October 17, 2019
Before the advent of eCommerce and digital marketing, almost all B2B transactions and customer experiences happened offline. Business cards were exchanged, in-person relationships were formed, and face-to-face transactions happened up and down the supply chain.
While this type of B2B relationship still exists, more companies are looking to eCommerce solutions to increase the ease and transparency when transacting with big business.
According to a study from Forrester Research, B2B eCommerce growth shows no sign of slowing down. In 2018, the United States hit $1 trillion in online B2B sales, up 17% from $969 billion in 2017. The forecast looks sunny for 2019 as well, with Forrester predicting $1.263 trillion in B2B eCommerce for the year. The report also suggests that these numbers will continue to climb, reaching $1.8 trillion by 2023.
With growth numbers like these, it may be time for you to consider building out an eCommerce-enabled website to catch the wave of this digital transformation in B2B commerce.
Your Business Is Fine Without B2B eCommerce...Right?
It can be overwhelming and intimidating for business owners to find the right time to jump onto the eCommerce bandwagon. The comfort and security of a successful offline operation keeps many potential entrants out of the B2B eCommerce marketplace. The thinking: if business is good, why rock the boat with a new system or process?
However, while it is good for business to build and maintain offline customer relationships, it shouldn’t be your only pathway to growth. An eCommerce offering can make your business easier to discover and more accessible to a broader pool of potential customers.
Here are 5 reasons, or signs, that your business is ready to launch eCommerce capabilities.
1. Your Current Clients Order Repeat Products
With your current B2B clients, you may have already become their preferred supplier. As a preferred supplier, you’ve earned their repeat business and can count on their sales to generate income. Why not make it easier and more seamless for them to buy from you? According to McKinsey, only 15% of B2B buyers want to speak with a salesperson when repurchasing exactly the same product or service.
With these types of repeat customers, the opportunity for businesses is to provide an ongoing subscription-like service. An eCommerce platform allows repeat customers to automatically purchase and re-purchase your products and services speedily, without an extra step of getting in touch with a representative. This saves time for you and your customers.
2. B2B Buyers Want To Purchase Online
There’s a good chance that your fiercest competitor might already be selling online, and if you aren’t, chances are you will lose out to the competition. Indeed, B2B buyers are increasingly more comfortable with purchasing their products and services online. And as more “digital natives” move into roles where they are making B2B purchase decisions, B2B online shopping will become more commonplace. It stands to reason then, that building eCommerce capabilities into your B2B website is a surefire way to future-proof your business.
3. Data Will Help You Differentiate
Is your current market saturated with similar products? Or, are you looking to target new customers but are unsure of where to start? A new and/or improved eCommerce-enabled website can help you answer these questions. When you create a comprehensive B2B website, you are providing your customers with a more convenient way to research and purchase products. In return, you get a plethora of data about their preferences, what types of information leads them to buy, and more. This information can then be used to guide your marketing strategy for new business, and it can help you streamline and perfect your customer experience so that you are meeting the needs of these B2B buyers.
For example, if you attach a robust analytics feature to your B2B eCommerce website,you can compile data to help you understand how your customers behave online, and catalog what their needs are. Analytics can help you improve your processes, interactions, and identify key metrics that can help you grow your business. The saturated business market that you find yourself in may begin to thin out, since you can gain a competitive advantage through your data.
4. Heightened Customers Expectations
The ease and convenience of purchasing from a B2C standpoint – meaning, what we all have come to expect in terms of buying on the web – are now impacting B2B. We enjoy the simplicity and expediency that occurs when we buy and click, and a product is delivered right to our door. While B2B purchases are typically more substantial and recur more often than B2C - the interface exchange is where this connection has been made. The B2C purchasing experience has raised the expectation for B2B since clients are beginning to expect the same fulfillment they encounter in their B2C transactions.
Transforming your business through B2B eCommerce and digital marketing will offer your more digitally-minded customers the same type of transactions they are used to in their B2C purchases, while providing them with B2B products and services.
5. Your Website Needs An Upgrade
Technology has a way of forging ahead, whether businesses are ready for it or not. Many older B2B websites are not equipped to handle current-day requirements or have become obsolete. Regardless of your product offerings, potential customers might pass over your business for another if your website is outdated, lacks functionality and/or mobile-friendliness.
While some of these older websites were the backbone of initial B2B processes, many are now challenging to navigate, full of cumbersome forms, and are more hassle than not. The cost of trying to keep these types of B2B sites up and running in today’s market far outweigh the price for creating a new eCommerce website platform. Other challenges with older sites are that they aren’t typically mobile-enabled, and they cannot support emerging touch points such as chatbots and 360-video, for example.
Now Is The Time
Now is the time to move your business into the B2B eCommerce marketplace! Holding back could hold your company back from experiencing an entirely new group of potential buyers and stunting business growth. Offline businesses may begin to lose their competitive advantage as they continue to rely on older methods, while new entrants and competitors fly past them with more innovative technology and eCommerce platforms. It is time to embrace the change and dive headfirst into B2B eCommerce.