B2B eCommerce: Striking a balance between convenience and personalization

With B2B buyers increasingly moving online, it’s critical for wholesalers to start utilizing eCommerce and digital technologies to be selling online and stay competitive.

But as with most new endeavors, starting a B2B online business isn’t without its challenges. If you’re new to the B2B eCommerce market, here are some of the hurdles you might face.

Building buyer relationships

Contrary to the fickle buyer-seller relationship of today’s B2C eCommerce market, selling B2B online is all about cultivating successful long-term buyer relationships. Although a majority of B2B buyers (86%) prefer the convenience of a self-service portal over face-to-face interaction, 76% of B2B buyers still find it helpful to talk to an actual salesperson when researching and considering a new product.

B2B eCommerce balance

The implication here is that nurturing buyer relationships in a B2B eCommerce world is about striking a balance between convenience and personalized service. B2B buyers still want to have trusted relationships with their suppliers, which means the onus is on you as a wholesale business to offer exceptional customer service at every stage of the funnel.

Maintaining cash flow

Keeping a healthy cash flow is an ongoing challenge for retail and wholesale businesses alike, but issues are often more pronounced for wholesalers due to typically lower profit margins and inconsistent purchase orders from buyers (at least initially).

As with any business, there are also plenty of challenges inherent to scaling up while keeping stock levels optimal. Keep too much stock and you’ll increase holding costs (negatively impacting cash flow); keep too little stock and you risk leaving new buyers with prolonged wait times for orders.

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Figuring out B2B eCommerce

Despite the fact that the wholesale eCommerce market is now worth an enormous USD$7.66 trillion, selling online is still a relatively new concept to the majority of wholesalers.

While traditional B2B businesses are in their eCommerce infancy, B2C retailers are at an advantage as they can apply their existing knowledge of eCommerce and the digital consumer experience to wholesale operations.

Keep in mind, though, that B2B and B2C eCommerce aren’t the same. With B2B eCommerce, customer relationships are more complex and long-term – so it’s not simply a case of retailers being able to start wholesaling overnight.B2B purchasing

Streamlining systems & workflows

The reality is that few B2C systems and processes wholly translate to the B2B space, so it’s crucial to choose a system that provides the backbone for efficient workflows and a user-friendly experience. This is especially important when dealing with buyers who may not be well versed in digital technologies and are resistant to change.

Identifying the right system and workflow starts with your customers. Understand their needs and behaviors, and you can provide a B2B eCommerce experience that’s unmatched by the competition.

In the next installment of our B2B eCommerce series, we take you through how to overcome these challenges to build a sustainable B2B eCommerce business.

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