Building the B2B Company of the Future

By May 23, 2018eCommerce
b2b-ecommerce

The B2B space is rapidly evolving. And if your company can’t keep up with the changes, you will get left behind.

But what does the future of B2B look like? How can today’s B2B merchants prepare for tomorrow? It’s becoming clear that B2B has a lot to learn from B2C.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll need to consider when planning for the future of B2B, then we’ll talk about how your B2B company can get there.

What B2B Companies Are Missing

So what is it that B2B companies aren’t doing that B2Cs are doing? Much of it comes down to online sales. B2Cs have fully embraced online selling because that’s what consumers want. According to BigCommerce, 96% of Americans were shopping online in 2016* and that number is only going up.

Historically, B2B companies have met their business customers in the sales channel of their choice, involving everything from telesales to distribution. Traditional selling practices like cold calling and payment methods like paper checks still occupy the B2B space. It’s the way things have been done—and it works. But it’s inefficient and difficult to scale.

Now those companies are saddled by disjointed procurement processes and struggling to bring them online. The result? A band aid solution. Some B2B merchants build websites to post their products, encouraging buyers to call to make a purchase. But businesses are less willing to do that today than they were in previous years.

According to Shopify, business customers are increasingly demanding B2C-like features*, including enhanced search, ratings and reviews, and promotions. Many of them would like to pay in a more consumer-friendly manner, as well, and would happily eschew purchase orders for credit card payments.

Intuitive B2C eCommerce flows have shifted the B2B buyers’ expectations. They want instant access to their accounts, new products, special pricing, and everything else that consumers have been getting online for years. You might not be seeing these demands yet. But if you aren’t offering those features to your business customers, you may find that they leave for another merchant that does.

Why B2B Companies Need a Solid Online Selling Strategy

The B2C world of online sales and marketing prizes convenience, speed, and a frictionless customer journey. And B2B vendors need to do the same. The B2B online arms race is on, and buyers are moving away from relationship-based buying to comparing products and services online. As we found in our own 2017 surveys (which we summarize in this white paper), that puts pressure on B2B sellers to adapt quickly.

The future is in online sales.

But you’re going to need a strategy to make it work. That involves a lot of planning, testing, and analyzing. What personalization measures are most effective with your customers? How can you integrate sales and marketing to make sure that customers have the right information to make purchase decisions online?

All of these questions need to be answered.

How to Implement an Online B2B Sales Strategy

Now that you’ve seen how important it is for B2B companies to embrace eCommerce, you might be asking how to implement an online sales strategy.

Many merchants have some online presence that they can build on to create a strong online selling platform. Some B2B websites are like catalogs, for example, that let visitors see products and services on offer, but don’t make them available for sale. Prices may or may not be included, as flexible pricing agreements are common in the B2B space. Other merchants might have sites that let current customers make purchase orders or manage their accounts. There are even broker sites that bring together multiple B2B merchants for customers to check out.

All of these sites assist in marketing and product exposure. And they can also serve as a foundation for a new, more customer-focused web presence complete with personalized email campaigns, mobile-friendly features, and, of course, an improved buying experience.

Fortunately, there are many ecommerce platforms that offer easy payment via a variety of methods. Online payments are common, and make it easy for purchasers to submit an order without having to get on the phone or submit a purchase order. Removing these barriers is an important part of creating a powerful online sales strategy.

You might also use a B2B-friendly payment method like Behalf, which allows you to bring even ACH transactions online, opening the door for your non-credit card paying business customers to purchase from your site. Our API integrates with your ecommerce solution to offer financing to buyers without interrupting the purchase process. Your business customers can apply for financing, check their eligibility, and get a fast answer on financing options right in the middle of checkout.

It’s just another example of making the entire online selling process as efficient and frictionless, as possible.

Once you’ve chosen a platform and enabled your customers to make purchases online, it’s time for testing and analysis. Conversion optimization is a big part of online sales success. Sales strategies like free shipping, rewards programs, price matching, and other traditionally B2C tactics could translate well for B2B, but it needs to be proven.

Lessons to Learn from B2C Online Sales

In the end, B2B vendors can learn a lot from B2C online sales like having a strong focus on the customer, a website that’s intuitive and easy to use, and as few barriers between the customer and the purchase as possible. For a long time, people were convinced that B2B and B2C were fundamentally different activities. But the core successful strategies remain closely intertwined. Simplicity and customer service can’t be topped in either field.

The B2B company of the future recognizes this fact, and is ready to adapt to the new marketplace.

*Shared for informational purposes only or as an example; We do not control or maintain the material nor officially endorse or sponsor the websites. The information contained in this blog is for general guidance on matters of interest only and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with professional business advisers.

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“BigCommerce Survey Shows Americans Consider Online Shopping Essential.” BigCommerce, 6 June 2016, 9:00am EDT, www.bigcommerce.com/press/releases/bigcommerce-survey-shows-americans-consider-online-shopping-essential/.