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An industry that’s enjoying double-digit annual growth offers ample opportunities for e-commerce entrepreneurs to capture profits from rising B2B eCommerce sales.
Industry analysts concur on growth targets in the B2B e-commerce sector. Forrester expects U.S. B2B e-commerce transactions to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023. This would account for 17% of all B2B sales, both on and offline.
Insider Intelligence also forecasts B2B e-commerce site sales reaching nearly $1.87 trillion in 2023, with annual growth rates between 11 and 12%.
The B2B Sector is evolving
It’s no longer Rose the Office Manager or Oscar from Procurement or Materials Management working the Rolodex, ordering products from the same suppliers they’ve used for years. Nearly everywhere, it’s Millennials who wouldn’t know a Rolodex if it fell on their foot who now do the ordering.
And for the most part, they find their suppliers online. Forrester also found that 74% of B2B buyers overall say they research at least half of their work purchases online.
By 2015, Google found that close to half of B2B buyers were Millennials, double the number from 2015. At that rate of growth, it’s safe to assume that Rose and Oscar–and some of their suppliers–have moved on. In that trend lies opportunity.
How to beat the competition for B2B eCommerce sales
It used to be (and still is, in many places) that corporate buyers mostly preferred some hand-holding. They wanted a sales rep to assure them they were ordering things with all the specs they needed. Consumers don’t have this problem; they won’t get in trouble with a boss if they make an ordering mistake. As “digital natives” when it comes to shopping, Millennials don’t harbor this worry. Highly confident in an e-commerce environment, Millennials want that same quality of personalized experience from their online sources. Give it to them, and you win the day.
A focus on new customer acquisition and user experience
In the past, B2B merchants didn’t incorporate online sales as a core strategy for new customer acquisition. Many sites were simply “portals” with the same kind of order forms a sales rep might have completed for them, or the site functioned more like a catalog without a checkout feature. You still had to call in your orders. And many of these B2B ecommerce sites served only existing customers with an account and established Purchase Order system.
But the world is changing, and there are now swarms of new potential customers looking around in the B2B eCommerce space for the equipment and supplies required by their employers. Few retail sectors offer this level of open opportunity.
Successful B2B eCommerce operators understand these new customers and their preferences.
Here are some best practice tips to help you win at B2B eCommerce.
1. Upgrade your digital marketing presence.
Today’s B2B buyer conducts about 12 online searches before deciding to purchase from a specific brand. In response, B2B marketing budgets can be directed toward digital marketing efforts that provide a more personalized buying experience through richer content.
More and more B2B eCommerce sites are deploying internal search tools that easily enable new customers to do their research and place an order. Make it easy to find stuff on your site, and they won’t have to start with a Google search next time; instead they can start on your home page.
Chatbots and search engine marketing (paid ads using keywords) are two other popular strategies you can use to up your digital game. Additionally, Augmented Reality (AR) is becoming part of the picture, especially for things like office furniture. These are the kinds of premium, personalized user experiences that Millennials have come to expect.
Blogging, emailed newsletters and social media are the preferred ways these buyers like to consume their content. They enable them to discover brands across many different channels.
For more content marketing ideas, see this article.
2. Make sure payment processing is fast and simple.
Faxed order forms with snail mail-billed accounts are fast becoming obsolete.
This is how most B2B purchase transactions are made today:
- Website: 80%.
- Email: 77%.
- Phone: 72%.
Though checks, terms, and purchase orders are still common for about half of B2B buyers, credit cards are used by almost everyone at some point. Be ready for that with an eCommerce platform that includes a shopping cart. Depending on the size of the company, a simple one like Shopify makes it easy to build your own online store, or you could go with an open-source software platform such as Magento 2, or incorporate one in your ERP system. Find out more about which platforms best fit which types of companies here.
Mobile wallets like Amazon Pay, Shop Pay, Google Pay and Apple Pay are gaining fast in popularity for the B2C sector, because they provide a frictionless payment experience. As Millennial purchasing agents gain more clout, they will advocate for their companies to set up for similar frictionless payment options on B2B sites. This is another competitive edge that forward-thinking B2B sellers can develop for themselves.
3. Meet their expectations for quality user experience.
B2B eCommerce buyers expect certain amenities now from their digital vendors. Things like:
- Personalized portal content for account holders
- An easy-to-use ROI calculator
- Augmented reality options
- Video chat options.
- Custmer loyalty programs
In a 2019 survey by Isoline , 53% of B2B buyers said video was the most useful form of content, followed closely by case studies. Video was also the most shared type of content among peers.
4. To scale up even faster, use a multi-channel approach to B2B eCommerce.
If you really want to be a top B2B seller, be prepared to sell in multiple channels.
Many B2B sellers use third-party applications like Shoppingfeed to manage order fulfillment, inventory synchronization, and to feed correctly structured product listings to various marketplaces like Amazon, NewEgg, etc. Shoppingfeed is a single app for listing products, managing your order fulfillment, and synchronizing your inventory across multiple channels. Your online store platform remains the single source of truth, avoiding errors or confusion.
The Shoppingfeed dashboard allows you to add, delete, or modify prices on one or more channels with ease. When you’re ready to begin your B2B eCommerce journey, be sure to visit and request a demo.
My mission at Shoppingfeed is explaining how to leverage e-commerce platforms and SaaS technology to e-merchants who just want to run their business and make more money.
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