It’s been almost a decade when eCommerce took center stage in the B2B world and thought leaders around the world started talking about going digital.
But even with all those changes happening out there and phenomenal growth opportunities, B2B companies are largely falling behind the curve. On the other hand, if you look at B2C, it has come a long way with so many choices of eCommerce platforms and technologies that make it a breeze to start an online store.
So, while people are crushing B2C with technologies like Shopify and WooCommerce, B2B is facing just the opposite – it’s just so much harder!
Why is that so? And what are the challenges B2B companies face when creating an eCommerce channel?
Let’s look at some of those challenges B2B companies face when they are trying to jump on the eCommerce bandwagon.
More Operational Complexities and Higher Technological Demands
B2B companies have a lot of technical and complex business processes with multiple layers of intricate workflows – whether it’s their pricing strategy, product information, customer’s buying processes, or their own sales processes. Nothing is straightforward in B2B.
And so, the pressure builds up when these B2B companies try to implement a consumer-like, straightforward experience with all of their complex processes and data that aren’t ready for the digital transformation.
Take pricing, for example. Instead of straightforward pricing like you see in B2C, B2B companies rely on sales reps getting on call or having in-person meetings with other parties, armed with sample books and printed catalogs, and figuring out the pricing verbally. Instead of digitizing, it’s all in their heads or written on a piece of paper, which accrues over time and ends up in a big ball of yarn that they use to figure out how much their buyers should be paying.
And so, translating all that in a computer system that relies on standardizations and rules can be tricky. It’s also tricky to get those people to leap from all the manual work they were doing to go directly to a computer and construct orders online.
How You Can Overcome This Challenge
When creating an eCommerce channel, the first step is to walk through the process of how a customer finds the product they need, how they transact and pay for it, and how you, as the business, fulfills and delivers that order.
As you drill down the path, you’ll be able to make a roster of what needs to be done to remove the friction and digitize those processes. Once you pinpoint the challenge, you can devise the solutions accordingly – whether they are in the form of integrations, off-the-shelf plugins for your eCommerce platform, or custom development.
Fortunately, a lot of technological advancements have been made in the B2B eCommerce space, and you don’t need bespoke solutions to counter those challenges and digitize your processes. For example, you’ll easily find eCommerce platforms today that have RFQ processes built-in – something that would’ve taken a high development budget previously. You can even find plugins that are specifically made for B2B like the Product Tables plugin for WooCommerce, which removes friction from the product discovery process in B2B eCommerce.
Less Sophistication in Internal Decision-Making
Another main challenge B2B companies face is in the board room when they are trying to bring everyone on the same page in terms of their eCommerce strategy.
Often the people who are responsible for eCommerce development aren’t actually empowered to implement it, and they have to bring the case in front of the committee before implementing anything. And with all the complex business processes and intricate data involved, the friction becomes even higher.
Once they get people to start thinking about eCommerce as a key part of their business, the next challenge arises in the form of budgeting and performance metrics.
How much budget should they allocate to developing their eCommerce channel, and what metrics they should be using to measure its success?
That’s where a lot of conflicts arise – especially when they’re aiming for an amazing consumer experience on top of a seamless and frictionless B2B buying and sales process. In most of the cases, the decision-makers have high expectations from eCommerce implementations without the necessary fundamentals ready like the basic product data to build a website on.
How to Overcome This Challenge
The key to overcome this challenge is to advocate for change and make efforts to make digital a part of the company’s DNA before going forward with the eCommerce implementation.
And once you’re successful in making eCommerce a crucial part of the growth strategy of the business, the next step is to make the groundwork ready.
Gather your product data – graphic files and SKUs aren’t enough to build a site on. You need product descriptions and images to build a rich catalog online where your buyers can easily find what they need and get all information online without having to call your sales reps.
Once you’ve done the groundwork, it’s time to staff your company with people whose job will be to oversee the digital channel. They should be experienced in digital marketing and taking care of digital processes. It’s no use if you get an online B2B store up and running without having someone to log in to the admin side and take care of the necessary stuff on a daily basis.
The next step is to create a digital strategy based on the budget allocated and decide on the performance metrics that will be used to measure success down the road.