For businesses who are selling their products/services online, the call to effective e-commerce has never been stronger. More people are online than ever before, thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of smartphones and other WiFi-enabled devices. In the B2B world, 61% of all transactions now start online and they want the same experience as B2C consumers - speedy efficiency and a user-friendly website.
But their needs are different which is what leads us onto six common B2B e-commerce challenges. Let’s discuss.
- B2B customers expect more personalised experiences
- There are more decision-makers and the buying journey is complex
- B2B buyers want different ways to pay
- Promoting multiple product lines/brands under one parent company
- Complex shipping requirements made easy
- Complex products/services should be easily accessed
1. B2B customers expect more personalised experiences
Loyal, long-time customers don’t just come out of nowhere. Those legacy relationships are built and nurtured over time. One thing that helps? Treating your returning customers differently to how you’d treat your potentials.
For example, you could offer:
- Automatic pricing options specific to their previous requirements
- Product/service recommendations based on their purchase and search history
- Bulk deal pricing, such as auto-applied discounts
Like B2C, B2B customers want a user-friendly online experience that allows them to browse, enquire and purchase in the most convenient way possible. And offering them options based on their previous interactions with your company helps.
2. There are more decision-makers and the buying journey is complex
The B2B buying journey is usually long and complex. Firstly, there are various decision-makers/stakeholders involved whose approval is needed for the purchase to go ahead. Then, there are intricate factors to consider, such as:
- Cost and whether it’s within budget
- Solution reliability and reputation
- Supplier reliability and reputation
- Getting team buy-in
There’s a lot for you to keep up with so you need efficient back-office management on your side. Manual processes won’t cut it; you’ll need tools to help each decision-maker the information they need and ultimately portray your company as the right choice for the business.
3. B2B buyers want different ways to pay
From quarterly retainer payments to year-long contracts with discounts for being a long-time customer, offering a range of flexible payment options that are bespoke to the customer where applicable can help you win over new clients while keeping your existing ones happy.
Efficient customer data management is key here, particularly if you’re going to offer bespoke discounts and other incentives for customer loyalty.
4. Promoting multiple product lines/brands under one parent company
It’s common for companies to offer more than one product line or brand. It’s also common for customers to want their chosen companies to offer a range of products/services and brands - this makes it more convenient if they require further innovation in the future.
However, it’s important to ensure all these product lines and brands all sound like the same company. Even if they sell completely different products/services, the branding must be consistent for the best experience.
There are tools, such as a Product Information Management system, that can help you manage your product data in one place. From ensuring brand guidelines are followed to updating product data in and collaborating with your team in real-time, these tools can help you effectively promote multiple product lines and brands.
5. Complex shipping requirements made easy
We mentioned earlier that the B2B buying process is complex and that includes the shipping aspect. B2B customers need a range of shipping requirements, for example:
- The possibility of repeat orders
- The frequency of repeat orders
- A range of flexible quotes
- Ability to amend on short notice
Despite the complexity, these buyers will expect a B2C-like experience of lightning-fast delivery, regular updates and a problem-free service.
Then there’s the actual delivery. All customers want their purchases to be delivered as quickly as possible but for B2B customers, these delivery timelines are especially tight. So, delivering on time is particularly crucial.
You can tackle this challenge by ensuring efficient management of your customer and product data on your website. A commerce-ERP integration is also vital as it allows customers to find the information they need (such as price quotes and shipping methods) without needing to ask your customer service or sales teams for help.
6. Complex products/services should be easily accessed
The days of ordering via a physical catalogue are over. Modern buyers are even moving away from in-person sales meetings - or they’re at least preferring to research their options online as much as possible by themselves before turning to a salesperson.
- Relevant search results (e.g. based on their previous interactions with your company/website)
- Easy, seamless website navigation (e.g. the navigation path should be straightforward)
- Relevant content on products/services (e.g. based on their interests or previous interactions with your company/website)
- The ability to customise based on their bespoke requirements (e.g. pricing, customising products/services, bundles)
Integrated tools that can intuitively offer a unique online experience based on customer data can help. For example, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can store your customer data. When integrated with your e-commerce platform and Content Management System (CMS), it can display personalised suggestions and search results.
You can also monitor your customers’ online activity, such as how they navigate around the website, and use that knowledge to ensure your site navigation is as convenient as possible for your customers.
And finally, an integration between your e-commerce platform and ERP system so:
- Customers have more autonomy when it comes to finding the information they need
- Your website accurately represents your warehouse inventory levels (updates can be made in real-time so customers won’t accidentally buy items that are out of stock)
- The amount of manual work is reduced, thanks to data being centralised in one place. This also reduces the chance of data redundancy and human error
- Operations are streamlined as data can be accessed and collaboration can occur in real-time
- Productivity is boosted
- Visibility is improved which facilitates decision making
We discuss the benefits of a commerce-ERP integration in more depth here.
Learn more about the tools that can help you tackle these B2B e-commerce challenges
Throughout this blog, you might have noticed a recurring theme - we keep mentioning you need tools to combat the challenges. We did discuss them in each section but here’s a brief recap:
- A CRM to manage your customer data
- An ERP to centralise your data
- A PIM to manage the products/services displayed on your website
- A CMS to ensure your website content is optimised for search engines and offering the most seamless online experience
Your choice of technology matters when it comes to creating a winning B2B e-commerce strategy. Want to learn more? On 9 December at 10am, two of my colleagues, James Baker and Tham Nazir, will be teaming up with Episerver to share their digital commerce insights in a webinar.
Register for the webinar via the button below.