Business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce may be a huge opportunity, unless, of course, your company is making one of these seven mistakes and killing your chances for success.In just the next few years, B2B ecommerce sales are expected to reach more than $1 trillion dollars annually in the United States, according to Forrester Research, and, perhaps, $6.5 trillion worldwide.
B2B ecommerce sales should account for about 13 percent of all B2B sales by 2021, dwarfing retail ecommerce both in terms of the dollars spent and units sold.
Your business can benefit in at least three ways, since a successful B2B ecommerce channel should:
- Earn new customers,
- Encourage customer loyalty,
- Deepen customer relationships.
Unfortunately, the predicted growth in B2B ecommerce sales and the potential benefits from B2B ecommerce are not guaranteed. Your company will need to develop a B2B ecommerce strategy, select a capable ecommerce platform, and execute your B2B ecommerce solution, without making one of these killer mistakes.
No. 1: You Don't Offer Customary B2B Payment Options
Purchasing professionals expect your B2B ecommerce site to offer more payment options than simply entering a payment card number into an HTML form field.
Your customers may want to issue a purchase order. Perhaps, they will want to have some form of credit available, or they may want to pay with an electronic check via an automated clearing house (ACH) or a physical check via the postal service.
These buyers may even expect terms ranging from 30 days to 120 days.
It's your job to meet these payment expectations as they make sense for your business.
If your B2B ecommerce website is going to be a viable channel, it must offer customary B2B payment options. It must do business in a way that makes it easy and comfortable for your customers to buy from you.
In some cases, you'll need to create customer groups within your ecommerce platform that allow you to offer appropriate payment options to each B2B shopper.
No. 2: You Don't Provide Customer-specific Pricing
B2B buyers understand not all of your business customers pay the same price for the same product.
In fact, it is a point of pride in some purchasing departments to be able to negotiate favorable prices, terms, or freight.
With this in mind, your B2B ecommerce site should show B2B customers their specific, negotiated prices and shipping rates.
You'll need to be able to organize customers into price tiers or payment groups, not unlike the customer groups you would use to show applicable payment options as mentioned earlier.
The aim is to make shopping your B2B ecommerce site as simple as possible.
No. 3: You Don't Provide Good Product Information
Your B2B ecommerce site must have customer-friendly product descriptions, titles, and specifications. It must also have high-resolution, professional photography.
You cannot skimp on data or product presentation — oh, and the internal descriptions you're company has in your ERP are not sufficient.
Successful B2B ecommerce sites provide detailed product data that helps your customers make buying decisions. For example, you should probably provide at least these items when applicable.
- Model or part number
- UPC, ISBN, or similar
- Case pack
- Cube value
- Freight class
- Documentation, like datasheets or MSDS
- Visually appealing photography
Ecommerce sites can make detailed product information available anytime, so your customers won't have to call or email your sales team to get an answer.
Good product data makes it a lot easier to do business with your company online or off.
No. 4: Your Website Sucks
American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said that "genius has its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped."
In the similar way, there are only a few things that can make a B2B ecommerce site great, but there are lots of ways to make it suck.
Your site should be:
- Fast loading
- Mobile optimized
- Easy to navigate
- Easy to search
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Optimized for search
If you're missing any of these, your site probably sucks.
No. 5: Your B2B Site Isn't Integrated with Other Systems
B2B ecommerce is really B2B commerce. The Forrester Research report referenced above estimated that right now, in 2017, something like 11 percent of all B2B sales in the United States are conducted online via a B2B ecommerce site.
B2B ecommerce is not some esoteric, pie-in-the-sky dream, it is truly a requirement for B2B success, and as such it needs to integrate with your other business systems.
One of the best ways to connect your ecommerce platform with everything else you do from order fulfillment to accounts payable is via a representational state transfer (REST) application programming interface (API), without one, your systems may have trouble integrating.
No. 6: Your Sales Team Thinks You're Taking Their Jobs
You have a hard working sales team. They are the engine that has driven your business for years. For them, B2B ecommerce may be a concern.
Some salespeople fear B2B ecommerce leads to lower commissions or even fewer salespeople. If the very folks who represent your company to your customers are afraid they might lose their job to B2B ecommerce, they certainly aren't going to help promote it.
Your B2B ecommerce plan needs to include your sales team from the outset. You should explain how they will get paid for ecommerce sales, how ecommerce sales makes their jobs easier, and how ecommerce sales are better for their customers.
No. 7: You're Not Providing a B2C-like Shopping Experience
Online, business-to-consumer (B2C) retailers like Amazon.com, Jet.com, Walmart.com, and similar have effectively trained your B2B customers — the purchasing professionals at the companies your business sells to — to shop online.
The same buyer who orders from you during the workday goes home orders from top online retailers in the evenings and on weekends. Those buyers enjoy top-notch B2C shopping experiences, responsive customer service agents, and fast fulfillment, and they expect your B2B ecommerce site to be just as good or better.
Specifically, your best customers will expect your company to deliver a B2B buying experience combining the best aspects of B2C ecommerce with the personalized service your company provides now.