The world of B2B sales is changing. Whether you sell apparel, health supplements, or electrical components, one thing remains the same across the board - customers expect the best experience possible when they decide to make a purchase. This is true for the business-to-business customer who increasingly has the same expectations as when they make direct-to-consumer purchases, making for a new challenge for how B2B businesses can get ahead of their competition. The solution - developing a strong B2B ecommerce offering.
Why is B2B moving toward ecommerce?
B2B ecommerce is the “next normal” and a preference for B2B interactions
Throughout the last few years, more and more businesses were moving their B2B sales to ecommerce and the Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated this trend. As traditional sales channels had to adapt, many businesses saw the value in getting their B2B sales online. As a result, the majority of B2B interactions have moved to remote or digital and over 70% of buyers now prefer these remote interactions and self-serve digital channels. The narrative has shifted considerably from being “forced” to move online, to actively pursuing digital as the “next normal” being seen as easier and much more effective than traditional sales channels.
Younger B2B buyers with higher digital awareness
More millennials are now in decision-making roles in the B2B process, and with those younger decision makers comes a better understanding of and experience with digital solutions. In a recent survey of millennials working in B2B organizations, 44% said they were the primary decision maker and 33% said they are key influencers. Traditional B2B therefore needs to adapt to suit this higher awareness audience, and a big part of that will be going digital. In the same survey, 55% said a digital buying experience is extremely important to their decision making process in choosing new partners, while 33% said it was very important to have a tailored and streamlined digital experience.
B2B buyers expectations have increased
For many years if a brand had a digital B2B offering at all it was simply an ordering portal. However with the growth in ecommerce and digital experiences in recent years, that’s proving to be the minimum that B2B buyers expect. They now want fully realized, personalized ecommerce experiences similar to what they’ve come to expect of the DTC experience. A “service-over-sales” approach is becoming more of a priority for B2B buyers and sellers - in a survey of B2B sellers, 95% reported more sales from initial website clicks when they took this approach by leveraging digital tools and technology.
3 reasons to move your B2B business to an ecommerce platform
Deciding to change a major operational aspect of your business is a big decision, and of course you aren’t going to take it lightly just because it’s a current trend. Whilst we expect it to become the norm, here are some additional reasons why B2B ecommerce is a massive benefit to businesses looking to improve and grow their B2B operations.
1. Reach new audiences and open new opportunities
Traditional B2B sales channels are limiting to your business. The manual process of filling out sales orders, managing inventory, multiple pricing structures and more mean that you end up relying on traditional sales acquisition to get new customers such as in-person meetings and cold-calling. Even if your business has an online B2B platform, these are often only accessible once the customer has been signed up by a sales representative. By having your B2B sales on an easy-to-use ecommerce platform, more people will be able to actually find your business and learn more about your brand and products. If you are able to ship B2B orders outside your local area, then you can open up national and even international opportunities.
2. Greater flexibility for customers
B2B customers want flexibility in their ordering process - 41% of buyers say that a self-service functionality would make it easier for them to do business online. You can offer different payment methods, an easy-to-use search function, more information, and even order tracking so that your B2B customers can get the info they need when they need it rather than relying on a sales call or being frustrated when they can’t use a preferred payment method.
3. Reduce sales team time spent on traditional tactics
Traditional B2B sales teams generally spend a lot of time on the phone taking orders, liaising with couriers, organizing shipments, and trying to collate data to make future decisions. By moving the B2B sales process online, you’re not only giving the customer an easier experience but also freeing up your sales team’s time to spend on what really matters - customer care. Instead of taking orders over the phone, they can focus on outreach to leads coming through your B2B store, and engaging with key customers to improve their relationships and really build customer loyalty. It also gives them a clear view of every order processed, so if something does go wrong they have full visibility on the situation and can get matters resolved quickly.
Bonus: Simplify your DTC vs B2B operations
The B2B market is extremely varied. It encompasses not only different B2B business models such as distribution, wholesale, and middle-man manufacturing, but also businesses with a direct-to-consumer operation also. That means you might be a brand with an online store, as well as a traditional B2B wholesale operation. If this is the case, then moving your B2B to an ecommerce platform can be massively beneficial in simplifying your day-to-day operations. All your business is done on the same platform, so you can get the same data reporting for your B2B as you do for your DTC as well as being able to consolidate effort normally spent managing online DTC and traditional B2B.
3 reasons to integrate your B2B operations with Shopify Plus
Looking at the reasons for moving your B2B operations to ecommerce is just the first step, the next is deciding which platform serves your business best. That’s where Shopify Plus comes in.
Greater control over all aspects of B2B sales
The experience of B2B ecommerce isn’t just beneficial to your customers, but also to your sales and fulfilment teams. By having everything online, you can get accurate sales data that can be used for inventory forecasting as well as how to better promote certain products, plus customer data that will give you a better picture of your audience and market the same way you would get with retail ecommerce. You can also integrate Shopify Plus with other inventory management systems, as well a wide range of apps and other integrations that can improve and automate your sales workflow. On top of the behind-the-scenes features, Shopify Plus also allows you to offer a fully branded experience to customers so you have full control over how your B2B ecommerce store looks and feels.
Offer a direct-to-consumer style experience to B2B customers
In DTC sales customer experience is often where you can really get the edge on your competitors, this is true too for B2B. B2B buyers don’t exist in that singular identity; they are also DTC consumers in other aspects of their life so they understand and have experience with that style of purchasing. Therefore they know that an easy, personalized ecommerce experience is possible. By building a B2B ecommerce platform using Shopify Plus, you give them that same experience they’d get as a DTC customer with an online account, order tracking, personalization with custom pricing and recommendations, and more. Plus you can create custom pages such as an FAQ or payment terms, giving your customers even more information and support.
Reliable platform with 24/7 priority support
When dealing with B2B, you may be dealing with high volume or value orders. This means it’s crucial to day-to-day operations to have a robust platform with a strong support team behind it. Shopify Plus offers unlimited bandwidth and boasts an impressive 99.9% uptime, meaning you’re unlikely to miss important sales from key B2B customers. On the support side, they also offer fast priority 24/7 support to Plus merchants over phone, email, or chat. That way if something does go wrong, you’ve got their expertise on hand any time day or night.
B2B ecommerce is evidently growing, with sales on B2B ecommerce sites growing by 10% to reach $1.39 trillion in the US in 2020 - this figure is closer to $2.19 trillion when combined with e-procurement sales. Developing a strong service-over-sales approach with a personalized, easy-to-use ecommerce platform will be the key to growth in the B2B market for many merchants. By offering greater flexibility to customers, and more control to sales and fulfillment teams, you can position your business as a leader in the B2B market for your industry.
Get in touch with our team to learn more about how you can improve your B2B operations with Shopify Plus.