For businesses that sell to other businesses, but have not yet introduced eCommerce for their customers, 2019 marks an important milestone and an opportunity to “get in the game.”
Despite industry-wide and remarkably consistent customer expectations for transactional eCommerce, many B2B companies are lagging behind in providing this capability. A recent survey by Digital Commerce 360, the parent company of Internet Retailer, indicated that almost 50% of manufacturers do not yet have an eCommerce site.
While ahead of their manufacturer counterparts, distributors continue to lag behind in eCommerce functionalities as well. In spite of this, buyers purchasing from these companies expect to be presented with an easy-to-use, online commerce experience from the companies they do business with.
A recent survey by Forrester Research found that 38% of B2B buyers were making half or more work purchases online as of 2017, and this number was expected to grow to 55% by 2020. Why isn’t it already at 55%? Because sellers don’t yet offer their products for sale via eCommerce.
But the customer expectation is there! This spells opportunity for companies that act. Business shoppers and buyers (your customers) have their expectations set for B2B eCommerce by their own personal consumer behaviours on sites like Amazon.
Your customers expect fast web site load times, relevant and quick on-site search tools, intuitive product and category navigation, detailed product images and descriptions, web-based self-service for things like checking order status, and rapid and easy to use web checkout.
These are now all foundational elements of B2B digital commerce and must be delivered by companies seeking to retain and stay relevant to their customers.
Business workflows must also be supported, including customer-specific contract pricing, custom catalogues, purchasing approvals, payment on credit terms and other business-specific payment types, easy and fast re-ordering, unique delivery and pick up methods, and the digitization of other traditional offline processes.
Sellers must meet expectations for a B2C-like digital experience, while also accommodating traditional B2B workflows and processes. However, those that make the buyer’s job easier and meet these expectations are hitching their fortunes to a skyrocketing trend that is centred on delivering on customer needs. Following this trend has the potential to drive real value for both buyer and seller.
This is bearing out in the marketplace with real, somewhat startling, numbers. In 2018, Forrester Research estimated U.S. B2B eCommerce amounted to $1.134 trillion in sales, up from $969 billion in 2017.
These sales figures dwarf the much-discussed and hyped world of retail eCommerce, including Amazon, which in sum amounted to less than one half of B2B eCommerce in 2017, with $453 billion in that year.
Businesses that are acting now and creating an online presence in line with what today’s buyers are expecting are winning this eCommerce revenue and creating a long term, sustainable competitive advantage for their company.