Many B2Bs, particularly in niche segments or industries, have been traditionally shielded from disruption. They found themselves locked in legacy platforms with little incentive or desire for digital transformation.
They continued relying on phone calls, faxes, email, and excel sheets to sell to customers. As a result, many of them were caught unaware when COVID-19 took over the world by storm.
Today’s B2B sellers are struggling on two fronts. They must face off in a new environment, complete with travel restrictions, changing purchase preferences, and an uncertain economy.
Many also find it challenging to move online and make sense of this new digital selling channel.
They shouldn’t be.
As we move along 2021, many brands realize they must not only think about digitally transforming their businesses but start making concrete steps to implement their B2B eCommerce strategies right now.
What is B2B eCommerce, and how does it benefit my business?
Business-to-business eCommerce is about moving traditionally offline business transactions and interactions online.
A B2B eCommerce site gives many benefits to traditionally offline manufacturers, distributors, and industrial sellers. Besides digitizing inefficient processes and gaining actionable insights into data and metrics, brands can tap into a new digitally-native, online-only buyer market.
Now, more than ever, a purpose-built eCommerce B2B site is the fastest way to start developing a branded presence that is discoverable and is available around the clock. With eCommerce, companies can streamline operations, improve employee productivity, build new partner relationships, and unlock new growth avenues.
Let’s take a look at these various benefits in more detail.
How a B2B eCommerce site benefits the business
A business serving other businesses must have the proper infrastructure, tools, and insights to grow in a competitive environment. A B2B eCommerce site gives business leaders the flexibility to craft, execute, and see through their digital strategy.
Branding. One of the most significant benefits of an eCommerce site is the freedom to grow and promote your brand. From creating your presence to partnering up with resellers to building a marketplace of your own, a B2B eCommerce is an effective way to push your brand into different avenues. Later, you can expand into parallel B2B selling models or sell B2B2C or D2C (direct to consumer).
More growth. Digital content consumption – B2B included – is only growing, be it on smart appliances, wearables, mobile or desktop devices. Digital commerce helps sellers position themselves to react quickly to changing markets, fluctuating demand, and customer requirements. And unlike a physical location, a website allows industrial retailers to appeal to customers in various geographic areas.
Greater reach. An eCommerce site allows B2Bs to market to customers in creative ways. Even if sellers only place their product catalogues online, they’ll expose their products to a much larger audience. Centralized data will allow customers to research and compare product information, while a single truth source will improve internal productivity.
How a B2B eCommerce site benefits employees
To grow the organization, employees must anticipate and react to both known and unknown challenges that could lie ahead. They need digital selling tools that afford them the focus and direction to manage relationships in a quickly changing landscape.
Increased productivity. It’s challenging for staff to manage quotes, approvals, and orders. These actions are usually performed manually, which leads to errors, omissions, and duplicate data. Thankfully, the right B2B eCommerce platform includes flexible automation engines that automate these workflows, so sales staff can focus on selling.
Centralized data. For B2Bs that operate across various industries, selling channels or geographic locations, having their eCommerce operations under one roof improves the back-office and vendor experience. A rock-solid infrastructure future-proofs the business and makes it easy to grow and expand.
Better analytics. Many eCommerce sites offer reporting capabilities. However, B2B merchants deal with larger SKUs, larger order volumes, more complex customer journeys, and decision-makers. They need additional visibility into customer activity and sales data to make decisions quickly, and eCommerce reporting capabilities make this possible.
How a B2B eCommerce site benefits customers
The customer experience remains a top priority for B2B businesses. An intuitive, personalized, and well-functioning website remains a differentiation point and an enabler of great customer experiences.
Omnichannel experience. Since online stores are not affected by the same limitations as physical ones, it’s easier and more cost-effective to market, communicate, and sell to more customers. Since today’s customers can start communication on the phone, email, and end the purchase online, a flexible omnichannel B2B eCommerce makes it all possible.
Streamlined ordering. A B2B eCommerce website offers everything from intuitive interfaces, simple checkouts, and self-service options. More advanced B2B features can accommodate unique purchase workflows, pricing strategies, quotes, and negotiated terms for a smoother ordering experience.
Personalization. Personalization is proven to have a positive impact on conversion. B2B eCommerce websites offer personalized product catalogues according to each customer, prices with discounts, payment and invoicing options, and unique company storefronts – all without the need to interact with sales reps.
In 2021, B2B eCommerce Is Your Key to Growth
The pandemic highlighted weaknesses in supply chains and uncovered many shortcomings of B2B businesses. While some made inroads and embraced online selling, there are just as many B2B sellers still struggling with digital transformation or not achieving the expected results with online sales.
While many obstacles remain, now’s not the time to dismiss B2B eCommerce. The spectacular rise of eCommerce we witnessed in 2020 shows no slowing down in 2021 or the years ahead. It may sound cliche, but there’s no going to business as usual.
So investing in an eCommerce platform isn’t just a way to digitize your product catalogue or reach more customers. It’s about setting up the foundation today for business success tomorrow. In other words, it’s your key to growth.