Ecommerce is more than just a buzzword, it’s a reality. We’re all familiar with online buying in the B2C world, and are probably more Amazon Prime-dependent than we’d like to admit. But in all the ecommerce chatter, B2B often slips under the radar. Despite the low-profile, B2B ecommerce is booming. Its market size is larger, conversion rates are higher, and growth rates are stronger than its B2C counterpart. So why aren’t we talking about it, and why are many businesses slow to fully embrace its potential? Blame lack of confidence.

Customer Hesitation

B2B leaders worry that their customers will shy away from online selling tactics. But when we look at customer behaviors, we see that this isn’t the case at all. Customers are ready and willing – it’s the providers who are slowing the process. 

Cannibalizing Revenue 

Worried that ecommerce will hurt existing sales channels? Fear not. B2B businesses with established ecommerce practices have found that online sales revenues are largely new sales – not sales stolen from existing channels. Not only are ecommerce revenues incremental, they are significant. That’s some positive ROI, my friends.

Increased revenue and higher customer adoption rates – what more could you ask for? Might I suggest an improved customer experience?

Your website needs to do more than just transact, it needs to sell.

According to Google's "B2B's Digital Revolution," business buyers complete 57% of the purchase process, on average, before ever contacting a supplier. More than half of their journey is self-directed discovery. It’s your content’s job to lead them in the right direction and ensure a complete and positive understanding of your brand.

Let’s break it down:

  1. Help customers find you. Offer your products and services as a solution to a particular problem that they have, not just as products and services.
  2. Educate them. Let your content speak for your brand (because your customers don’t want to speak to you). Be accurate, be persuasive, be authentic.
  3. Close the deal. Ecommerce engines simplify this step astronomically. Your customers are researching online, they are considering online—help them check out online, without giving them the opportunity for distraction.

Creating the right experience

If you’re still reading, maybe I’ve sold you on the benefits of ecommerce for your B2B website. Time to make it happen.

How do you make B2B buyers happy? Treat them like consumers (spoiler alert: they are people, too). Business shoppers might be sitting at a desk or walking around a job site, but they expect the same quality of experience they get when they’re off the clock.

  • Transparency, above all, is a key motivator for B2B customers, even trumping low prices. Pricing that is both accurate and easy to locate (without the assistance of a sales rep) simplifies research and decision-making (LYONSCG “Consumerization of B2B Commerce”). 
  • It’s all in the details: 31% of enterprise buyers will make their final purchase on the website that has the most product details and information, not necessarily the site with the widest selection of products or the site that's easiest to use (although they prefer to start their search there) (Practical Ecommerce, “How to Attract B2B Buyers to Ecommerce”). 
  • Stalk them (in a good way). The complexity, meticulous specifications, and scale of B2B transactions makes order history and cross-device activity tracking critical. Provide access to past orders and payments. Give them the option to re-order without having to repeat the tedium of browsing, comparing, and narrowing of product options.
  • Speedy transactions and around-the-clock accessibility are the calling cards of ecommerce. If you aren’t providing these capabilities, regardless of customer base, you need to reassess your online sales tool.

Now what?

It’s important to ease into ecommerce—don’t immediately re-align your sales team or disconnect your phone lines. Not all customers will be ready for internet-based ordering. Ensure that you still maintain traditional sales funnels to accommodate these users.

As for the ecommerce-savvy B2B buyers, they’re just like us. In many cases, they are us. Cater to them just like any other ecommerce customer. Keep things short and simple, and support the experience with a top notch customer success team.

Which B2B companies do you know of who do a great job with their ecommerce experience?

Or, if you're a B2B company which isn't currently using ecommerce, what are some of the challenges that have kept you from making the shift?

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