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Posted April 19, 2017

b2b ecommerce

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The business to business (B2B) landscape is a hot topic—and with good reason. With double-digit annual growth, B2B ecommerce sales are forecasted to reach $6.7 trillion globally by 2020, more than twice the total of B2C ecommerce ($3.2 trillion).

Consumers who have enjoyed purchasing items for personal use are now looking for a similar experience when purchasing for their business, moving away from the traditional sales representative-based purchasing process. In fact, B2B ecommerce is so prevalent, that 74% of B2B shoppers say buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative.

However, there are different levels of B2B ecommerce seller maturity, and many sellers are still struggling to meet customer needs. Below, we will share some tips on meeting buyer needs with a proper B2B ecommerce strategy designed to help drive more purchases, improved user experience, and higher satisfaction.

Think Like a B2C Seller

It’s likely that your buyers first became accustomed to ecommerce through a site like Amazon, and because of this, they expect a similar experience: Simple, fast, informative, and user-friendly. According to Forrester, nearly half of all buyers prefer to make work-related online purchases on a consumer style website.

Related: B2C Lessons for B2B Ecommerce

Site Search

A major difference between B2B and B2C purchasing is the lack of impulsivity in the B2B sales process. With extended sales cycles, an approval process that generally requires input from multiple departments, and a knowledge of what the buyer is looking for (but not who they’re buying from), one of the most basic elements of a B2B ecommerce site needs to be an effective site search.

MultiChannel Merchant completed a study on buyer preferences, and found that enhanced search functionality was a top need for business buyers, with 60% of buyers choosing this as a top need. Ecommerce&B2B said it this way in chapter 7 of their B2B Ecommerce guide.

“Most people have had a bad search experience at work or home. The infamous “zero results found” or irrelevant search results is guaranteed to frustrate even the most patient of users. A few minutes or even seconds of that experience is enough. So they leave.”

Ecommerce&B2B went further, highlighting examples and explaining the following needs for an effective site search:

  • Context – search should be personalized by who the user is (industry, company, role)
  • Contract – what products they can buy and agreed upon price
  • Warehouse inventory
  • Manufacturer part number
  • Competitor cross reference
  • Part number matching (strip out special characters)
  • Automated spell check

The buyer wants information, and they want information fast. The longer it takes to find something, the more likely a buyer is to bounce away to your site, often ending up on a competitor or third party site.

Smart Recommendations and Personalization

Even if the buying process is standardized, upselling and cross selling will become even more important for sellers looking to maximize revenues. With the salesperson being taken out of the equation in an ecommerce environment, it is imperative to build revenue by recommending complementing products and services to buyers.

Going Mobile

Now more than ever, B2B buyers are using tablets and phones to make purchases for their organization. According to PFS Web, approximately 50% of B2B mobile shoppers stated they now feel comfortable enough to place orders on a mobile device.

Tied in with this is the need for a simplified log in and purchase experience no matter the device, allowing buyers a full, user-friendly experience as they move their product research from one device to another.

…But Remember B2B Basics

The same Forrester study also found that while half wanted a consumer-style website, a majority expected the ability to download product information including spec sheets and technical data—a hallmark of B2B sales that is rarely available on a consumer-facing site.

Immediate Pricing and Availability Information

Two noticeable differences between B2B and B2C is the variation in pricing, whether that’s in the form of customer-specific discounts, volume discounts, or other fluctuations, and the sheer size of purchases.

B2B buyers expect to see availability and pricing information immediately, tailored to them. A Forbes article dove into the top priorities, noting a need for sellers to offer configure-price-quote flexibility and an omnichannel, customer-oriented pricing structure.

Make Payment Convenient for All Buyers

Different purchasing organizations have different purchasing styles. While some organizations have moved ahead and implemented a system in which they use virtual card numbers to pay suppliers (providing suppliers a plethora of data that makes your AR Department’s job easier), it’s important to offer a payment experience that meets the needs of all buyers.

According to Forrester, 50 percent of B2B buyers prefer to pay sellers online using a credit card, 28 percent prefer more traditional methods like purchase orders and invoices, 19 percent prefer an online payment service, and another 3 percent prefer paying through an e-procurement portal.

Conclusion

B2B ecommerce is here to stay, and sellers need to stay with the times to compete in this trillion dollar market. Rapid advances in user experience, support for multi-tier distribution selling, advanced pricing and order workflows enabled with born-in-the-cloud B2B e-Commerce systems are leading the revolution.

Learn more about the rise of B2B ecommerce and how it is changing the way organizations operate by reading the resources below:

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