Are You Ready For The B2C-fication of B2B?
April 24, 2019
Business-to-consumer (B2C) trends dominate the business-to-business (B2B) commerce landscape. Analytics, cloud, personalization, artificial intelligence, and mobile are key drivers for B2B success today as sellers seek to replicate and even improve on B2C customer experiences. In fact, mirroring B2C interactions is the number one priority for B2B sellers as more buying shifts to online channels.
Last year, B2B eCommerce sales through websites and online marketplaces surpassed $1 trillion. Forrester forecasts that US B2B eCommerce will reach $1.8 trillion and account for 17% of all B2B sales in the US by 2023.
While more complex orders may still require interaction with knowledgeable salespeople – keep reading to learn about Configure Price Quote solutions – eCommerce is the sales channel most B2B buyers want to use to research, purchase, reorder, and to get assistance. Looking at the profile of today’s buyers, it’s no surprise. Some 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies, with one-third reporting that they are the sole decision-maker for their department. About half of all B2B product researchers are digital natives.
This move to online channels is bringing into sharp focus the need to replace legacy systems – often home-grown solutions tangled with back-end integrations – with more agile, cloud-based platforms that simplify purchases and improve customer interactions. But in a survey of 276 manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, more than 60% of manufacturers and 38% of wholesalers and distributors said they do not yet have eCommerce sites. Looking to correct this 75% said they planned to launch an eCommerce site within two years. Similarly, less than 50% of manufacturers currently have a website optimized for mobile, according to research from B2BecNews.
But enhancing B2B customer experience extends beyond merely adopting a B2C approach. B2B eCommerce is complex and, in some ways, more so than B2C. Multiple models of sales exist, including B2B2C, B2C2B, and B2B and B2C combined. A level of technology complexity — volume pricing, unique product configurations, contract-specific pricing — adds to the challenge and expense. The good news is that the advent of B2B accelerators is changing this dynamic,
and reducing time to market and investment on even the most sophisticated platforms. What are other capabilities behind online success for B2B sellers?
Online portals enable B2B brands to empower customers with self-service tools and information access. Our work with Advance Auto Parts illustrates this approach.
At the same time, manufacturers can extend dealer networks check out what we did for SnapAV – and enable sellers with technology to support sales and increase selling velocity. Dealers can create, brand, and manage their own eCommerce sites based on the manufacturer’s platform. Unique product assortments can be added along with other options, including shipping and logos based on business rules set by the manufacturer; the possibilities are infinite.
For more complex sales, CPQ solutions enable sellers to generate accurate and highly configured quotes, centralizing and automating complex product, pricing, and business rules. A strong CPQ solution can make it easier to deliver the right product at the right price, to every customer. A streamlined sales process guides eCommerce customers, sales teams, call center representatives and partners in selecting and validating the right products and services. In fact, research by the Aberdeen Group shows that CPQ users increase revenue 48% year over year compared to non-users.
Order management capabilities integrated at the platform level not only can enable order processing synchronicity across all channels, but also deliver agile capabilities, including just-in-time availability with automated replenishment, and customized purchasing workflows.
Get Started Today
The time to go digital is now. Start with this series of manageable steps.
1. Identify customer account types that would benefit from self-service and basic process automation. While direct sales reps might best handle some customers and prospects, most can be served by self-service websites.
2. Roll out standard online self-service features quickly to a subset of customers, migrating targeted segments to low-cost digital channels. Use this shift to fund ongoing digital improvements and experiences as you reduce costs, generate incremental revenue, and improve customer loyalty.
3. Put commerce technology in place that will grow with you. There are several flexible platforms available that can scale to accommodate future growth and change at a lower cost point than even two years ago. This investment will not only drive higher revenues but also reduce sales and support costs.
As these options highlight, going digital isn’t an all-or-nothing approach, and it doesn’t have to be overly complicated – but start-time should be immediate. If you need assistance with B2B solutions and services, LiveArea has the talent and experience to assist you. We’ve helped many global B2B brands bring eCommerce technology to market and we provide ongoing support through managed services and digital marketing. Contact us for help.