eCommerce Platforms are Changing the Game in B2B eCommerce
Why you should consider a platform that is leading the charge in B2B eCommerce's incredible growth.
Long-term customer relationships are at the heart of B2B marketing, but the way companies develop those relationships is changing. As more organizations move toward doing business online, B2B marketers need to shift their focus to new eCommerce platforms that provide integrative tools for managing changing customer needs.
A Shifting Trend
Marketing experts report that B2B eCommerce is starting to look more like B2C every day. Just like casual consumers, corporate buyers are looking for a personalized purchasing experience with the convenience of being able to research, shop and make purchases online. In response, businesses are trying to “humanize” B2B sales by improving site performance, simplifying the buying process and providing perks such as free shipping.
B2B marketing content is changing as well. While e-books, white papers and in-depth blog posts are still in high demand, multimedia such as images and videos is becoming more common. This type of content increases brand recognition and builds brand loyalty, two essential components of lasting B2B relationships. However, this facet of the customer experience still takes the backseat to providing useful content. Seventy-six percent of B2B customers say that being able to find the information they’re looking for on a website has an impact on their purchasing decisions.
The Future of B2B eCommerce
Forrester Research predicts that, by the end of 2015, B2B eCommerce sales will hit $780 billion, or 9.3 percent of B2B transactions. Frost & Sullivan adds that the B2B eCommerce market is poised to grow to twice the size of B2C by 2020, representing $6.7 trillion worth of online purchases. This enormous amount of online purchasing power is just waiting to be tapped by enterprising B2B marketers.
B2B sales already enjoy conversion rates of about 7.3 percent versus 3.0 percent in B2C. With 89 percent of B2B researchers using the Internet during the research phase of the purchasing process and 73 percent relying on Google specifically, this makes integrating standard advertising with online marketing tactics an essential part of attracting and retaining B2B customers.
Growth and Change: Keeping Up With the Trends
A shift in buying power from C-level purchasers to teams of employees within specific departments necessitates a change in the way businesses approach their marketing campaigns. It’s becoming imperative to think like a B2C marketer and take a cue from what B2C companies are doing to make the purchasing process easier and more personal for their customers.
One problem with the current B2B marketing model is the tendency of businesses to think of customers as faceless entities rather than individuals. Although purchasing decisions are made by teams of people within companies, those teams have the needs of the business as a whole in mind. Therefore, B2B marketers have to take a more personalized approach to their campaigns. This includes streamlining the purchasing process with a focus on creating positive customer experiences. Digitizing B2B sales provides customers with the online environment that they want and gives businesses a way to track who buys which products and how frequently they come back to make new purchases. It also provides the data necessary to create a “buyer persona,” or a complete picture of what the average B2B customer needs, how they go about finding it and how they make final decisions on what to buy.
Online selling in B2B environments often takes one of two forms. The “one-to-many” approach involves an online store managed by a company on one end and open to buyers on the other. This allows B2B clients to browse and shop for what they want in much the same way that B2C customers do. Bigger companies may set up a private consortium in which the corporation as a whole operates an entire network that includes all outlets for supply and distribution. This is useful for keeping large numbers of stores connected and managing inventory across locations to ensure that customer satisfaction remains high.
“Many-to-many” marketplaces involve a third party that handles the logistics of the purchasing process. Companies sign up for these marketplaces to take advantage of the power of a well-known brand and distribute their products to a wider audience.
The Changing Landscape of eCommerce Platforms
Modern eCommerce platforms are doing a great deal to drive the changes in B2B marketing. New business intelligence tools and interfaces make it possible to collect data from a vast number of sources and present it in a format that can be used to customize the B2B experience for diverse groups of clients.
Customer information is coming in from a growing number of sources, especially as more businesses make social media an integral part of their marketing operations. Many B2B eCommerce platforms are evolving to include the ability to market across channels in the same way that B2C companies do and to use the data from social interactions to improve the customer experience.
Enhanced reporting makes it easier for businesses to see trends in data and apply these trends to customized marketing campaign designs that include strategic product placement, optimal pricing structures and shopping experiences geared toward specific types of clients. Platforms must be fully scalable to handle an influx of new customers and continue to grow as businesses acquire accounts and build relationships on an international level.
How Clarity Can Help
As the B2B sales environment continues to evolve, so will eCommerce platforms. Clarity offers a full-featured solution that brings together all elements of the B2B marketing, selling and purchasing processes to make it possible for your company to compete in a global market. Software from Clarity provides a comprehensive platform that includes ERP and CRM integration, customized reporting and tools to handle omni-channel marketing. Contact Clarity for a free quote to see how these solutions can help your business.