Now I know B2B is serious business. I mean, B2B has twice the amount of business as B2C.
It is so often portrayed as boring with stern looking faces and dark suits but it doesn’t need to be! B2B is the new black. It’s sexy. It’s exciting! And there is so much opportunity that we should all be super happy about it. According to leading market research company, Forrester, B2B eCommerce will reach over $1 trillion and account for 13.1% of all B2B sales by 2020! Which I always think sounds far away but it’s only 2 Years & 15 days away! By the time Christmas & New Year have been and gone it will be less than 2 years away!
2 years ago, in 2015, B2B eCommerce sales totalled $780 Billion. That is more than double what B2C eCommerce sales reached in the same year, which was “only” $305 Billion. I say “only” like 305 billion is pocket money, but compared to 780 billion – soon to be 1.1 trillion – it really does show just how much opportunity there is for any company that sells to businesses.
In 2016, 30% of B2B buyers made half or more of their work purchases online and this is expected to be 53% by 2018. That means that over half of all B2B buyers are purchasing online over half of the time! Do you really want to be missing out on that?
Wait wait, your customers wouldn’t want to buy your complex, configurable machinery or software online anyway. Right? Think again.
93 percent of business buyers prefer to buy online and by 2020, B2B consumers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. Scary, right?
B2B eCommerce may have been slower out of the gate but its moving faster and being pick up quicker than B2C ever was or will be. But what’s driving this?
What’s driving these changes?
Well, we are living in the age of the customer, the consumer, the client, the C and so, as B2B companies, it is absolutely key to remember that behind every B there is, in fact, a C. You aren’t taking orders from a building, you’re taking them from a decision making human and that decision making human is fast learning, efficient and well adapted to the 21st century. Are you?
Thanks to the internet and smartphones all the information that a buyer would need to make highly informed choices and decisions is at their fingertips 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you’re not providing this for your customers, you can bet at least one of your competitors is.
This constant “On” setting is particularly true for Millennials, who are now among the main business decision makers. By 2020, so in 2 years, Millennials will form 50 percent of the global workforce.
They expect seamless, personalized and omnichannel experiences. 87 percent of them use between two and three devices daily! Why wouldn’t they be able to use each and every device they have to place an order with you, whenever and wherever they want and need to?
Customers want full spectrum selling. Self-service, full service, interim service, all the services! They are looking for buying tools that enable them to buy from you 24/7, they want to track their orders, view their purchase history, manage their credit, research new products, request quotes, and everything else without having to contact a sales rep.
Saving them time and saving your sales reps time too, so that they can focus on more strategic business development and stay away from simple order taking. Your customer’s expectations are growing, they want everything they have now and more.
Thanks to the likes of Amazon we all now expect a greater range of products, lower costs and seamless shipping services. Corporate buyers are no different. Gone are the days when you only had to compete on price and availability, you now need to provide an experience that matches that of Amazon and Alibaba to remain competitive.
So you know why you are doing it, but do you know what you’re doing?
What’s the plan?
Before you can make your first move, you need to set out objectives. How would your business benefit from an eCommerce website? What do your customers want from your online store? Are you trying to help them self-serve? Reduce the burden on call centres?
eCommerce has the ability to dramatically reduce cost and increase profitability across the wider business.
Executive sponsorship and company-wide buy-in is critical to becoming a Digital company
and is about far more than just setting up a webshop. It requires a total transformation and a rethink of operating models in order to seamlessly embed the digital channel.
It’s a big step for any organisation and you will face pushback from all levels. Top management and shareholders might not want to spend the money, some might fear the loss of their jobs, nobody will want the extra work, and a lot of folks simply won’t want to change how they do things or learn something new.
Generally, people don’t like change. It’s scary and uncomfortable.
All of their concerns are valid, whether you agree with them or not and so you’ll need to show these stakeholders exactly how eCommerce will benefit them. Start by working to understand their individual needs and expectations eCommerce is meant to solve problems and enable growth – not make things harder or more complicated.
One of the biggest pushbacks faced by B2B companies is from their sales representatives. B2B has traditionally survived on a system of channel relationships managed by distributors or sales representatives.
The job of these B2B front lines is never easy. Many of them consider eCommerce and integrations as their enemy but nothing could be further from the truth. You need to be clear on the role of your website in your sales process and that way Sales representatives can leverage these new technologies to streamline their sales process, reduce the sales cycle, drive customer loyalty, and improve sales conversions.
The most complex parts of a Magento project are the integrations with back-office systems, be they ERPs, accounting suites, Product Information Management systems or any other system currently used. Online, your customers expect to see real-time inventory availability, pricing, and shipping information. They expect an Omnichannel experience.
You will need to identify all channels you can engage and build a strategy that considers
how these multiple channels will map out and interact with each other. It is also useful to have some preliminary conversations with your existing vendors to see how they integrate with other systems. Do they have an API, and is it publicly documented? Can files be imported and exported in an automated fashion? Can they recommend trusted vendors middleware to bridge the gap to Magento? If you are on a home built system, can you import and export data? And in what format?
This kind of integration discovery needs to be in-depth and discussed with a technical solution partner.
You get what you pay for
I am not going to shy away from this next one, eCommerce projects cost money but that shouldn’t be a problem or awkward, it’s an investment that is well worth it.
Once you have defined your B2B eCommerce project and mapped it to your organisational goals, you can make sure B2B eCommerce is prioritised and budgeted for. This budget needs to be realistic and include room for complex integrations and ongoing maintenance. An eCommerce project isn’t a one-off, it’s an ongoing adventure!
It is sometimes falsely portrayed as a quick fix to a digital problem, but really you should look at it like a puppy. It’s for life, not just for Black Friday. It will grow with you and it should be constantly learning and adapting to changes. The digital world is a face paced one, which is why you need to have a clear roadmap post project of new features, functionality and general improvements.
I have worked with countless numbers of clients, B2C, B2B, B2B2C, etc. and I can tell you, the most successful eCommerce projects have a dedicated and knowledgeable person championing them. Whether its a brand new move to online, a re-platform, or even just ongoing maintenance, eCommerce is not something that can be pilled on top of an already full workload and that should be respected by both management and whoever will be the project lead.
What can you realistically achieve in-house and what should be outsourced? Who will oversee communication with any external companies?
Don’t aim for perfection with your initial website delivery. Remember that the fastest and cheapest way to test your technology is to get the simplest-possible solution out there and start learning. Prioritise your key features that you need to satisfy early customers, define your Minimum Viable Product and get trading.
The beauty of this fast-moving digital world is that you can test and learn in real time, and then use that insight to improve your customers’ experience. This will, in turn, strengthen your business case and allow you to invest accordingly in a longer-term scalable solution.
B2B e-commerce is finally getting the recognition it deserves and so there is more and more content available to support you on your eCommerce journey and help with decisions.
Recognized as the No. 1 platform on Internet Retailer’s 2017 B2B E-Commerce 300 Guide and a strong performer in The Forrester Wave B2B Commerce Suites 2017, Magento Commerce with its new B2B functionality is a strong candidate for any company looking to improve its online offering. Now is the perfect time to look at the advantages these tools could bring to your organisation as you look to engage, win and retain your B2B customer base.
If you would like to discuss B2B Strategies for Success or anything else eCommerce feel free to reach out to me on twitter @RebeccaBrocton or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me regularly sharing videos on my Magento YouTube Channel.