B2B ecommerce is growing quickly. According to estimates from Forrester Research, B2B ecommerce will account for about 11 percent of all B2B sales in the United States this year (2017) and will grow to about 13 percent or something like $1.2 trillion by 2021. The global B2B ecommerce market should exceed $6.5 trillion in just the next few years.
B2B Sales are Migrating to Ecommerce
While overall B2B sales will grow during this same period, much of the increase in B2B ecommerce will come from customers switching channels to improve effectiveness or reduce costs.
Put another way, the increase in B2B ecommerce sales will — for the most part — come of existing buyers who stop calling or faxing to place an order and instead shop online.
In fact, something like half of purchasing professionals are already making some of their B2B purchases online from suppliers with capable B2B ecommerce websites.
The B2B Benefits You Already Recognize
There are many reasons for this migration from, call them, traditional B2B sales channels to B2B ecommerce.
For example, three years ago the Acquity Group (now Accenture Interactive) estimated that 94 percent of professional B2B shoppers do some form of online research before making a purchase. Today, that number might actually be higher.
B2B ecommerce streamlines the reorder process, making both your sales team and your customers far more effective.
Last year, MSC Industrial Supply Co. reported that nearly 60 percent of its quarterly revenue came from B2B ecommerce sales. The company lists almost a million SKUs, all with detailed product inform, and, ultimately, it helps its customers place orders efficiently.
B2B ecommerce also tends to reduce costs for everyone involved. An automated, standardized ecommerce workflow is more efficient and effective than asking an inside salesperson take phone calls or retype purchase orders from a fax. It is just a better way to do business.
These examples, however, are probably the B2B ecommerce benefits you already know about. You might not even be reading this article, if you didn't recognize that your customers want B2B ecommerce and that B2B ecommerce is more effective than many other sales channels.
There are, however, at least three more compelling and, perhaps, strategic benefits from B2B ecommerce.
B2B Ecommerce Attracts New Customers
Not every wholesaler, not every industrial supplier, not every distributor or manufacturer is going to be ready for B2B ecommerce in time.
These laggards create a market opportunity for companies ready and able to sell B2B online.
Your company has the opportunity to publish detailed product information and specifications on your B2B ecommerce website. This might include anything from product capabilities and availability to market data.
When purchasing professionals research products online — and remember at least nine out of ten of them do — they can not only get data from your company, they can make an initial purchase, ask for a sample, or request a quote in a very familiar way, since those same buyers are already comfortable with ecommerce in their personal lives. It will seem like an extra and unnecessary step if they have to call or fax.
Separately, your sales team will soon be able to use B2B ecommerce as a competitive advantage. When one of your salespeople calls on a business, he or she can show this potential customer how easy it is to replenish or reorder online. Perhaps, your ecommerce platform can even integrate with the customer's punchout system for further efficiency.
In B2B sales, even a small difference, a tiny advantage can help you win new business, and B2B ecommerce is likely to be more than a tiny advantage.
B2B Ecommerce Helps You Retain Current Customers
Don't be the laggard business losing customers to an upstart competitor with a shiny new B2B ecommerce site.
Your B2B ecommerce solution helps you keep the customers you have. If you can make doing business with your company easy, your customers — the purchasing professionals at the companies your business sells to — are less likely to switch vendors.
In fact, if the only thing a B2B ecommerce site did for your business was help you keep the customers you have now, wouldn't it be worth the investment?
B2B Ecommerce Helps You Sell More to Existing Customers
Business-to-consumer (B2C) retailers have spent more than a decade mastering cross-selling, up-selling, personalization, and product recommendations.
The best B2C sellers use big data to sell more to each shopper, and everything they have learned, all of the on-site merchandising techniques are available to B2B ecommerce sellers.
Your company may be able to significantly increase its sales to each customer using techniques and technology already available. This can be a big advantage for your new B2B ecommerce site.
A capable B2B ecommerce website should help your company attract new customers, keep the customers you already have, and sell more to each of your customers.