B2B Ecommerce presents an unprecedented opportunity for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) to integrate technology into their current business models to gain competitive advantage locally, nationally, and globally. Small and medium sized companies that strategically integrate Ecommerce technology into their B2B sales model will increase operational efficiency, expand market presence, streamline the sales process, improve customer experience, increase conversions and lower operational costs.
According to E-commerce Times, “Business-to-Business selling on the Internet, or B2B e-commerce, is one of the fastest growing segments of the small-business marketplace.”
B2C consumers are also the buyers you are trying to reach with your B2B products and services. The Amazon shopping experience has raised B2B buyer expectations for 24/7 ordering and customer service, expedited shipping, personalized shopping experience, mobile functionality, clear user interface design, price quotes, contract renewals, and product comparisons – and that is just the tip of the iceberg!
Despite the opportunity presented by Ecommerce, B2B adoption rates have lagged. Many small businesses are slow to add B2B Ecommerce to their business strategy because some products need consultation, the majority of sales are closed over the phone or in person meetings, or they do not have the resources to implement and maintain an Ecommerce department.
Regardless of the barriers, B2B Ecommerce is necessary for SMBs stay ahead of the competition in customer loyalty and revenue.
Here are 6 tips to help you develop a strategy to integrate Ecommerce into your business:
- Determine your business objectives. Get started by thinking about profitability, productivity, customer service, employee retention, core values, growth, financing, change management, and the competition
- Analyze your current technology infrastructure to determine E-commerce tactics you can manage in-house and identify what you will need to outsource.
- Understand what channels are responsible for your revenue streams.
- Identify which products and services can be sold online and which require other channels.
- Be sensitive to compensation concerns of your field sales team. Since Ecommerce will likely turn your sales reps into lead nurturers, you may need to move to a bonus reward compensation structure.
- Focus on buyer experience: What are your buyers’ objections? What are their pains? What are the unique buyer personas? What is the buyer’s motivation?
Your B2B Ecommerce site should not be an online version of your printed catalog. Your site must be equipped with the functionality unique to your business to incorporate complex business rules that determine legal and regulatory restrictions, customer pricing and corporate spending limits.
You need a system that provides seamless front-end to back-end integration with your ERP, warehouse management system, CRM, payment gateway, accounting software, 3rd party data sources, catalog feeds, and analytics.
Some common B2B Ecommerce challenges include:
- Reliable Hosting: Your B2B Ecommerce infrastructure must support fast site load times regardless of the amount of videos, images, or content. If your site is slow, your visitors will go to your competitor.
- Site Design: Your B2B Ecommerce design must be front-end user friendly as well as employee friendly from the back-end for administration of additional software integrations, lead management, and product updates.
- Mobile Functionality: In order to improve your customers’ productivity, your site will need to be responsive or you will need a fully functional app that allows users to check stock and availability, make purchases, view technical specifications, view images and video, click to call, and locate the nearest supplier.
For many small and medium sized businesses, an Ecommerce B2B strategy is necessary to do business. B2B Ecommerce can be very lucrative when implemented effectively.
B2C Ecommerce big player Amazon has taken note of the lucrative opportunity in B2B and launched its own platforms with Amazon Supply.
B2B Ecommerce allows SMBs to transition offline B2B customers to a cost-effective self-serve environment. B2B companies that move sales online will not only remain competitive at the global level, but they will also increase profitability and free up resources to invest in different areas of their businesses.
What are some of your thoughts on the importance of ecommerce sites? Have any comments or questions on the tips above? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.