B2B eCommerce Trends & Strategy in 2020:
Modern B2B Buyers
eCommerce is the future of the B2B industry. Why? Two primary reasons are driving digital transformation...
eCommerce is the future of the B2B industry. Why? Two primary reasons are driving digital transformation...
Table of Contents
First, the modern B2B buyer expects much from the companies they do business with. 89% of B2B buyers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.
Second, going digital increases productivity and efficiency. In fact, high digital-quotient (DQ) companies generate five times the average compounded annual growth rate and 8% higher shareholder returns as their lower-performing competitors.
In this section, we’ll unearth how and why B2B organizations are becoming more digitally-focused:
The most powerful reason B2B buyers want a “B2C-like” experience is it enables suppliers to provide a more personalized — even individualized — service.
73% of B2B executives agree that customer expectations for personalized experiences and end-to-end solutions are “significantly higher than they were just a few years ago.”
Back in 2014, Gartner predicted that more than 70% of B2B companies would offer some form of personalization on their website by 2018. Today, 77% of companies believe personalization should be a bigger priority for their organization than it previously had been.
B2B companies have begun personalizing their customers’ online experiences — but, admittedly, have room to grow. Here’s how:
The very nature of B2B agreements are rooted in unique deals. Because of this, each customer needs access to their own “version” of your company’s eCommerce site.
On the simple side, this means providing buyers with access to their transaction history, payment methods, and delivery options. Not only will this make things easier — but it also means you won’t need to spend time digging up this information for them whenever they might need it.
Getting more complex, you might also consider adding features like dynamic B2B pricing, digitized linesheets that prioritize reordering, and customizable orders.
Digitized linesheets that prioritize reordering
B2B buyers come to suppliers looking for products that will fulfill specific business-related needs for their company.
That said, it’s vital to bring to the table complementary products — upsells, downsells, cross-sells, product updates, etc. And that you present them in a user-friendly way.
For example, many B2B companies showcase recommended products on individual product pages.
Once deal terms are set, vendors should see their own pricing reflected onsite — or within your organization’s B2B mobile app. This avoids confusion and provides a personalized experience for each buying from browsing to purchasing to reordering. The same should be true for order quantities as well as shipping costs.
You can also go as far as customizing your product catalog for each buyer or organization. Pre-filtering products by order history, categories, brands, and additional tags makes this a relatively simple solution on your backend.
Customized B2B eCommerce experience
Dynamic content technology essentially curates and delivers media created by your brand based on any and all known information about a specific customer.
Dynamic content can be delivered onsite in the form of landing pages, product recommendations, and more. Or via third-party channels and platforms (such as a dynamically-generated newsletter delivered to an individual’s inbox).
Overall, dynamic content ensures your B2B audience is provided with resources that they, specifically, find valuable and informative. In turn, this makes them more likely to continue engaging with your company.
Modern B2B companies have begun providing self-service options to both their trusted long-time clientele and as part of their lead-generation tactics.
Nearly 90% of buyers prefer to complete transactions via self-service than any other method. Moreover, 52% of B2B buyers view self-service features as the most important factor when assessing a brand’s overall online experience.
Financially, self-service costs B2B companies only ten cents per contact (while live support of any kind costs up to $12 per engagement). As an added benefit, because your sales and support team won’t need to manually work through every issue, they’ll have more time to invest into solving more pressing issues.
B2B eCommerce sites should at least allow your customers to access their account-specific documentation, unique pricing, and preferred payment methods. Going further, you might also consider allowing your most trusted B2B customers to make certain changes to their account without human assistance on your end.
There are a variety of things you can allow your customers to do here, such as:
While your team will eventually be more hands-on before any changes go into effect, allowing your customers to take the initiative on their own will enable both parties to work much more efficiently.
In addition to allowing customers to complete transactions, you also want to allow them to find the answers to any burning questions they might have.
An increasingly popular way to do this is via chatbot. A 2018 study by Relay found that more B2B companies implement chatbots than B2C companies. And yet, the number of B2B companies that use chatbots only make up a mere 1% of the total landscape.
By adopting chatbot technology into your digital marketing repertoire, you can easily put your company in the top 1% of companies in terms of providing self-service to your audience.
The modern B2B buyer researches heavily before they commit to doing business with a supplier. And, they do most of this research without ever contacting a representative of your company.
Content Marketing Institute reports that 63% of B2B companies are either “extremely committed” or “very committed” to their content marketing initiatives. However, less than 20% of respondents say their efforts have proven to be “very successful” — with even fewer reporting better results.
For your company, this gap in performance provides an opportunity to stand out amongst your competition.
“Content marketing” is a broad term. While you do want to consider experimenting with different types, it’s more important to focus on creating content for buyers at each stage of the sales funnel.
This includes paid advertising on search and social, sales enablement, and all channels of communication … from email to chatbots. As advanced as technology has become, chatbots don’t really “know” anything; they simply pull information from your existing content to generate automated responses to your audience.
The old adage is more true than ever as a B2B eCommerce trend: content is king.
If your B2B company isn’t laser-focused on creating the best content your industry has to offer, there’s no way you’ll be able to thrive in the upcoming decade.
The need to be present, active, and consistent on multiple channels has never been more important for B2B companies.
The average B2B buyer uses six different channels to engage with brands along their path to purchase. Unfortunately, the same report shows that 65% of these buyers experience frustration many times along this journey.
61% of B2B companies are at least planning to implement omnichannel initiatives in the near future, while 36% have already started making these moves.
The majority of B2B companies are aware of these statistics — and are hard at work improving their services accordingly.
Failure to maintain consistency will at best confuse your audience and at worst cause them to lose trust in your brand altogether.
Likewise, any logistical information you provide your customers on your various channels also needs to be accurate and consistent. You’ll also want to ensure your customers are able to “pick up where they left off” with your company last, regardless of the channel.
For instance, if a customer is receiving support via live chat and then is transferred to your phone team, you don’t want them to have to repeat their entire issue all over again (and neither do they).
To determine where your company should be active, consider:
The channels where you find an overlap between these two factors are the channels you should get started on. Once you’ve built a robust and consistent presence throughout these channels, you can then begin to branch out — becoming even more omnipresent as you do.
“Voice of the customer” (VOC) is a phrase that’s been used for decades to describe a more customer-centric approach to doing business. As Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser explain in a report from MIT:
“Voice of the Customer provides a detailed understanding of the customer’s requirements, a common language for the team going forward in the product development process, key input for the setting of appropriate design specifications for the new product or service, and a highly useful springboard for product innovation.”
The phrase isn’t new, but it is more relevant than ever before as a B2B eCommerce trend. The modern B2B consumer wants to receive service tailored specifically to their needs. If you don’t give it to them, another company will.
VOC is all about focusing on what the customer actually wants—not what you might think they want. This involves truly listening to and internalizing their feedback, and also analyzing the context of any feedback they’ve provided or action they may have taken, so that you can begin making improvements to your customer experience that will actually matter to your customers.
Some of the most-used methods for collecting VOC data include:
As you collect this data, you’ll be able to use it in three key ways:
By putting VOC at the center of your business, you all but guarantee that every move your company makes will provide top-notch value to your customers. If you can do that, they’ll have no reason to go elsewhere.
None of what we’ve discussed thus far can be accomplished without data. Personalization, automated service, individual support … all of it relies heavily on the real-world, up-to-date information your team is able to collect.
The more robust the data, the more you’ll be able to do with it. Simply put, the importance of data as a B2B eCommerce trend cannot be overstated.
By looking at your sales over a given timeframe broken down by customer, you can pinpoint your most-valuable buyers, who you might choose to offer a higher level of service.
You can also identify opportunities to convert small long-term buyers into more valuable buyers by implementing initiatives like minimum order quantities (MOQs).
One of the biggest indicators of customer satisfaction and the efficacy of your shipping strategy is ship to promise: a measure of how quickly an order is fulfilled after being made.
Efficient shipping is imperative, especially for wholesale businesses whose goods are being delivered to customers who rely on them to run their own businesses.
If you’ve integrated your shipping provider with QuickBooks Commerce, you can quickly and easily analyze the time between ordering and fulfillment from an easily accessible dashboard.
Sales history reports should be configured to track how individual members are performing. Doing so allows you to identify low performers as well as reward top performers to incentivize a higher standard of performance across the board.
This metric can also be compared to your revenue goals to help you evaluate the quality of leads and see whether you’re targeting the right audience.
Tracking product performance helps you identify top-performing products as well as the low sellers — enabling you to better optimize inventory, make informed marketing and purchasing decisions, and mitigate the risks of dead stock.
Keep in mind that individual product sales can be influenced by a number of factors, including seasonal sales periods and product discounts. So it’s important to use sales and inventory forecasting to account for these fluctuations.
Use our free sales and inventory forecasting model to track inventory, sales, and forecast revenue all in one place.
Sales cycle length is another way of answering the question, “How long did it take to close the deal?” The shorter the sales cycle, the more time your sales team has to nurture new leads and work on generating more sales.
60% of organizations say data is generating revenue within their organizations and 83% say the use of data increases the profitability of their products and services.
However, as Dun & Bradstreet found in their 2018 B2B Marketing Data Report, there are two major caveats.
First, not all data is equally valuable to an organization, or to a specific initiative. While 89% of organizations say data quality is of high importance to their efforts, only 51% are confident that the data they use is actually high in quality.
In other words, nearly half of responding companies aren’t really sure if their data is leading them in the right direction at all.
Second, even the most robust collection of data is worthless if a company doesn’t do anything with it.
Unfortunately, many B2B companies struggle to integrate their collected data into their various systems and processes. Specifically, only 47% of companies consider their ability to integrate data into their CRM system to be “intermediate” or better.
With all this in mind, let’s quickly go through the process of using data to its fullest capacity.
The data your uses should come from a wide variety of sources. The most common sources include:
(It’s worth noting that only 25% consider their audience’s overall online behavior—meaning there are major opportunities for organizations that do.)
Once data is collected, the next step is to analyze and assess it for validity and contextual meaning.
With so much data coming in, you’ll need to rely on technology to make heads or tails of any of it. This is why many B2B companies are investing in analytics tools that allow them to make better sense of incoming data.
Some of the key functions these tools accomplish include:
In the simplest of terms, this is the step where you take everything you’ve learned from your data, and actually begin making improvements in the current area of concern.
Improvement is a cyclical, continuous process. There will always be more data to collect, more insight to glean, and more improvements to be made in all areas of your business.
Companies that merely coast by on the status quo will eventually fall behind their competition. But those who remain focused on making data-driven improvements to their business will quickly see themselves leading the rest of their industry into the future.
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