Adding eCommerce to Your B2B Offerings is Smart Business
B2B businesses without rich eCommerce offerings are missing out on opportunities to increase revenue. Don't get left behind.
The enormous potential of business to business eCommerce has been known since the early days of the Internet economy. While B2B eCommerce has taken much longer than expected to meet those early expectations, clear trend lines suggest that adding online sales is a wise move for B2B businesses, as estimated annual B2B eCommerce sales have now surpassed $500 billion. Further With the prevalence of online B2C shopping in our daily lives, the transition to online-focused business purchasing seems inevitable. Business customers have become accustomed to the conveniences of online shopping and expect much of the same when making business purchasing decisions. B2B businesses can offer customers more with the eCommerce model, and those who don't risk losing huge amounts of sales to those who do.
B2B Growth Numbers
Recent research supports the view that online sales should be incorporated in the B2B business model, not just as a supplement to traditional sales channels, but as the potential main sales channel. Alibaba.com did $1 billion in business online for fiscal 2014, and commerce giants like Amazon, Google, eBay, and Wal-Mart are already turning their attention toward B2B. Establishing your company as a trusted online seller now will increase your chances of success, before competition for the B2B market gets even heavier. According to recent studies:
Almost three-quarters of business purchases begin with a Google search
89 percent of B2B provides say that adding eCommerce to their business increased annual revenue by 55 percent(Forrester Research)
81 percent report that the initiation of online sales increased the average order value by 31 percent (Forrester Research)
67 percent of North American B2B firms believe eCommerce is fundamentally changing B2B commerce (Forrester Research)
57 percent of business buyers reported that they had purchased business goods online (Acquity Group)
37 percent expect to spend even more of their yearly procurement budget online in 2014 (Acquity Group)
Influence and Differences From B2C
Business shoppers carry over expectations from personal experiences when making B2B purchases. B2C companies have adept at catering to customers online that to a business buyer, the old B2B methods of placing an order from a catalog or by phone or fax may seem outdated and inefficient. A good B2B website will be optimized for mobile, either by offering a mobile site or using responsive design, which detects your screen size and optimizes the site accordingly. Mobile optimization allows customers to place their orders from wherever they are when the need for your product arises. While certain cues should be taken from B2C conventions, B2B sites should be more focused on efficiency than their consumer counterparts. Flashy design and flowery advertisements are less likely to influence the decisions of the business buyer, who is looking for the fastest way to order for the cheapest price.
B2B eCommerce Requirements
Though taking cues from B2C is certainly advisable, B2B eCommerce still has its own unique set of needs. B2B sites generally need to be more complex than B2C and must be built on different architecture to accommodate for extra variables and rules. Different customers tend to negotiate specific pricing, and pricing can change based on variables such as quantity. With a robust, integrated eCommerce platform, you can ensure that customers see dependable, accurate information and get the most out of your online sales channel. A good B2B shopping cart will need the following features:
ERP/CRM/business application integration
Allows for complex product and hierarchy relationships
Search engine optimization (SEO) features
Analytics reporting for tracking KPIs
This new sales avenue offers great possibilities in addition to requirements and challenges. Online, the content of the site can be personalized based on where the user came from, what they searched for, their geographic location, the duration of their visits, or information gathered from the creation of an account. While many B2B websites require visitors to log in before they can access the site, doing so foregoes the ability for pages and products to be indexed by search engines. Just like in B2C, search engines can be powerful tools to drive traffic and sales, which makes search engine optimization (SEO) a key element in growing your online business. Remember that almost three quarters of business purchases start with a Google search. If your site is not indexed, will that sale go to someone's whose is?
Online sales also offer additional opportunity for cross-selling and up-selling, which means that moving sales from traditional channels online may not only be more efficient, but more profitable. When order management and warehouse systems are integrated, the customer can log on to see their order status and what if any changes can still be made to the order at that point. Distribution channels can be automatically notified of orders to shrink the gap between order and shipment. Shipping labels can be created automatically and the customer can have access to the same tracking information as you do. Electronic shopping enhances your ability to track and analyse your visitors and buyers, which makes the development and tracking of KPIs more effective.
Adding an eCommerce store to your business requires the investment of time and money, and it is incredibly important to get it done correctly. The multitude of features available from certain eCommerce platforms, especially when integrated with your other business systems, can allow for your business to run more smoothly and make the lives of your employees easier, all while improving your bottom line. While it may be intimidating to consider changing your business model so drastically, logic and research both suggest that the move towards online business buying is inevitable, and the most successful businesses will be those that adapt in time.
Clarity Can Help
If you’ve decided that eCommerce is the right model for your growing business, you’ll need a powerful software platform backing you. Custom-built from the beginning for B2B businesses, Clarity eCommerce™ gives you complete control over your online storefront. Our developers are ready to help you take your business to the next level. Call or click today for a free quote.