Why Your B2B Business Needs to Invest in Ecommerce
Ecommerce—long recognized as a force for change in the world of consumer purchasing—is starting to spread its wings. After fundamentally changing how people research and buy products, quadrupling in sales in eight short years (from $1T in 2012 to $4.1T in 2020), the accessibility, convenience, and personalization that B2C ecommerce offers have changed buying behavior across the spectrum. That behavior is now bleeding into the B2B buying process as well. Is your business keeping up?
Here are some quick stats:
According to a 2019 Amazon report, B2B ecommerce in the U.S. alone is forecasted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023—a market twice as big as the B2C market. The 2019 B2B global ecommerce market was valued at $12.2 trillion in 2019—nearly six times that of the B2C market. In research conducted by Accenture, 68 percent of B2B buyers had purchased goods or services online, up from 57 percent the year before. This represents an enormous opportunity for businesses that invest in reliable ecommerce channels, processes, and strategies to serve their B2B customers.
In this blog post, we'll look at some of the benefits the ecommerce experience can provide to B2B buyers, the growth of the ecommerce channel for B2B, and make a case for introducing ecommerce as a purchasing channel for your buyers.
The Growth of Ecommerce
Think back to the last time you had to set foot in a physical store to purchase something. Almost anything can be bought online these days—from furniture to groceries to clothes, and consumers have responded by flocking to digital channels. While only making up 7.4% of total retail sales in 2015, ecommerce has more than doubled its market share of retail sales to 16.1% in early 2020—with penetration spiking to 35% through the end of Q1 2020—ten years of projected growth taking place over just three months. Ecommerce sales have soared from $3.53T in 2019 to $4.2T in 2020, with projections to hit $6.1T by 2023. In Q2 2020, it's estimated that 1 in every 5 dollars spent was spent online
What's driving the shift? For starters, with the rise of the internet and mobile connectivity, consumers now have access to storefronts 24/7, able to shop at their own convenience. According to a study from KPMG, the top reasons consumers shop online are:
Ability to shop 24/7: After hours? No problem. Thanks to our ubiquitous device usage, purchases can now be made on your schedule, without having to worry about whether a storefront will be open when you arrive. Is your B2B buying process contingent on making people visit a physical storefront or speak to someone during limited operating hours? You're leaving revenue on the table.
Ability to compare prices: 'Shopping around' used to mean hiking across the mall or driving across town to compare prices on items before buying—and by the time you found out that the item was cheaper at the first place, you were too tired to return and ended up overpaying for it anyways. Thanks to ecommerce, price comparisons can now happen almost instantaneously, empowering consumers to get the best price.
To save time/more convenient: Do you like having to visit physical locations or speak to aggressive salespeople in order to make a purchase? Odds are, your customers don't either. In an era where consumers are busier than ever, purchases can now take place more quickly, in a way that complements your consumers' packed schedules.
With these obvious benefits to end consumers, it's no surprise that ecommerce has made the impact it has. But while it's driven consumers to behave differently by shopping online, it's also permanently altered their expectations when it comes to their purchasing experience—whether B2C or B2B.
How B2B Buyer Expectations Have Changed
All of this booming revenue and convenience to customers hasn't come without a cost. Whether your B2B business relies on traditional sales channels or has invested in an ecommerce experience, your clients and customers now expect more.
For starters, customers now expect to be recognized and receive a personalized buying experience. According to Accenture's report over 90% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize them and personalize the experience. Imagine walking into a store where they knew your name and preferences and remembered your previous purchases. It's great for driving loyalty and building positive customer sentiments. Ecommerce channels offer an opportunity to do this at scale without assigning account managers or salespeople to every new customer that comes in the door.
Through integration with an organization's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, B2B ecommerce portals can display customer-specific products and services and pricing based on customer login credentials or IP address. Renewals or re-orders can also be automated, contributing more revenue assurance.
Customers are also showing a strong preference for 'being their own salespeople.' Researching products, reading reviews, and comparing prices are now activities that can occur without ever speaking to a salesperson. These better-informed customers are changing the role of salespeople in companies.
The most successful B2B companies are changing their approach to meet those expectations. To adapt to the new “customer salesperson,” B2B businesses should ensure that buyers have all the information they require at their fingertips—product specifications, pricing, customer reviews, case studies, and more. By making this information easily accessible to customers, B2B businesses can liberate their sales professionals, allowing them to focus on higher-impact deals, and providing access to a channel that will help them process orders more easily and efficiently than before. Not only will salespeople earn commissions for sales closed through digital channels—they'll earn more of them.
Lessons for B2B Ecommerce
Ecommerce is a tidal wave that has fundamentally shifted how businesses sell and how consumers buy, regardless of market or segment. The most successful B2B businesses are learning how to cater to this new, empowered buyer, leverage internal resources to close more sales, drive additional revenue, and provide a better customer experience. As the B2B ecommerce channel continues to grow through the next decade, businesses need to optimize their buying process now—or risk playing catch up.
Are you ecurious? Learn more about how to successfully implement an ecommerce channel for your B2B business with our free whitepaper Your Guide to Building a B2B Ecommerce Strategy: Evaluating Solutions, Managing Change and Increasing Adoption.