B2B Ecommerce is changing at a rapid pace. A few years ago, B2B businesses weren’t embracing digital commerce to the same extent as B2C businesses.
Why? Many B2B companies have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. They believe the secret to their success is having close relationships with their customers and many believe the internet is the antithesis of this approach. Others think that their B2B business is too complicated to go online – what with multiple accounts, customer-specific pricing and large volumes of products to manage it’s easy to see why. What's more, many B2B business don’t feel they have the necessary skills internally to allow them to successfully run an Ecommerce operation.
When you take a look around, there are thousands of businesses with complex operations trading effectively and profitably online, from finance, manufacturing, wholesale and distribution, businesses are seeing benefits in translating processes and customer contact points into digital services. Add to this, new players in traditional sectors are disrupting what is considered normal – just look at what companies like Uber, Just Eat and AirBnB have done to the taxi, food and hotel industries.
Whether you're a manufacturer facing the spectre of domestic 3D printing, a wholesaler or distributor being squeezed by the “direct to consumer” trend from manufacturers - chances are that digital trends and the move to online will have a huge impact on your industry. That impact could be quick and seismic.
If you’re relying on word of mouth or think your business is too complex to go online then you’re missing out.
1. The Rise in B2B Ecommerce – Don’t Get Left Behind
Back in 2017, Forrester Research estimated that business-to-business Ecommerce transactions would reach $1.2 trillion by 2021.
Frost & Sullivan provided and even more optimistic view, with expectations that B2B Ecommerce will hit $6.6 trillion by 2020.
Despite B2B business being slow to adopt digital strategies, it seems B2B Ecommerce is growing fast.
Ecommerce already accounts for 12% of all US sales and is likely to reach 17% by 2023. Meanwhile, 64% of buyers research half or more of their work-related purchases online.
There is also a growing concern that wholesale businesses are under threat from Ecommerce giants such as Amazon and Alibaba, who have crossed the line from B2C to B2B - bringing their tried and tested technology, efficient fulfilment processes to the changing B2B demographic.
2. B2B Buyers are Changing: Nearly half of all researchers are millennials
There have been some interesting shifts in the B2B researcher demographic over the past 4 years.
In 2014, 18- to 34-year-olds accounted for almost half of all B2B researchers. Back in 2012, there was a pretty even mix across age groups. Yet, according to the study by Google and Merit, in 2015 this number jumped up to 73% of 20 - 35-year olds that help to decide which products and services they buy at their companies.
It’s important to note that one-third of respondents report they are the sole decision-maker for their department. This millienial demographic prefers to research and buy online. So, as the “typical” B2B buyer changes, a business’ sales approach should reflect this shift, offering the same service - through a screen.
3. B2B buyers love their mobile phones
According to the research report “Mobile Marketing and the New B2B Buyer,” from Google & BCG, mobile drives or influences an average of over 40% of revenue in leading B2B organisations.
Buyers may look up part numbers or order materials from an outdoor worksite or approve purchase requests from the road.
According to the report, 90% of B2B buyers who reported a superior mobile experience are likely to buy again from the same vendor.
It’s clear that if you don’t have mobile-friendly Ecommerce, you will miss out on the opportunity to influence offline sales and increase your online sales.
4. Content has a huge impact on sales
B2B buyers of all ages are shying away from the traditional sales process.
68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online and 60% would rather not talk with a salesperson. [The Ways and Means of B2B Buyer Journey Maps, Forrester].
According to the latest report from Episerver, “83% of online shoppers intend to do something other than making a purchase when visiting a brand’s website for the first time.” This trend is unlikely to change anytime soon. This means your online content (including search engine results) and experience will make or break your sales.
To get ahead, brands should get behind consumers' instinct to browse now and buy later. Developing Ecommerce strategies to understand their consumers' behaviours and preferences, rather than transactional information alone.
Second – wholesalers, distributors and 3PL’s need to remember that they are specialists in their field, they will have deep product knowledge and expertise as well as a detailed understanding of their customers’ needs. This is something the likes of Amazon simply cannot match. Amazon Business doesn’t have a customer service call centre, and they don’t have the niche technical knowledge about the products like you do. And this is unlikely to change anytime soon. What’s more, they don’t have salespeople that can actually visit customers or build personal relationships. However, there’s still the threat that if “B2B companies that wait too long to create self-serve Ecommerce websites risk losing share to pure plays and other [B2B] competitors.” - Andy Hoar, Death of a (B2B) Salesman, Forrester.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, most B2B companies are planning accordingly...58% of manufacturing marketers named changes to SEO algorithms as their top marketing issue. And 89% of North American B2B companies say they have a content marketing strategy in place.
However, in a survey from Showpad, highlights that nearly one-third of B2B buyers still say they can’t find the product information they need online.
What does this mean for you? If you don’t have Ecommerce and rich product content, you won’t be on the shortlist —or the long list.
Our advice: wholesalers and distributors should go digital now and start playing to their strengths - Excellent Customer Service.
In summary – do not assume your business is too complex to go online and that there is no benefit to moving even a small part of your business online. We are rapidly moving into a time where a whole generation of consumers use the internet as their first (and possibly only) channel of engagement with businesses. If you fail to meet these new customers in their channel of choice, your competitors will.
Maginus have spent many years working with businesses in the B2B sector to improve practices and processes and ultimately boost the bottom line. In this time, we have not only developed an in-depth knowledge of the sector and its requirements but also helped many organisations respond to changes and new technological advancements to ensure that they keep pace with long-standing competitors and new entrants to market. Drawing on this experience we are conﬁdent that wholesalers will not only survive but thrive in this new era of B2B Ecommerce.
For retailers – big and small – for whom success depends on growing online, we provide what it takes to sell better online. We do this by delivering class-leading Ecommerce websites that drive online growth and sales fulfilment solutions that facilitate next day delivery and customer service excellence.
We are independent and technology-agnostic but with close partnerships to several leading technology companies so we can always recommend the most appropriate platform for our customers' needs.
With a 20-year heritage in technology implementations, we take pride in helping our customers achieve long term benefits from the solutions we provide. We can do this, because we've done it before, for people just like you.
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