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The importance of B2B eCommerce for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors considering an eCommerce webstore

The significance of B2B eCommerce for producers, wholesalers and vendors bearing in mind an eCommerce webstore

The Need for B2B eCommerce

In this digital age pretty much all of us, as consumers, are experienced in purchasing goods and services online. Since Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 the manner in which we purchase books, clothing, and all manner of goods and services has been transformed. Business to consumer (B2C) ecommerce has been booming.

Interestingly, it took some time for businesses that sell products and services to other businesses (B2B) to grasp the significance of the new economic model forged by Amazon. Many convinced themselves that their B2B markets were sufficiently different from B2C that they were immune to the effects of digital transformation, ecommerce and changing consumer habits.

However, the reality is that B2B buyers have the same level of expectations of their digital purchasing experience as they do with their consumer expectations. 

The B2B eCommerce Market

B2B organisations increasingly understand that people find, research and buy their products and services in exactly the same way as they buy products as consumers.  In fact the B2B eCommerce market is now twice as big as the B2C industry. In the US alone, it’s predicted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023.

Whilst the needs of consumers was clearly a key reason for the growth of B2B eCommerce, its cost saving potential has also been pivotal in organisations embracing it. According to Forrester, B2B companies can substantially decrease sales costs – by 90% – by guiding customers to an online self-service ecommerce environment. And, in a ‘triple-whammy’, organisations are also reporting revenue growth from online sales whilst managing reduced customer support costs.

B2B eCommerce Platforms

A true B2B ecommerce platform is not a B2C platform with a few additional screens. There is a world of difference between the requirements of a B2C and B2B eCommerce platform. A B2B ecommerce solution needs to have the added sophistication and nuance that business to business trading requires, whilst retaining a simple to use ‘B2C like’ appearance.

The B2B platform must carry a long list of sophisticated B2B buying functionality and the ability to tailor functionality to different industry types, different corporate buying environments, and multiple buying channels. Sophisticated platforms include multi-lingual capabilities, the ability to design multiple storefronts to reflect a business’s multiple routes to market, and the functionality to seamlessly integrate the eCommerce storefront with back office systems.

The canny eCommerce technology purchaser wants a complete platform, with different business templates, to fit their current and perceive future needs. No organisation these days want a limited set of functionality (often based on a B2C buyer) with “build you own” add-on functionality.

Of course, the eCommerce platform must also conform to the most rigorous of standards when it comes to security, compliance, order management guidelines and back office integration to ERP and CRM applications. In a recent survey 93% of B2B purchasers stated that Security and Compliance was of critical or important as a factor when selecting an ecommerce platform. 86% cited order management as critical or important, whilst 88% also noted integration to back-office as critical or important.

B2B eCommerce Customer Experience

When choosing an ecommerce platform there seems little doubt that a rich, relevant, effective customer experience will be the primary method for differentiation and the selection of the eCommerce platform.

This means, in B2B ecommerce, the ‘total experience’, inclusive of finding the right item, having all the information you need to make a confident decision, having a simple experience that is easy and convenient but complimented with advanced functionality that you don’t find in a B2C solution – and of course getting the service and answers you need quickly and effectively.

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