While consumer products are the face of digital commerce, the business-end lags behind by no means. B2B eCommerce is a land of opportunity for many business owners and entrepreneurs.
Beyond the glitz and glamor of B2C lies B2B eCommerce, an industry that, according to Forrester, is expected to reach a whopping $9 trillion by 2021. Compared with B2C, which is expected to reach $4.5 trillion, the B2B eCommerce industry overshadows it by a huge margin.
With a 10% compounded annual growth rate, B2B sales in the US can rise from $889 billion in 2017 to an estimated $1.8 trillion in 2023.
It’s an industry with unmatched potential.
One might be tempted to think that the B2B market is only limited to audiences with a general dislike for online buying. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, only 6% of B2B buyers do not use an online marketplace for their business operations. This rest of them are using them one way or another – which is essentially a positive sign for the industry overall.
The digital age is upon us. From reading news articles to conducting business, the average adult spends a fair portion of their day using the internet.
For businesses, the time to go digital is today. Failure to do so results in wasted opportunity and the outright extinction of your traditional business.
This following guide is meant to show you the impact of B2B eCommerce in the digital world. We’ll show you, statistically, the many ways in which B2B is shaping the modern eCommerce market.
B2B Ecommerce – A Land of Opportunity
Businesses the world over are benefiting from the potential of B2B eCommerce. While operating within their respective industries, these business owners have managed to gain significant profits by going digital.
Look at Michigan-based 3DXTech. Selling high-performance polymers might not seem the best business to take online – but you’d be surprised how well this strategy has worked out for them.
Using a variety of different digital marketing and sales strategies, the company has managed to gain an impressive number of customers and leads, becoming one of the major providers of carbon fibers, polymers, and other related industrial goods to a variety of customers throughout the United States.
On the other side of the continent, you have the Chinese giant Alibaba; one of the biggest hybrids of B2B and B2C in the world. With over 18 million buyers and sellers throughout the world, Alibaba has been an innovator of B2B eCommerce since its inception.
A marketplace that has provided an opportunity for niche B2B businesses to gain traction for their own business, Alibaba is the best example of a B2B company that has made business owners from other countries embrace the world of B2B.
B2B is not just limited to products. There are companies like Blackbaud and Salesforce that provide cloud computing solutions and sales CRM to a variety of for-profit and non-profit organizations. Additionally, you also have the likes of web hosting providers like WP-Engine and Amazon Web Services, who provide businesses with website hosting services. Such SaaS companies are the backbone of B2B eCommerce and are just as important as manufactured products.
With the Asian B2B eCommerce market rising more than the US and European markets, there are ample opportunities for Asian business owners to get into B2B eCommerce as well.
B2B eCommerce and the Customer
By reading examples of technical companies like 3DXTech, one might be tempted to generalize B2B as a complicated industry filled with the Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Y demographics. While that is more or less relevant a case to make, it is also important to note that millennials conduct 33% of B2B purchasing.
The potential of that number is only seconded by the estimates of it rising to 44% by 2025.
To put things into perspective, let’s simplify things. Suppose you’re a company with a $10 billion revenue. You are aware that millennial purchases account for 33%, which is $3.3 billion. Losing a connection with the millennial market would constitute a serious loss for the company.
The modern buyer is a smart buyer. Instead of constantly being “delighted,” customers prefer good customer service. A whopping 97% consumers believe that customer service is the deciding factor in whether or not they stay loyal with a brand.
On the subject of customer service, another trend that is rather prevalent today is the concept of self-service. Customers nowadays expect to solve problems themselves using a variety of different self-service options.
Self-service is a more preferred medium compared to the traditional customer service mediums. Statistics show that it is preferred by 67% of customers as an alternative to talking with a representative. Moreover, if available, 91% of online consumers prefer to use knowledge-based articles to find solutions to their problems as opposed to the alternative.
This use of content marketing benefits the consumer and the company, who can reduce their focus on customer service.
The world of eCommerce is changing rapidly. Perhaps the most significant change we’ve witnessed over the years is the preferential change from desktop to mobile eCommerce. Yes, while it is true that mobile eCommerce has been heavily discussed, it’s only been talked about in the context of B2C eCommerce.
Mobile eCommerce for B2B is an underrated tool that has immense potential. Fantastic reporting by the Boston Consulting Group shows that mobile marketing can boost B2B purchases by 20%. On top of that, 60% of buyers show that their mobile devices played a major role in a recent purchase.
For B2B, mobile usage is increasing significantly. Businesses need to take into account the ever-evolving nature of eCommerce to succeed.
Going Digital: How it Takes Your Business to the Next Level
New markets mean new customers. Indeed, going digital can take your business to the next level. Through content optimization, you can reach consumers who previously would have never heard about your brand.
All of that, without opening up a new office or branch.
You can even extend your reach to go international. This is particularly important for B2B buyers whose manufactured products or services are useful in other countries of the world.
Apart from extending your reach, you can even target your offerings to cater to various different locations. The process of localization helps you increase your reach in specific areas. This concept is not just native to local companies. Studies show that over 70% of Fortune 500 companies use localization to target certain regions – ensuring that the language, payment methods, and currency are specific to that region.
With eCommerce, you can go local or international, depending on the type of business you’re trying to run. That, too, with relative ease.
Ecommerce Helps Improve Sales Efficiency
While self-service is a good option for both businesses and customers, if your sales personnel aren’t available at the Customer’s calling, then you’re going to lose a lot of business. That’s a clear and present fact.
Offering buyers the ability to search and filter products according to their preferences helps reduce their burden. Moreover, with knowledge-based articles, they can use effectively self-serve their queries. But what happens when they face a problem that self-service can’t solve?
For that, you need to have a sales agent at the ready to solve their queries in an efficient manner. But what happens when a sales agent is absent? Well, eCommerce solves that problem with the help of live chat integration, extensions, and plugins that automate the lead generation process and puts customers at ease knowing that their queries get solved with or without an agent’s presence.
Traditional Commerce Is A Thing of The Past
Sure, your traditional business might be running well right now. With digital commerce on the rise, however, your business runs a serious risk of extinction.
With more and more buyers and sellers moving towards eCommerce on a daily basis, it’s become crucial for business owners to set up a digital footprint.
What was before only limited to simply B2C eCommerce has now influenced B2B transactions as well. Now, B2B has transformed itself, while keeping its rationality, into a social and fluid industry. Social media, and the internet have also played a significant part in changing the sales funnel.
The funnel itself is not just a straight line anymore before customers used to research a bit and then order B2B products simply. Now, it’s research, evaluation of competitors and prices, and then the purchase decision – even then, they might be tempted to change their minds. Afterward, it’s the sharing of experiences in the form of social media or product reviews.
Because of the complexity of the purchasing process, B2B eCommerce owners now employ a variety of different strategies to gain and convert website traffic. The end-goal is simple: gently take the Customer through the sales funnel, and its associated touchpoints to ensure maximum conversion.
It’s not just about competing based on price. These marketing efforts, along with the retargeting of customers, and taking steps to ensure their loyalty, are the main ingredients of eCommerce, regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C.
These cases show clearly that traditional commerce is on its way out. As a business owner, you need to start planning ahead; otherwise, you will end up on the slippery slope of extinction.
Improved Operations Management
With ecommerce, besides the obvious benefits of sales efficiency, you also get to automate and improve the way your business operates.
With everything online, you can automate processes, simplify manual tasks, and have better accountability for your budget and expenses. With a traditional B2B set up, such a process is simply not possible.
ERP, Sales, and Accounting systems; tightly integrated together, ensure maximum operational efficiency, without the need for manual input. This allows business owners not only to spend less on labor resources, but also helps remove human errors, improve efficiency, and, most importantly, save valuable time.
The product catalog integration ensures that all the product data is kept in sync with the back-office systems to ensure maximum transparency and duplication.
Since operations encompass all the processes within an organization, you can also see up-to-date or real-time performance data for your business. With a CRM, you can get a full analytical view of the performance of products, sales data, and customer interactions – allowing you to tailor your future sales strategies accordingly.
By integrating processes, you are enabling inter-departmental communication. When you remove the barriers in the way of information, your company benefits through efficient operations.
Data Driven Business Decisions
The efficient use of data is the key driver to the growth of any business venture. Just look at Amazon. In his early years, if Jeff Bezos had not utilized data to his advantage, his enterprise would have drowned into obscurity. Now, whenever someone says “Alexa,” Amazon gets more data, which is then processed and analyzed.
You may not be as famous as Amazon, but that does not mean that you can ignore the role data plays in a business. Data mining, processing, and analysis is an important aspect of eCommerce. You can track customer movement on your online store, see which pages they’re going to, and what they are looking at. There are plenty of tools and resources you can use to track customer behavior. Either way, you’re getting valuable insights that help you learn more about the customer journey and how you can convert more customers.
This is not just limited to customer data from the website. Using social media data, you can also perform a sentiment analysis related to your products or services. Having access to such data can give you a primer on what you can do to make your customer service efforts or product quality better.
Lead generation and nurturing also become a lot efficient when it’s based on numbers rather than instinct. Statistics show that data-driven companies have a better productivity rate than those who do not.
Again, regardless of the industry of operations, eCommerce ensures that you get all the external and internal data of your site. The way you use that data is dependent on you or your team.
Are You Ready to Go Digital?
A fair amount of B2B transactions are taking place on the internet. Who would they instead prefer? A business owner selling products using a traditional sales funnel or an eCommerce store owner who has designed and developed his site in accordance with the latest industry standards?
Even within the eCommerce sphere, several factors make a user visit a competitor’s website as opposed to yours. It could be the product quality, the price, or even your site loading slowly. There are lots of considerations to look at when operating inside eCommerce. But a little effort goes a long way in ensuring success.
The main question here is that, are you prepared to embrace eCommerce for all that it is?
Selecting A B2B Platform
If all of what we’ve discussed in this article resonates with you and is eager to take your B2B business digital, you must have a sturdy platform to support your store operations.
Here’s why. While B2B may trail behind B2C in terms of popularity, it’s a very different industry altogether.
In B2C, the transaction model is pretty straightforward. In B2B, however, the transactions involve multiple individuals deliberating over the purchasing of a product. These individuals are usually representative of a company rather than a single person buying a product for personal use. In B2B, the products purchased are in bulk and used for distribution or internal purposes. Because of the stakes involved, B2B buyers need to reason before a purchase.
In turn, sellers need to manage and organize their product catalogs, making it customized according to the prices. Pricing roles, accounting roles, custom pricing, and custom product catalog showcases are just some considerations for a B2B eCommerce business.
All of this is to show you the reason behind why you should pick a B2B-specific platform to support your store operations.
If you’re looking for a platform built for B2B, using WordPress and WooCommerce, the most popular CMS and eCommerce platform, then look no further than B2BWoo.
B2BWoo is a an all-in-one B2B platform powered by WooCommerce, one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in the market. Coming with a variety of B2B-specific features, the platform ensures that your B2B operations are seamless and efficient:
- Dynamic Pricing
- Volume-Based discounts
- Has-Terms Pricing
- Min-Max Order Quantity
- Request for Quote
- Customized Product Catalogs
- Efficient Catalog Management
- Hide/Show Products
- Bulk Ordering and Re-Orders
- Corporate Account Management
- Self-Service Functionality
- Roles-Based Permission