It’s the modern age. Customers want to be able to buy their goods online, and this includes B2B audiences.
So, is your website set up to take advantage of the growing business ecommerce trend? If not, here’s what you need to know.
The growth of B2B ecommerce around the globe
Thanks to the rise of multiple concurrent technologies (mobile, cloud, automation, and just generally better-quality online customer experience), ecommerce for B2B procurement is starting to really skyrocket.
There are a few reasons for this. For starters, in a world where consumers can purchase goods so conveniently online and have them shipped at lightning speed, it was always inevitable that those same consumers would go to work the next day and want the same experience. After all, there isn’t any reason why someone shouldn’t be able to order machine parts, office supplies, raw materials, etc. online on behalf of a business.
Additionally, business ecommerce is proving to be a great success. Indeed, organisations around the world are reporting much higher conversion rates from B2B sales than B2C sales – according to a Forrester survey the average reported conversion rate for B2C was 3%, compared to 10% for B2B. Average order values were also higher (and trending upwards).
Other notable signs of positive growth:
- Because the industry is growing so rapidly, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will happen in the digital realm by 2025 (Gartner).
- The US market alone is showing the potential for this space – expected to hit US$1.8 trillion by 2023 (Forrester).
Key considerations for establishing a B2B ecommerce presence
If you are already used to operating an ecommerce platform for your B2C audience, expanding to include B2B products will not be too different – functionally your shops will be very similar (with perhaps key differences being negotiable prices and different payment options).
However, if you’re new to ecommerce then our advice below should give you a starting point to help you know what direction to take when establishing your digital presence.
1. Remember that B2B customers are used to B2C systems
We may be used to B2B customers operating differently to general consumers, but your buyers will be familiar with B2C systems and therefore may expect a similar customer experience.
These features could include:
- A simple, easy-to-navigate user interface that makes it simple to find, enquire about and purchase products on the device of the user’s choice.
- A degree of personalisation, to make the shopping experience faster and more tailored (79% of business buyers expect this).
- Loyalty programmes designed to reward repeat business.
2. If you go digital, go fully digital
It may seem simple to integrate a new shopping cart into your existing business website but the reality of the modern customer, even in the B2B world, is that people aren’t always on their computer. Mobile devices rule now, and your business should consider going mobile first if possible.
How a lack of mobile friendliness can lose you business
According to Forrester, 62% of B2B businesses say their B2B customers research products on their tablets, and 52% buy with those devices. For smartphones the figures were 54% and 52% respectively. In either case, more than half your potential audience is on a mobile device of some kind – not a computer, and therefore not accessing your products through the desktop site.
On top of that, nearly 60% of B2B buyers would switch brands if their website wasn’t easy to use on mobile.
3. You don’t need to build your own platform
To sell digitally you’re going to need a shopping cart and a payment gateway. Now, if you had the resources you could develop both in-house but this would be arduous and risky – there are plenty of ready-to-go options on the market to consider that will help get you set up sooner.
Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento are all popular shopping carts that can quickly integrate with common website platforms. For payment gateways, in New Zealand, Flo2Cash, Paystation, Windcave, Bambora and Stripe are all commonly used.
- Read our definitive guide to payment gateways
4. Offer multiple payment options
In the modern world of online shopping, customers want to be able to purchase the way that suits them. Paying by invoice, company credit card, direct payment – they’re all now easy to implement with digital tools and it is expected that most ecommerce websites will offer the full range.
Of course, as you’re selling products in an e-procurement capacity, the relationship customers have with your website may be a little different to the typical customer experience. Instead of paying immediately with a credit card, they may want a quote or invoice. Consider what might be relevant to your audience, and research the digital tools available to service those needs.
Some links to help your research
- Custom quoting tools
- Electronic invoicing
- Common consumer payment options that B2B buyers may wish to use
5. Ecommerce shouldn’t function in a vacuum
One of the best ways to get the most out of an ecommerce platform is to ensure that it is connected to your other key systems. That way your sales data can feed directly into other important areas of the business, allowing you to build the analytics you need to predict future trends, spot money pits and optimise your business.
These days most aspects of a business can be made smart using automation, machine learning and cloud technology. This way disparate systems can feed into each other, even updating each other automatically or performing simple tasks (like ordering new stock when certain supplies run low).
Consider researching these technologies – would any be useful for your operation?
- Smart accounting software (like Xero)
- Inventory management software
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Smart governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC)
There is increasingly little difference between a B2B and B2C buyer – when a businessperson can access all the products they need outside of work through convenient online portals, they’re going to want the same thing at work, too.
E-procurement is a growing industry and any organisation that sells in a B2B capacity would be wise to consider opening an online ecommerce platform.
However, in order for this investment to be a success, it must factor:
- Mobile-friendly user experiences
- Convenient payment options
- Smart, interconnected technology platforms