What is B2B eCommerce? A Manufacturer’s Guide

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B2B eCommerce is the sale of goods or services from one business to another online.

Instead of receiving orders via sales reps, buyers place orders on sellers’ websites. And, if the website’s back-end is configured as it should be, what happens afterward is automated, saving time and money.

Sales on B2B ecommerce sites grew 10% between 2019 and 2021, from $1.26 trillion to $1.39 trillion. That’s a huge increase. But what’s even more staggering is the projected growth rate. Most B2B brands (62%) say they could get ‘at least half’ of their revenue from online commerce by 2025. The potential ramifications for manufacturers are huge.

Read on to find out:

  • Why manufacturers are going all-in on B2B eCommerce
  • How to get buyers to order from you online
  • What a B2B eCommerce platform is (and if you need one)
  • Why B2B eCommerce integration is so crucial

How to Deliver a B2B eCommerce Experience

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Why are manufacturers going all-in on B2B eCommerce?

It’s impossible to talk about B2B eCommerce without acknowledging the impact of Covid. The pandemic has accelerated a pre-existing trend towards B2B eCommerce by five years or more. A recent McKinsey survey found that less than 30% of B2B buyers want to interact with reps in person ever again. If that’s how buyers feel, manufacturers have to respond.

But appeasing buyers with self-serve isn’t the only reason why manufacturers are jumping on B2B eCommerce. As a sales channel, B2B eCommerce provides a raft of additional benefits. With eCommerce, manufacturers can:

  • Break out of local markets and start selling to customers all over the world
  • Gather a wealth of behavioral data to include things like site searches and most viewed products and categories
  • Use customer profiles to provide personalized buyer journeys, enhancing customer experiences while increasing deal size through upsells and cross-sells
  • Tap into the email, affiliate, PPC, social, and content marketing opportunities that their competitors are using against them
  • Automate time-consuming manual processes such as product configuration, pricing, and quoting, reducing costs, and eliminating errors
  • Handle peaks and troughs in demand without hiring or firing additional employees

If You Want Buyers To Find You Online, You Need a Strategy

Build a website, put it on the internet, and wait for orders to start rolling in. Yeah, if only it were that simple. With competitors only a click away, you need a strategy to entice new customers to your site and persuade existing ones to transition from in-person to online.

In fiercely competitive markets where it’s hard to differentiate product and price, you need to provide a supreme customer experience – convenient, personal, and compelling. Here are some of the ways you can stand out from the crowd.

1. CPQ for B2B eCommerce: Embed a visual product configurator onto your website

By embedding a visual CPQ solution like KBMax onto your website, you can empower your customers to configure the most complex engineer-to-order products without any input from sales and engineering.

Visitors to your site can configure products in 3D, changing colors, dimensions, parts, and features with simple drag and drop. Product rules coded into the back-end of the configurator ensure that every configuration is optimized not only for customer satisfaction but for engineering efficiency.

KBMax has AR and VR capabilities that provide fully immersive buying experiences. Remote buyers can visit your virtual showroom or position computer-generated product images into real-world scenarios captured by the cameras on their phones.

2. Provide an outstanding B2B eCommerce experience on mobile

With the shift to remote work and many high-profile entrepreneurs working exclusively from their phones, it’s crucial to provide an eCommerce buying experience as impressive on mobile and tablet as on desktop.

60% of all search volume is carried out on mobile devices. So it’s no surprise that Google treats mobile experience as a more significant ranking factor than desktop. Mobile is where many manufacturers fail and where you can swoop in to steal new business.

Master influencer marketing and user-generated content

Cristiano Ronaldo, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, and Taylor Swift top the list of the biggest global influencers. While a tweet from Ronaldo might bring thousands of visitors to your website, few will stick around to purchase your building supplies, biotech systems, or heavy equipment!

You need to find the influencers in your industry. You can do this quickly with paid tools like BuzzSumo, or simply by searching Twitter and LinkedIn. Eliciting user-generated content and turning customers into advocates is another excellent, cost-effective way to provide social proof in your marketing efforts.

Other B2B eCommerce strategies you can use to boost sales

4. Create a loyalty program and offer rewards to drive retention.

5. Concentrate on voice – 40% of Americans use voice search, and your competitors aren’t optimizing for it!

6. Personalize everything from email marketing to prices, categories, search results, and recommendations – be the Amazon of your industry.

7. PPC (pay-per-click) – if it works for you, it can drive massive top-line growth.

8. Focus on AI – use intelligent chatbots to guide customers through your sales funnel.

9. Ship your products faster and more reliably than competitors.

10. Explore a range of business models like B2B2C (selling through rather than to retailer partners), subscription models (tying customers into monthly plans to increase lifetime value), and selling to B2B marketplaces (like Amazon Business or Alibaba).

What Is a B2B eCommerce Platform? And Why Do I Need One?

A B2B eCommerce platform is the software you use to sell your products directly to customers online.

There are several different types, but the most popular eCommerce platforms these days are SaaS (software-as-a-service) platforms like Magento.

With a SaaS platform, you effectively “rent” a ready-made eCommerce solution from a SaaS vendor, accessing the back end via your web browser. You design your site to look and operate precisely as you wish and pay a monthly subscription fee to use it.

SaaS B2B eCommerce platforms have many distinct benefits that include:

Agility: You can have your website up and running within weeks and make changes on the fly without serious downtime.

Manageability: Vendors handle upgrades, bug fixes, and continuous updates that future-proof your solution.

Usability: Non-technical employees can soon get to grips with the straightforward back-end.

Scalability: Your website can easily cope with unexpected traffic spikes.

Affordability: Costs are spread out monthly – there’s no hefty up-front fee, so less risk.

Integrations: There are hundreds of pre-built enterprise integrations and eCommerce apps.

B2B eCommerce Integration Is Everything

Sound hyperbolic, but if your B2B eCommerce platform lacks integration with your other third-party applications and back-end systems, you’re wasting your time. Manual data re-entry, duplication errors, and data silos will erode any potential efficiency gains.

If you want a B2B eCommerce solution that just works, it has to be seamlessly integrated with your ERP, CRM, and CPQ. When fully integrated organization-wide, you can get operations, supply chain, warehousing, HR, sales, manufacturing, finance, customer support, and the shop floor all on the same page.