In 2019, US B2B eCommerce sales were predicted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023, accounting for 17% of all B2B revenue. But, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, when face-to-face meetings and business travel are beginning to feel like distant memories, these predictions are likely to be a gross underestimate.
So, what is B2B eCommerce?
It’s the sale of goods, business-to-business, through an eCommerce website. The products traded are the same as those sold through more traditional, high-touch channels, but the ‘action’ takes place through your online store.
B2B eCommerce represents more than just an additional sales channel – it’s the cornerstone of your digital transformation goals. When implemented correctly, it can massively level up the profitability of your business.
How to Deliver a B2B eCommerce Experience
Executives shouldn’t think of eCommerce as "just another sales channel". Learn how this massive shift in B2B buying is shaping how companies win or lose.
You can take your company global by vastly extending your reach.
Whether you want to take your business “global” or not, you can significantly increase the size of your total addressable market by shifting your focus away from human sales reps and towards a B2B eCommerce portal. B2B eCommerce has unlimited reach in terms of customer volume and geography, unlike a human sales rep who can only manage a small group of customers at any one time.
With B2B eCommerce, your customers can interact with your products virtually, through any device, and they can access you directly through search (low cost of acquisition). The 5G network, set to expand to every corner of the globe over the next five years, means an increasing number of B2B buyers will be operating solely through their mobile phones, and you need to be able to meet their gaze.
Your customers can independently configure and customize the most sophisticated products and product bundles.
It’s not just basic, low-value goods that pair well with B2B eCommerce. With a visual product configurator, such as Epicor CPQ, visitors to your website can “build” and buy the most complex, customizable, engineer-to-order products without the need for a human sales rep or engineer.
Visitors can interact with 3D representations of your products in real-time, adding or removing parts, changing colors and dimensions, and upgrading features. It’s a fully immersive experience that offers greater interactivity than any physical showroom, and buyers can access it from anywhere.
With 3D visual configuration, buyers take greater ownership of their selections, relate to your products and brand on a deeper, more emotional level, and conversion rates increase by 40% (on average) as a result.
You can slash costs across your entire organization.
Yes, bossing B2B eCommerce in your industry takes investment, but there are substantial costs to be saved on the other side of the equation. As your business expands, you’re faced with two choices: hire more reps, or double down on technology. B2B eCommerce, with its rock-bottom acquisition and retention costs and limitless potential for scalability (up and down), is by far the cheaper and more flexible option.
Rules-based systems built into your B2B eCommerce solution diminish the potential for human error saving you money. While catastrophic mistakes (missed zeros!) strike fear into the hearts of CFOs the world over, it’s often the cumulative effect of thousands of tiny errors that cause the most damage – refunds, rework, chargebacks, and disgruntled customers. It’s “death by a thousand cuts.”
Automation of all those repetitive, time-sapping tasks that bog down customer support and engineering frees up your employees to concentrate on innovation – doing the creative, enjoyable work that increases profitability rather than eroding it. Staff retention and job satisfaction go up accordingly.
You can personalize customer experiences to multiply order values.
It’s frequently said that B2B eCommerce is “impersonal” even though the exact opposite is true. With B2B eCommerce, you can deliver a fully personalized experience in line with what buyers encounter in their everyday B2C lives (Amazon, Netflix, Google, etc.) You can harness AI and machine learning to provide customized offers, upsells, and cross-sells that increase basket size, margin, and customer satisfaction.
With B2B eCommerce, your customers can “self-serve,” viewing order histories, tracking deliveries, reading terms and conditions, browsing products, and accessing customer support at a time and pace that suits them (no more hold music and clueless new hires.) Satisfied customers frequently go on to provide feedback and reviews – powerful social proof that instills greater confidence in prospects.
What’s more, as customers navigate through your B2B eCommerce site, you’re able to track their behavior and apply learned insights to build detailed personas, improving customer experiences and profits still further. Advanced CPQ analytics predict purchase patterns, forecast future sales, and inform marketing strategies.
You can reach a new breed of buyer who’s tired of face-to-face interactions
Picture your typical B2B buyer. If it’s a middle-aged man in an ill-fitting suit, you may be surprised to learn that 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product purchase decision-making at their companies (one-third being sole decision-makers.) Millennials are the largest generation in the US labor force these days.
The business buyer has changed. In their personal lives, they use services like Amazon and Google, and they’re demanding the same personalized, “have it your way” experiences when they go to work. Sellers need to wake up to this increasingly influential group’s preferences, all of which are met by taking a B2B eCommerce approach:
- Millennials bring their B2C buying behavior to their B2B decision-making, expecting the same frictionless, consumer-like experience
- Millennial buyers self-educate – 70% fully define their needs through search before engaging with a sales rep.
- Millennials value IQ (e.g., technology) over EQ (e.g., an emotional connection with a seller.) “Relationship selling” is dying.
You can open up new and exciting opportunities with the B2B2C model
By investing in B2B eCommerce, you can tap into significant new markets with the B2B2C model. With B2B2C, your company (B1) accesses customers through a second business (B2), but interacts directly with them, under its own brand. Unlike a channel partnership, customers are fully aware that they are buying from B1, and, crucially, B1 retains the customers and data generated from every transaction.
The benefits to your business are clear-cut. You can cheaply acquire a large volume of new customers, many of whom don’t like buying online or would never have found you through search. You get credibility and brand exposure by partnering with an established B2 and more significant economies of scale by selling more units, even though you’ll sacrifice some margin.
Meanwhile, the B2 makes a commission on every sale, lures more customers into stores, and can sell complementary goods. The customer gets convenience, confidence in their purchase, and the potential for in-person customer assistance. Everyone’s a winner.