B2B digitization is inevitable. According to Forrester, US B2B e-commerce will hit $1.8 trillion by 2023.
Manufacturing, services, distribution—every business selling to another is facing pressure to provide a digital experience because people want convenience.
While a few B2B manufacturers have been selling online for years, most firms are either new to online selling or still deciding how to proceed. Manufacturers must figure out the best way to create these direct relationships with consumers or be in danger of falling behind and losing control of the customer experience entirely.
Customer experience forms the bond between customers and businesses, regardless if it’s a private or business transaction.
B2B companies are starting to realize this and will undoubtedly invest heavily in optimizing their customer experience within the coming years. They work against rising customer expectations created by business-to-consumer (B2C) shopping experiences that were built and refined over several years. This means that tools currently used by B2C companies will find their way into the B2B market soon.
As customers become more comfortable with the conveniences of B2C, they expect the same from B2B. In that sense, you are competing not only with others in your industry, but with every B2B and B2C experience that your customer likes.
We are all consumers and our patience for a subpar digital experience is waning—regardless of the industry.
Advantages of B2B Digital Customer Experience
Customers like the perks of digital, 24/7 access to goods and services. Digital customer experience means simplified shopping, access to full product catalogs, up-to-date product information, and transparent pricing. These expectations don’t discriminate between B2C and B2B experience. Below is a list of advantages.
Springboard from B2C
The best practices in digital experience are already laid out by B2C. That means B2B can bypass a large part of the trial and error phase of rising technologies and hit the ground running. Many plug-and-play applications can be tailored to the B2B industry with minimal effort.
B2B organizations are often more mature than B2C.
They have established robust processes for running business which is a solid framework to build digital into—without having to start from scratch. This established framework is a springboard for B2B. According to John Klein, Vice President E-commerce, Tahzoo, “When organizations add digital to their traditional processes—even simple digital initiatives—they are leapfrogging ahead.
As an example, Klein pointed out a client who manufactured repair parts for golf carts. By adding a 24/7 available e-commerce option they were able to expand their reach to thousands of smaller courses around the USA that wouldn’t have been possible to target with classic field sales.
B2B thrives when it makes the lives of customers easier, and small changes can have a big impact. As Brian Beck of Guidance states, “What I’m blown away by is the power of simplicity of B2B. The simplest solutions seem to be the most effective.”
As an example, Beck points to a client that sells wholesale team apparel. After launching a simple B2B e-commerce site for self-service, not only did their sales increase, they now do half of their business online.
B2B organizations have a major head start when it comes to personalization. They know their customers inside and out. B2B organizations already have a deep understanding of personas and segmentation.
Take for instance a cleaning supply company that assigned sales representatives to each new market they wanted to break into—tailoring their message to hospitals, schools, building managers, etc.—to expand market by market. Clearly the company had a history of success with targeted messaging, but when asked their plans for segmentation in digital—they didn’t realize they had already done all the difficult legwork.
Mitigate Channel Conflict
B2B firms struggle with channel conflict as they play to different stakeholders, including customers, channel partners, and channel owners and sales executives. Channel conflict creates clashing interests between direct sales and its indirect channel partners—the two often compete for the same business.
Direct online marketplaces help B2B companies strike the right balance by:
Creating a bigger pie
Direct marketplaces provide easier access to product information and fulfillment options. By enabling partners to offer fulfillment alongside the credible product pages the manufacturer offers, all parties potentially benefit by offering what the customers need, when they need it. First-party marketplaces represent an additional sales channel where all parties can benefit.
Reducing friction for customers
Enabling purchase and fulfillment on a manufacturer’s site means fewer obstacles to completing the purchase. It reduces inconsistencies in messaging product information, as well as reduces the steps required to deliver an easier, better customer experience—one that delivers a consistent experience to the customer in their time and place of need.
Let us Help
Investing in new technology and online architecture can put a strain on your cash flow. If you are ready to take your B2B digital, reach out to Allied Financial Corporation. We are here to help you build your B2B business with accounts receivable financing.