Running a B2B eCommerce channel is inherently more complex than traditional B2C ecommerce. There are a number of payment options, including:
Catalogs are large, and complicated by high numbers of variants for individual products and even custom needs.
Additionally, many B2B eCommerce channels rely on inbound sales – the result of an optimized site – but outbound sales still account for leads, and the closing of larger deals.
These complexities can deter some B2Bs from taking the next step in their expansion. Instead, many have turned websites into digital catalogs or information pages urging prospects to make contact via email or chat.
However, B2B buyers are increasingly seeking B2C-like shopping experiences, with sleek site design and functionality with segmented pricing and customization options. With the right site architecture, B2Bs are able to offer the experience prospects are looking for with realistic scalability options.
Some of the most successful brands include:
- Flexfire LED.
- Atlanta Light Bulbs.
- Selini NY.
- Berlin Packaging.
- The Knobs Co.
- Best Access Doors.
This wide variety of sellers show a number of site types. Each uses the advantages of different UX to showcase their products, with some offering B2B and B2C sales. Some sites will restrict access to bulk sales information to only those businesses that register, while others exclude any public sales. Understanding the scope of your potential clients will also inform the type of site you need and how it should be structured.
What Is B2B eCommerce and Why Should I Sell Online?
B2B eCommerce describes online order transactions between businesses. The digital processing of orders improves buying efficiency for wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors and other types of B2B sellers. The sector is fast expanding with revenue in the sector last year topping US$12.2 trillion.
Some B2B businesses are still resisting moving online, but B2B buyers are already there. A 2018 survey found that 48% of companies conducted 50%–74% of all corporate purchases online. 23% of companies do 75% or more of their purchasing online.
Emerging eCommerce technologies are also reducing the barrier to entry for traditionally B2C businesses to add a B2B component (B2C2B) and, vice versa, for traditionally B2B companies selling direct-to-consumer (B2B2C).
The reason some B2B merchants are holding out seems to come down to misinformation or a simple lack of understanding of how to transition.
B2B eCommerce Misconceptions
There are a plethora of misconceptions around B2B eCommerce. Some fear the technology that could save their business time and money because they don’t understand how to integrate changes, while others misunderstand what automation is and how it can benefit employees rather than displace them.
Some of the most common issues include:
- The gap between B2B sellers and buyers, many of whom are millennials, and they don’t fax.
- Pricing transparency can be solved with technology (really easily).
- Messaging is professional and appropriate for fast communications, especially when information is sensitive and end-to-end encryption is used.
- Custom ordering is complex, but making it easy for your customer is vital.
The number one reason many brands say they aren’t selling B2B is because they don’t know that they are already doing it.
Selling B2B is a variety of things, including:
- Distribution relationships with large or chain retailers.
- Selling to organizations (schools, businesses, non-profits).
- Supplier selling to resellers.
You do not have to be a supplier in order to sell B2B. Many online brands are B2B and B2C.
You do not need a separate eCommerce site to sell B2B. Instead, you can build site engagement and SEO on a single URL and use customer groups to allow for personalized browsing experiences for your B2B segment.
Customer groups allow you to build personalized site experiences for groups or individuals once they log in.
- Showcasing products not available to the non-logged in audience
- Hiding products the specific customer groups aren’t interested in
- Showcasing specific pricing, often pre-negotiated
- Allowing for one-click repeat purchasing
Customer groups are useful for VIP segments for all merchants, but are essential for B2B sellers online.
However, many B2B sellers are indeed suppliers – but that isn’t the only type of B2B selling out there. Many B2B vendors still treat websites as a catalog and take orders via phone or fax.
Business customers like to access wholesale pricing and volume discount levels online, as well as place repeat orders or adjustments online, without having to make specific customer service contact.
The majority of managers and decision-makers in business today are familiar with online transactions. Often they are more comfortable researching and making purchases without talking to an actual person because the online process is familiar.
In general, B2B customers want to see their B2C conveniences transfer over.
- 41% say that self-service functionality is one of the top three ways B2B companies could make it easier for them to shop online.
- 73% of B2B decision-makers say that customer expectations for personalized experiences are significantly higher today compared with just a few years ago.
- 44% of millennials are making purchasing decisions.
- 33% say they are key influencers or recommenders in the purchasing process.
- Only 2% reported not being involved at all in purchasing decisions.
- While Generation X and baby boomer buyers rely on salespeople for guidance, millennial buyers are more likely to rely on the opinions of peers or outside experts than to trust a salesperson: They actively avoid engaging with sales early on; nearly 60 percent say they don’t engage with a salesperson until they’re in the middle of a purchasing decision.
Having an online presence as a B2B is no longer an option, it is essential to the sustainability of your business. Using the right tools to ensure your scalability is the best ROI.