Amazon’s launch into the B2B eCommerce market two years ago should have had alarm bells ringing in the 700,000 or so small to medium-sized B2B businesses in the US. The adoption of a digital transformation has been building steam within the past five years, at an ever-accelerating rate.
When you consider that technology-loving millennials have aged into the workforce and that these millennials make up 50% of buyers according to Google, the result is that B2B eCommerce technology is not only here to stay—it’s the determining factor that predicts the long-term success of B2B companies, or any business for that matter.
Today’s B2B buyer is already online for several reasons. The consumer buying experience is so advanced that B2B buyers expect a similar eCommerce experience, despite the great number of complexities and challenges that come with bringing B2B buying online.
The other reason: industry-leading B2B companies are online and have created such exceptional eCommerce experiences that companies are forced out of business if they don’t modernize with technology.
Even with an inferior product (in some cases), a company utilizing a digital-first approach to technology will win over companies with better product quality, but no technology.
Companies that apply the digital-first approach should not only apply it to purchasing online, it should also be applied to operations, customer service and logistics. A multichannel, digital approach to sales is also required and expected by buyers.
Customers want the same experience across every channel of business and their data, such as order history, invoices and payments, to be available no matter whether they’re online in the office or on their mobile device, in a retail location or meeting with their field sales representative.
Lastly, once companies digitize every facet of their business, reduced costs and efficiencies are gained in the process, saving time and money. By making the customer experience a focus of the entire business, buyers become less likely to stray.
For these reasons, B2B companies need to take a digital-first approach towards their entire business, primarily through the implementation of eCommerce. Many companies are doing just this by taking many operational and eCommerce functions to the cloud via applications, which lends to greater flexibility and affordability as a company grows.
The Shift in B2B Buyer Expectations
Today, both consumer and buyer trust is partially gained according to the technology you use to engage with them. This, as well as the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, is the reasoning behind a digital-first strategy.
It’s a Digital-first World
A digital-first strategy refers to the shift in preference of today’s consumers and buyers to communicate and engage with companies digitally (versus more traditional channels like print).
A digital-first strategy emphasizes the use of modern communication channels, like text messaging, social media and highly-personalized emails that include product recommendations and targeted promotions.
The Amazon Factor
Leading the way in B2C eCommerce, Amazon’s best-in-class buying experience has pressured B2B companies to improve their eCommerce capabilities. In fact, “Amazon’s share of the US eCommerce market will rise to 47% of sales this year (2019).”
For example, Amazon enables consumers to maintain items in their cart until they are ready to buy or save them for later, show real time product and quantity availability, advanced shipment tracking, previous purchase history, mobile access recommendations, customized pricing and the ability to buy with a single click, just to name a few. Now, B2B buyers are expecting, and in most cases demanding, the same experience.
Why Mobile Matters
With smartphone and tablet adoption continuing to grow each year, marketers and eCommerce companies cannot ignore the fact that buyers want to shop and purchase on their mobile devices. B2B buyers want to be able to purchase anytime, anywhere, on any device.
According to Forrester, who predicts that B2B eCommerce will hit 1.8 trillion by 2023, “65% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct their research online, rather than work with a salesperson.”
Buyers Crave a Customized Experience
Buyers also crave customization when they shop, such as being able to view their custom pricing, promotions and offers. While this is challenging for B2B companies, it satisfies the buyer’s need to see their pricing before they purchase, rather than call customer service to get pricing.
In addition to viewing customized pricing, B2B buyers are demanding a good user experience. Buyers need to be able to easily find the products they need, place large orders easily and select their preferred payment method, whether it’s an invoice that’s generated or a credit card.
If you’d like to learn how Systum’s B2B eCommerce platform can help you meet the needs of the modern B2B buyer, reach out to us below.