April 19, 2022
Every industry has its myths. Retail has the age-old saying that the customer is always right, restaurants that you shouldn’t order fish on a monday, and manufacturing that it’s just for men.
The myth within B2B? That eCommerce isn’t worth it.
A quick Google search should be enough to debunk this fable. In 2020, the global B2B eCommerce market was valued at $14.9 trillion, and last year alone sales on B2B eCommerce sites, log-in portals and marketplaces increased by 17.8% to $1.63 trillion.
Still, there are a number of misconceptions which persist among B2B businesses, giving many of them second thoughts about investing in a fully modernized B2B eCommerce website.
So sit tight, while we debunk all six of them.
Humans are creatures of habit; we stick to the things which are familiar to us. So, when businesses have always paid for goods and services in person, over the phone or via email, it’s unlikely they’d want to change all that by starting to buy online, right?
According to a report from McKinsey, more than three quarters of B2B buyers and sellers now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic is partly responsible for this shift, but the safety, speed and convenience of paying for goods online can’t be discounted.
Thankfully, it isn’t exactly hard to meet these new demands. Recent tech developments have blessed businesses with a wide range of digital payment options, from secure bank transfers and contactless transactions to digital wallets and instant bank pay - all of which are easy to integrate in today’s eCommerce platforms.
If we asked you to imagine a stereotypical B2B buyer or procurement officer, you’d probably imagine someone sat in front of a large computer monitor with endless data points and spreadsheets flooding the screen. While admittedly this is sometimes the case, it’s far from the whole truth.
The reason for that is a simple one: millennials.
More and more millennials are entering the workplace, and higher up the hierarchy too. According to data from AHT TECH JSC, millennials are now involved in 73% of B2B purchasing decisions. For that reason, your eCommerce platform needs to cater towards this new generation of buyers - in particular, how they like to make purchases.
And what piece of tech do millennials use to make purchases more than any other? Their phones.
Ensuring your eCommerce platform is optimized for mobile is therefore essential. Just look at the wider eCommerce market for proof. The total market share of eCommerce sales which took place on mobile sat at 72.9% in 2021. What makes you think that percentage is any different for B2B?
B2B businesses cater towards, well… business. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a human at the other end of the line. At least 80% of B2B buyers expect a buying experience similar to that of a B2C customer, which means UX, accessibility and ease-of-use need to be high up your list of priorities.
The difficulty is that what users want from a B2B eCommerce platform is very different to what they want from a B2C one. For example, B2B customers are likely to undertake very precise searches with highly specific technical parameters. You won’t get the same kind of impulse buying that you get in B2C; every purchase decision will be carefully considered.
Millennials are key here. Millennials are commonly associated with seeking an enhanced customer experience when making purchases online, often consuming a lot more content about their product before making a final decision.
For that reason, your product content, categories and specs will need to be as detailed as possible. You’ll probably need to provide a wealth of images too, or even videos and 3D rendering for certain products.
True, a B2B eCommerce platform on its own might not be able to provide all the customer personalization you require. But what if it’s backed up by an ERP?
ERP, which stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, is a type of software that allows organizations to integrate and manage all their day-to-day business activities from one centralized platform. Whether it’s procurement, risk management, your CRM or your eCommerce platform, each business function feeds into one another via the ERP, sharing their data and empowering the wider business as a result.
That means you can provide highly targeted and personalized customer journeys. Here’s just a few of the customization options that come from integrating a B2B eCommerce platform with an ERP system:
The best part? Those benefits are all in real-time too.
For those businesses which already operate a B2B eCommerce platform, it’s natural to think that the more customers (and therefore the more data) you have, the harder it will be to modernize. While this may be true, it’s also true that there’s no process too complicated for a modern eCommerce platform to handle.
The most sophisticated platforms have the power to chop, change, bend and mold according to your specific demands. This customizability means that even the most complex shipping and fulfillment processes can be integrated to ensure the slickest, most efficient execution of deliveries - all powered by your B2B eCommerce site.
Although modernization on this scale takes time and comes with its fair share of difficulties, the reality is that standing still poses a far greater risk. Why? Because failing to keep up with your competitors could see your organization lose out on a whole new generation of customers further down the line.
But it can be, as long as you take all the right steps, and follow the right advice.
Getting your eCommerce strategy right the first time round has never been so important, because bringing your B2B business into the 21st century is no longer a choice: it’s an obligation.
In and around all the myths, there’s one cold hard truth: B2B businesses who fail to transform and meet the changing demands of their audience not only risk a loss in revenue, but a loss in relevance too.
Don’t let that be you.