Imagine being a mom-and-pop store somewhere in a mid-sized town in America in the early eighties. Now suddenly a huge mall opens up at the other end of town. Kind of stress-inducing, isn’t it? We all know how most of these stories ended. The arrival of Walmart, Costco, and Target quickly saw a rapid decline in the legacy of the small, family-owned businesses. Why are we talking about this now? Because what malls were to the eighties, the e-commerce platform is to our current generation.
As your average B2B buyers become more technologically savvy, the need to switch your business to a more robust e-commerce platform cannot be stressed enough. The homegrown processes that have worked for some businesses are good enough up to a certain point, but since the name of the game these days is ‘scaling’, these processes simply do not possess the tools to sustain steady growth.
B2B Commerce Landscape and Trends
Scaling up is not merely an exercise in numbers. It also implies adopting new technologies and tools that let your digital commerce venture stand its ground and hold its own in a sea of competition, constant evolution, and disruption in technology. These current trends in the B2B commerce landscape will give you a better idea as to why the time to adapt is now.
1. Increased Expectations for Personalised Online Experiences
This is a trend that has been driven by both B2B buyers and the evolving technology that drives digital commerce. Since businesses often have repeat customers, having predictive algorithms helps a business develop unique shopping patterns mapped to each buyer. This helps the customer feel a whole other layer of satisfaction and drives regular and periodic transactions from them.
2. Rise of Online Marketplaces
This is a trend that is pretty well-established today, with most B2B sellers now well aware of the pros and cons of having brand visibility in large scale online marketplaces. One of the benefits is reduced effort required from businesses to find new B2B buyers, but it becomes a problem if companies become dependent on marketplaces as they’ll often dictate higher commissions from their earnings.
To avoid this, businesses should look for niche online marketplaces where their expertise and specialty are sought after, rather than getting lost in a haystack of other businesses or brands vying for the first page real estate.
Why Should You Transition to an E-Commerce Platform?
While there are many benefits that come with investing in an e-commerce platform, these are three that stand out due to their relevance for a wide range of B2B setups, as opposed to specific businesses.
1. Cut Costs Across Channels
Having the right e-commerce platform in place can help businesses replace manual processes without investing in heavy customisation. This is particularly true for platforms that are designed to support B2B sellers out of the box, allowing businesses to hit the ground running. More orders can be captured through the digital channel, resulting in reduced reliance on homegrown or legacy systems which hold companies back with high maintenance costs.
The increased ease with which B2B buyers and sellers can identify each other also leads to significant amounts of time and money saved by both parties. Having a suitable, modern e-commerce platform helps businesses connect with the right kind of potential buyers, resulting in higher conversion rates, successfully turning visitors into buyers, in comparison to traditional but outdated B2B processes.
2. Provide Effortless Purchasing Experiences to Increase Customer Satisfaction
Since most B2B buyers are people representing corporations who often are repeat customers, the time taken to process these transactions should ideally be minimal. The focus should be on creating efficient experiences for busy buyers, enabling them to find what they need online without calling a sales or service representative.
E-commerce platforms help to create a seamless path for B2B buyers, with the ability to provide tailored navigation and detailed product information. They can also help to shorten the time required to find the right product with intuitive browsing for catalogues and simplify repeat orders with reorder buttons and saved order lists.
Helping buyers to discover products and answer questions in their own time will lead to a level of customer satisfaction that ensures your business stands apart from your competition. These companies that are lagging behind are often still heavily reliant on B2B transactions with intermediaries and sales pitches.
3. Optimise Your Customer Adoption Strategy
Another key benefit of e-commerce platforms is the ability to measure and optimise customer adoption. With the ability to see how buyers are using and interacting with the site, insights can be leveraged to mould the site to their needs.
Regardless of whether the users are known or unknown, page analytics can be tracked down to the individual level and their user journeys through the site can be visualised with path analytics. In addition, behavioural patterns can be compared across different times of day to gain a better understanding of their purchasing.
High customer adoption rates help to reduce cost per acquisition (CPA) and leads to higher return on investment (ROI) on marketing efforts. To optimise your customer adoption strategy, these are a few questions to focus on when analysing their behaviour on your site:
- What are their pain points?
- What is their point of churn?
- What is their perception of your product or service?
These can easily be monitored in a robust e-commerce platform in a seamless manner without having to hire external consultants.
How Do You Ensure E-Commerce Success?
Businesses that are looking to transition into an e-commerce platform should be aware of these tips that will help set them up for success.
1. Have an Omnichannel Strategy
Now that people are tech-savvy, there is a high chance that potential buyers will browse for products they need using their phones or other portable devices, and then eventually make the purchase later from their workstation. This is why a business needs to adopt an omnichannel e-commerce strategy so that their brochure is visible to potential buyers across multiple devices.
2. Provide Transparency Relating to Costs
Most B2B buyers order in bulk and as such, any revelation of a surprise shipping cost at the penultimate step will reflect negatively on their experience. To prevent this and reduce the likelihood of churn, it’s good practice to be open and transparent about the total cost at all stages of the buying process. The same strategy should be applied when considering rebates or discounts for bulk orders. Users should not have to navigate back to previous pages after realising they’re able to save money and decide to increase their order amount.
Why Are E-Commerce Platforms Crucial Now?
In today’s B2B scene, your business’ customer-facing platforms need to effectively hold the focus of potential buyers and meet their expectations for world class customer service and customised buying experiences. For businesses aiming to scale and make themselves future-ready, investing in an e-commerce platform that can handle all these requirements is absolutely crucial. Find out more about best practices to help set your company up for B2B e-commerce success.