interactions. It’s all about convenience and expectations today in our highly digitised world. However, relationships still matter. It’s worth noting that B2B buyers do still appreciate the availability of online chats and being able to speak to sales and service consultants as the need arises.
But the trend around B2B customers expecting convenience from online sales and service is clear. Furthermore, as COVID-19 pandemic conditions took hold in 2020, traditional in-person sales channels became more limited and there was a dramatic increase in demand for digital channels, service, and sales. This is a trend that is expected to continue.
Now that we’ve examined the market and its drivers, let’s consider some of the primary benefits that can be delivered to your organisation through a B2B ecommerce portal.
Benefits of B2B Ecommerce Portals
1. Measuring and Acting on Customer Portal Data to Streamline Your Business Operations
The beauty of a sophisticated digital platform is all the actionable customer data it generates. Analytics from a B2B ecommerce portal can help reveal your most profitable or valuable channels and customer personas, illustrating the products and services your customers are more likely to be drawn towards.
Data from your portal can also reveal patterns around customer experience and engagement levels. For example, whether customers are abandoning shopping carts during checkout processes or whether they are experiencing fulfillment mistakes due to incorrect stock level information on the ecommerce portal. Acting on and addressing this data will significantly contribute to the success of your ecommerce business - from customer experience all the way through to order fulfilment and - as applicable - manufacturing, logistics, and warehousing.
B2B ecommerce portal analytics can additionally point to areas of opportunity, producing data to help inform your business strategy. More specifically, it can help to uncover trends around which product categories are trending or experiencing higher than usual levels of interest.
Understanding how your customers prefer to interact with you can help you tailor online experiences to meet their needs. The data can help you display the most appropriate content or products based on the users’ previous interactions. You can also set price points for each customer account to align with the unique experiences and expectations of each buyer.
Finally, B2B ecommerce portal data can also help you measure the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts - this includes measuring clicks on ads, the time customers spend engaged on your site, and the overall effectiveness of promotions.
2. Empowering Customers with Self-Service Options While Reducing Support Staff Load
As a key part of your overall customer service strategy, empowering your customers with options for online self-service is a major advantage that comes with a B2B ecommerce portal.
People prefer this degree of convenience, as well as the additional choice and control that comes with it. When you empower customers with the tools to help themselves, the impact is overwhelmingly effective. 79% of customers expect companies to provide self-service support tools, while 77% say they view organisations more positively when they offer these options.
Business support costs are lowered when customers can help themselves to the support they need. Furthermore, peer-to-peer support communities can co-exist on your ecommerce platform, increasing customer engagement and growing a community, while reducing the time and costs required by your team to regularly attend to customer support questions.
3. Improving Customer Satisfaction and the Holistic Customer Experience
Customer experience is rapidly superseding price and product as a key brand differentiator for B2B sellers, as reported in one of our recent blogs. This is because B2B buyers want sellers to deliver an experience that is knowledgeable, relevant, smart, and engaging.
One practical example: a B2B ecommerce portal can conveniently house up to date, real-time stock levels when it’s connected to inventory and ERP systems. In this respect, the user experience becomes more satisfying when customers can clearly see which items are in stock and in what quantities - allowing for ordering and planning with greater ease.
The key word here is convenience. B2B customer experience ratings tend to rank lower than their B2C counterparts. Yet B2B buyers are looking for the same kind of digital ease and convenience they regularly enjoy as a B2C consumer. In order to stand out among competitors, sellers need to ensure that purchases are simple and fast. A good, well functioning B2B ecommerce portal can enable this.
Digital integration of systems directly improves the user experience. Any organisation’s B2B customer experience can be greatly enhanced with an ecommerce portal that facilitates back-end integration, allowing for greater and more accurate access to customer data. Modern interfaces should allow for personalisation and recommendations based on individual needs. A delivery system that governs how these interfaces are provided to customers can mean the difference between an inferior or excellent online customer experience.
Uncovering an Ecosystem of Benefits Across Your Organisation
The expectations for digital experiences have never been higher, and the benefits of introducing and maintaining a B2B ecommerce portal for your organisation are just as significant. The right platform plays a huge role in improving customer experience, driving additional revenue, and enhancing efficiencies within your organisation.
Most ecommerce and content management systems will eventually reach a plateau. If you’re considering migrating to a different system, take a look at our recent article: A Guide to Replatforming - Benefits and Risks of Ecommerce Migration.
You can also learn more about Liferay’s B2B ecommerce portal solutions by booking a demonstration of our platform at your convenience. We’ll show you how a best practice B2B ecommerce portal can improve online revenue and set your business up for sustainable growth.