If you operate firmly in the B2B market, then you face some turbulent, choppy years ahead. Your customer base is changing, their expectations evolving and, alongside them, you too must advance and adapt if you’re to stay ahead of the competitive pack.

For the informed and the innovative, there lies opportunity and a chance to capitalise upon client demands. Yet for others, there is only the potential for being leap-frogged by your competitors who are only too quick to meet the needs of a customer base that is rapidly evolving.

Here’s what you need to know to position yourself firmly within the former group.

Hold on tight – the B2B ecommerce industry is exploding

The B2B ecommerce industry is undergoing its most rapid period of growth seen yet, with experts forecasting this market growing to become double the size of B2C online commerce.

Change. It’s a seriously positive thing (and we have the stats to prove it)

For some, the sheer rapid evolvement of B2B ecommerce (and alongside it, the ever more demanding expectations of B2B customers) may well seem intimidating. The challenge of moving from a traditional ordering to online ordering can appear a costly, drawn out process. Yet there are plenty of persuasive stats that should ensure such a mindset is well and truly altered. Now, even enterprise level companies can serve thousands of customers, while securing attractive metrics such as…

44% increase in Average Order Value (AVO) and 38% of the B2B executives agreed that customers have spent more…whilst 52% have decreased support costs Econsultancy

The growth of B2C ecommerce – shoppers want it all, and they want it yesterday

Today, online shopping is a part of everyday life. Consumers can rightly expect everything from their vegetables to their prescriptions to be ordered quickly, easily and seamlessly online. Free from fuss, in two minutes flat, whether on desktop, tablet or mobile.
These heightened expectations know no bounds. These consumers arrive at their day jobs as business buyers and simply demand the same experience when it comes to handling their company’s orders. Yet, as you may well know, the process of serving such customers is not quite so simple.

For years, the B2B world has been plagued with problems when it comes to offering end users a beautiful, powerful online experience that rivals those enjoyed in the B2C world. These shoppers are demanding a lot, and they’re expecting it to be delivered yesterday. Key expectations include:

  • A fast shopping experience
  • The ability to order via whatever mobile or desktop device they choose
  • An intuitive experience through websites that are easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing
  • Ecommerce news and industry articles

The gauntlet has been laid down for some time now, and just how companies such as yours tackle the typical problems involved in serving B2B clients online have long since been a matter of heated debate.

Central to these challenges is the fact that the B2B purchasing journey is often both long and complicated. When this is coupled with the troubling need to integrate the online experience with back end systems and other sales channels, the task of B2B ecommerce can seem insurmountable.

Forget the phone and the antiquated fax – the younger generation has arrived

Millennials have arrived in the workplace. These savvy tech users have grown up alongside the likes of Facebook, smartphones, tablets and online shopping.

Nearly 40 percent of them won’t even get in a physical line to make purchases; they’ll be using their smartphones and tablets to buy.Data Informed

There are of course, many compelling reasons to do away with these traditional forms of ordering. Not least of which is the pressure placed on staff to always man the phone or fax, as well as the potential for human error, faxes not received and bloated business processes when trying to force through orders en masse through these mediums.

Streamlining ordering processes by allowing customers to tackle the task themselves online simply makes sense, in many more ways than one. They are then not only able to shop and order without the intervention of staff, but they can also handle their own enquiries, such as checking up on their order through tracking. This empowers your customers, while your staff are freed up to focus on other things, such as tasks that grow your business, rather than merely run it.

75 percent of all shoppers and 81 percent of millennials report that if a mobile site or app is buggy, slow, or prone to crashes, they would abandon it and shop elsewhere. Data Informed

Perhaps an even bigger challenge when it comes to millennials, is the ways in which this generation expects bricks and mortar store experiences to mingle with the company’s online presence. Today, these young consumers demand an uninterrupted omni-channel experience across in-store and online – with 62% using their smartphones while in store. They’re looking for coupons, checking prices and reading product reviews (Data Informed).

Just how this will shape the B2B landscape is an exciting story to see unfold. It underlines the critical need for bricks and mortar businesses to consider how they can merge the online and offline worlds for millennials who are becoming the decision makers and buyers of today’s companies.

The mobile movement is about to transform B2B

It will come as no shock that today, the B2C ecommerce world is mostly made up of mobile transactions. So rapid has this shift been that as of 2015, 33% of all sales are made through tablets, while 18% are from orders made by smartphones (Capgemini). The rate of this change has been nothing short of staggering. Only a mere decade ago we were enjoying the very first smartphones, and today our entire lives are governed by them – communication, banking, shopping and everything in between. Even as far back as 2012, the mobile B2C ecommerce sector saw an astounding growth of 138% (Statista).

This means much for the B2B market – as Europe’s largest ecommerce market, businesses based in the UK are expected to move with the times and lead the way when it comes to online shopping (Statista).

Your focus – feel overwhelmed?

So, with all of that said, just where should you focus when it comes to the future of B2B ecommerce? Well, recent research has identified three core features for such buyers when purchasing online:

60% of the buyers focused on search and catalogue navigation functions.

58% emphasised the importance of customer ratings for products and vendors.

50% highlighted the importance of personalised recommendations.Miracle

All of these changes are set to forever alter business structures

With all of these changes considered, and buyers who are becoming more empowered by taking on more tasks in their B2B ordering, the traditional company structure will inevitably change.

Paper-based catalogues will be phased out, while the on-the-ground sales force will likely diminish; alongside this we’ll see sales and customer service departments shrink in size. This may also be accompanied with accounting and other admin departments that shrink, as ERP systems take more of the strain when it comes to reporting, financials and sales admin.

All of these things promise incredible possibilities for the average business. A workforce freed from servicing accounts and undertaking tasks that add nothing to the bottom line; costs that are significantly reduced as the need for brochures reduces; and savings made on thankless admin tasks that are now undertaken automatically.

These are exciting times indeed – not to be feared, but instead should be harnessed.

The tomorrow of B2B ecommerce, here today

The future of B2B ecommerce has arrived – the question is whether you can afford to not capitalise upon all the opportunities that it presents. Discover how you can advance in otherwise challenging times, by talking with us about the solution. Get in touch!