Chief Revenue officer
Let’s start with the basics. B2B e-commerce, short for business-to-business electronic commerce, is the sale of goods or services between businesses via an online sales portal. In general, it is used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s sales efforts. Instead of receiving orders manually, relying on human assets, like sales reps, and communication by phone or emails, orders are received digitally, reducing overhead costs.
The Differences Between Business-To-Consumer (B2C) and Business-To-Business (B2B)
B2B and B2C e-commerce models may look the same, but since business buyers and retail consumers have polar purchasing needs, there are several significant differences:
- Buying Impulsively vs. Buying Rationally. B2C buyers often make impulse purchases, while B2B clients plan for any investment and tend to make recurring purchases.
- Single Decision Maker vs. Multiple Decision Makers. B2C purchases are decided upon by the buyer only; B2B purchases often require several approval layers and may involve various departments.
- Short-term Customer Relationship vs. Long-term Customer Relationship. B2C purchases are often one-off ones; B2B purchases are based on long-term, on-going relationships with the seller or service provider.
- Fixed Prices vs. Diverse Prices. B2C prices are generally not negotiable, while B2B customers can negotiate prices individually.
- Pre-Delivery Payment vs. Post-Delivery Payment. B2C e-commerce is generally paid by credit card, debit card or PayPal before the goods are shipped, while in B2B, payment is often on terms and may be 30 or more days after goods are shipped.
- Deliveries focused on speed vs. Deliveries focused on punctuality. B2C buyers are looking for fast deliveries and B2B buyers want to stick to a reliable delivery schedule.
The Differences Between B2B e-commerce and Electronic Data Interchange
B2B transactions can be processed online in numerous ways, but Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and B2B e-commerce are most frequently used. Although EDI and B2B e-commerce both have their own distinctive features, they are frequently confused.
EDI is the electronic transfer of purchasing information between buyers and sellers. It transmits the information from the buyer’s purchase order to the seller’s sales or customer service department for conversion to a sales order. EDI is well suited for placing large, recurring orders to supplying raw materials to manufacturers. For instance, following the example above, an automobile manufacturer regularly needs to order a specific brand and size of tires for a particular car model. When manufacturing a certain number of that type of car, the buyers can use EDI to place an order for the number of tires needed. So, the seller doesn’t need to worry about providing product information, like descriptions, images, or pricing, for reordering purposes.
Although like EDI, sales orders are processed online, with B2B e-commerce, it is possible for customers to order occasionally and in irregular order quantities. Also, B2B e-commerce enables the display of many different types of detailed figures and images making it possible to exhibit a full range of products, parts, or services. Therefore, a web store provides the opportunity to cross- and upsell.
B2B sellers can learn a lot from B2C e-commerce businesses and how they allow customers to control the buying experience through self-service. Unfortunately, most B2B companies fail to create the seamless buying journeys customers have come to expect.
This is largely due to the fact that B2B transactions are often more complex than their B2C counterparts. For example, a B2B company may sell products that customers need to sample before introducing them to the business, or their offering may need to be customized to meet a customer’s particular needs. These transactions require more variable pricing and flexible payment options, including check, wire, purchase orders (PO), terms, and quotes. B2B sellers also tend to manage a more extensive selection of products than those found in B2C.
To meet clients’ needs, B2Bs create buying journeys that include an irreplaceable human element. In the past, this meant relying on sales teams to find and nurture leads and then close deals. The result is a dragged-out process involving multiple steps, like scheduling appointments with sales reps, making initial orders, requesting maintenance or support. All of this adversely impacts the customer experience and can lead to fewer completed orders.
As customers, distributors, or resellers begin to desire a shopping journey similar to their personal experiences, B2B companies must find ways to adapt their approach. While B2C commerce has always focused on streamlined shopping, B2B sellers are beginning to realize the value of a more autonomous experience.
According to a study from McKinsey, 86 percent of B2B leaders prefer using self-service solutions for reordering over interacting with a sales representative. Moreover, Forrester has found that 68% of B2B buyers would rather do their own research while 60% don’t want to interact with sales reps at all.
When you provide self-service e-commerce, you change your customers’ buying journey as they can steer the purchasing process instead of your sales teams. The result is a streamlined buyer’s journey as customers receive assistance from your team only when needed, rather than being delayed throughout the process.
Enabling self-service won’t cause your sales team to lose visibility to your customers. Rather, using an integrated online platform improves your ability to access important information about your customers’ behaviours.
With self-service, customers can browse and buy on their own terms the same way they do when shopping for personal products from a B2C seller. It provides a much friendlier approach to researching and buying products as customers have access to an online storefront in place of flipping through a physical catalogue and ordering over the phone or in-person with a sales representative. Giving customers this freedom to control the buying experience results in having more purchases made and fewer sales lost to competitors.
Core Self-Service Functions for Seamless E-shopping experience
To satisfy customers’ desires for self-service, B2B e-commerce platforms need to be flexible and provide seamless shopping experience features. Here are some of the core functions to expect from a modern commerce solution:
An essential component of self-service e-commerce is providing your buyers with the ability to edit and manage their accounts directly from their dashboard. Some essential elements buyers should have control over include:
- Payment details: Payment for online B2B portals is similar to what you’ll find on B2C e-commerce platforms. It includes credit cards, bank details for ACH transfers, direct integration with Paypal, etc. The ability to save payment information and update it on the fly allows buyers to be able to initiate and complete orders whenever they want.
- Shipping and billing addresses: When companies add or change locations, the ability to quickly update location information will ensure that all orders are processed correctly and fast since there is no need a service representative to update this information.
- Adding, removing, and managing users: For companies with multiple users per account, the ability to quickly add and remove users autonomously can eliminate potential delays when needing to perform critical tasks.
Ordering and reordering
Nowadays, customers look for places that have the products they need and where they can complete their orders without any bottlenecks. The following features can help ensure a smooth buying experience:
- Quick ordering: A quick order list can remove friction from the buying experience while allowing customers to complete orders faster.
- Reordering capabilities:Many businesses rely on repetitive orders. Providing a clean list of previously purchased products will help your buyers keep their flow of goods consistent as they can quickly add the same items to their order.
- Order history:Enabling customers to check the status of both previous and current orders helps remove much of the unnecessary back and forth with sales reps. Instead, customers can quickly check their accounts to see which orders are paid for and if any are out for delivery.
- Managing and paying invoices online:By allowing users to view and pay any outstanding invoices straight from their dashboard, your business can finalize orders faster, and your reps are free from having to chase down payments.
- Recommended products:Personalizing the buying experience by showing related products based on purchase history can increase sales as customers are more likely to take action when presented with highly relevant offers.
Saving Time and Resources
Enabling your customers to perform these tasks not only improves their buying experience but also lowers the cost to serve them, as your business can benefit from reduced overhead costs per transaction and improved resource allocation. Self-service takes the burden repetitive and mundane tasks like checking order status or inventory of your sales reps’ shoulders allowing them to spend more time on services that are more valuable to your business.
Now more than ever, B2B buyers expect a frictionless buying experience and are eager to explore the market to find it. By offering self-service e-commerce, you provide a streamlined buying journey that will improve customer experience and your bottom line in the process.
New Hybrid commerce solutions empower B2B sellers to create sites that engage business buyers, maximize their buying efforts and save them time while providing the same comfort and information-rich shopping experience as a B2C website. Support online stores, in-house sales, distributors, manufacturers, brick-and-mortar stores and channel partners—all from a single platform.
Flawless Inbound can help your organization find the proper Hybrid Commerce solution to achieve your business goals and reach tangible results in 2021.
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