How Unifying eCommerce & B2B can be a Catalyst for Success

When we talk about eCommerce, most people will think of the big retail and consumer brands – perhaps Amazon, Asos or eBay. But we seem to forget the potential that e-commerce has for business-to-business (B2B) trade between companies. Having an e-commerce website for your B2B business should not be discounted as it can add to your success. 

Lessons to Learn from the Consumer Sector 

There are some accepted best practices in eCommerce. These include aspects like having powerful searching and filtering tools, including product ratings to provide buyers with other users’ opinions, and offering related products to capture incremental sales through upselling and cross-selling. All of these features are common in consumer eCommerce. But they should not be discounted when it comes to B2B selling.  Customer satisfaction is important, and offering a familiar experience helps with prospects trusting you and your website. You may be selling to a company, but fundamentally, it’s a person making the actual purchase. If you can help them by offering an experience that they are used to when personally buying online, you’re halfway there. The product and pricing will still hold some sway, of course, and the negotiations may well differ, but in the end, it is an individual that makes the final buying decision.  Technology alone will not turn your B2B company into a successful business, thoughYou also need to design a strategy that differentiates you from your competition. To truly satisfy your customers’ needs, you need to design a B2B e-commerce strategy that meets the technology needs – for you and your customers 

What Should B2B eCommerce Accomplish? 

The ideal for any B2B distributor is to be able to categorisand segment its clients. It should be able to assign different prices, promotions and payment methods depending on the customer. The online ordering should then be linked to a stock management systemto ensure that sufficient stock is available and it is removed from the total stock count when in a customer basket or assigned as sold when the customer checks out.  The system should automatically calculate the expected delivery date and generate a customer invoice according to a designated time. All this should be accomplished automatically, without any internal communication or manual workflows.  Buyers also expect catalogues, prices and product selections to be filterable based on their needs. For complex B2B operations, which offer multiple product lines, or have extensive catalogues and serve different sectors, personalisation can significantly affect their profits. The best way to offer this customisation is through personalised dynamic prices. Using price optimisation algorithms, companies can base prices on parameters such as purchase volume, frequency and customer lifetime value.  It is also important for B2B operations to understand the customer journey and to identify how they can best personalise the interactions they have in order to provide a satisfying shopping experience. 

The Advantages of Ecommerce for B2B Companies 

Put most simply, offering an e-commerce option opens a new sales channel for customers and provides a convenient and easy means of buying from you. From the seller’s point of view, it allows you to manage your existing customers more effectively as well as to attract new prospects. By generating new leads, you can expand your business without having to rely on your sales team.  A system such as SuiteCommerce can integrate e-commerce data with your customer’s interaction history, providing everyone in the business with the same holistic view of the customerThis 360-degree picture helps all functions in your business to better serve your customers. Your sales, marketing, finance and warehouse teams can co-operate and work together more efficiently.  In 2019UK B2B eCommerce sales reached £159.3 billion. But while this is represented nearly 45% of all sales, it is surprising then that it’s estimated that only 11% of B2B operations use eCommerce as a sales channel. This represents a huge opportunity for B2B, especially as more buyers – both consumer and business – have been forced to buy online due to the pandemic. Amazon is a good example of a company that has embraced the opportunities of B2B. Its Amazon Business website offers more than a hundred million products and has more than a million UK business customers.   Mobile eCommerce is also important. Buyers seek the same experience from their professional dealings as they get from their private environment. This means that purchases are very often made from mobile devices, taking advantage of travel or downtime between meetings. Website designs must therefore be optimised for mobile use. 

Facing the Digitisation Process 

Before engaging in a digital transformation process like adding an eCommerce channel, companies need to be clear about their objectives and business model. This is applicable to the entire strategy of the organisation, not just marketing or the eCommerce website. The digitisation process begins with preparing a business plan that aligns with the needs of the potential customers. Technology alone does not guarantee the success of a business, but a consistent business model and a solid business plan will allow you to best monetise your offerings   Once a plan is in place, you can consider which platforms and technologies best meet your expectations and needs. Instead of requesting a certain technology, you need first to understand the patterns of customer buying behaviour and how you can best predict their future needs. If you do not have your business model defined, the technology will likely fail to meet your objectives.  Have you considered selling your products online? For more information on how NetSuite can help, view the recording of our webinar, “Unlocking the Power of Commerce in NetSuite”. It gives an overview of the capabilities and benefits, as well as a demonstration of the system.  Or for a free business consultation or a quote for implementing SuiteCommerce, book an appointment now or contact us to speak to a certified consultant for advice on the best way to embrace B2B eCommerce.