How B2B companies do business is changing. Just a few years ago, wholesalers and distributors saw eCommerce as an afterthought. It wasn’t critical to their strategy for long-term growth and success.
B2B companies today though are thinking of eCommerce differently. Online selling has become a way to grow revenue and drive new customer acquisitions. It’s a way to differentiate from the competition.
As B2B shifts from outbound sales to online inbound strategies, let’s consider 10 of the top advantages of B2B eCommerce. Whether you’re just starting off, already selling, or still considering online B2B selling, you’ll want to see all these advantages.
1. Size of B2B Industry
Did you know that the online opportunity for B2B sellers dwarfs that of B2C?
B2B eCommerce is predicted to reach $1.2 trillion and account for 13.1% of all B2B sales in the U.S. by 2021. The industry is twice as big as B2C. And just like B2C, more sales are shifting to online.
Forrester also found that manufacturers and wholesalers are the two industries generating this massive market growth. These two industries are currently relying on homegrown systems that are slowing them down. B2B buyers are demanding a shift to modern processes for a better experience. This is leading to monumental shifts in how B2B companies are selling and the technology they’re using.
Is this an opportunity that you can afford to pass on?
2. B2B’s Bigger Order Values and Higher Conversion Rates
B2B is able to grow to twice the size of the B2C market because B2B orders have higher average order values and B2B buyers are quicker to buy.
Unlike B2C, B2B buyers buy large quantities in bulk. They will purchase hundreds, even thousands of an item in one transaction. The average order value of a B2B transaction is around $491, opposed to $147 for B2C.
B2B sellers also experience higher conversion rates online than B2C. B2B websites report average conversion rates at 10%, while B2C experiences around 3%. Once they get approval, B2B buyers have more confidence to buy.
3. Faster Order Fulfillment with Cloud-Based eCommerce Systems
Selling online gives B2B sellers an opportunity to speed up their order fulfillment processes when using a modern, cloud-based eCommerce platform.
In the past, eCommerce platforms were built independent of legacy order management systems. This left B2B sellers scrambling when it came to order processing and tracking inventory. Accurate data wasn’t synchronized between systems, leaving sellers with sometimes wrong and untimely information.
Today, cloud-based eCommerce platforms have order management systems built in or they easily integrate with other software. Sellers can now sync order data across all their channels. B2B sellers can leverage their systems to automate order fulfillment and inventory updates along with handling complex processes like partial delivery and multi-warehouse shipping.
B2B sellers can now promise fast, accurate, and transparent delivery to their customers.
4. New Buyers with More Online Habits
Millennials are now the buyers that B2B sellers must attract. How these buyers shop is also changing. B2B sellers must be where your customers are, which is online.
89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process. And, Forrester has reported that 30% of buyers make half or more of their work purchases online, and 56% expect to make half or more of their work purchases online in 3 years.
B2B buyers want to research and buy online. Selling online helps you provide the buying experience they’re looking for.
5. Starting to Look More like B2C
B2B online sites first started as simple “portals” that were thought as a way to replace customer service reps with technology. Other sites were just online catalogs. B2B sites historically served only existing customers, allowing them to place reorders.
However, as mentioned, B2B is turning from outbound sales to now inbound strategies. They’re using online sites to acquire new customers and grow revenue.
It’s no surprise then that B2B sites are starting to look like B2C websites. They’re built to attract new buyers researching and comparing products. They must be easy to use and focus on straightforward processes to increase conversions.
This shift has led eCommerce providers like BigCommerce, Shopify Plus and Magento to add more B2B functionality to their platforms. This gives B2B sellers the opportunity to upgrade their eCommerce platforms to appeal to online-savvy buyers. They can learn proven practices from B2C, while still offering a unique B2B experience.
6. Stay Ahead of the Competition
While the B2B eCommerce is growing, it’s still in its infancy. If you take part now, you have a chance to put yourself ahead of the competition and establish yourself as a market leader who’s fully taking advantage of what B2B eCommerce has to offer.
Right now, only 18.8% of US B2B companies say that they received more than half of their revenues from eCommerce. Not all companies recognize how investing in eCommerce is critical to increasing sales. Some are easily overwhelmed by online buyer demands and complexities of online selling.
Before eCommerce is part of the mass market, learn how investing in eCommerce is a long-term strategy to growth and success. Beat your competitors to this opportunity.
7. Reach New Customers
Technically, online B2B selling has been around for the past 20 years. Like we said before though, these online portals are very old and mostly serve existing customers only. They aren’t built to reach new customers.
With new technology though, modern online sites can drive new customer acquisition. As customers research and compare online, you have an opportunity to appeal to more buyers. You can expand your reach beyond just buyers that sales rep can meet face-to-face. You can grow a following of your own.
8. Sell Direct to Consumers
Beyond B2B, your online store can also consider selling directly to consumers. As the B2B online experience looks more like B2C, your site has the potential to serve consumers.
Improved operational efficiencies and easier processes make it possible for you to market part of your catalog to consumers. You’ll be equipped to go beyond traditional B2B selling models. To do this, you’ll need to invest in strong digital marketing and online merchandising.
9. Better Customer Experience
Adding eCommerce to your selling strategy allows B2B merchants to provide a true omnichannel experience for their buyers. Customers can shop across multiple sales channels. Finding products, comparing pricing, and submitting orders will be easier online. Delivery will be fast and accurate. Service will be personal.
B2B sellers that want to compete in the future will have to focus on the customer experience. eCommerce allows you to deliver an experience comparable to Amazon.
10. Manage Suppliers More Efficiently
B2B manufacturers must manage and control several supplier relationships at once. You have to know what your current inventory levels are, what your supplier inventory levels are, and when you’re going to need to order more. Also, your team must communicate with several suppliers at once to ensure they order the right amount at the best price. This used to take a lot of spreadsheets, phone calls, and faxed order forms.
These processes become much easier though if you are electronically connected with suppliers. Through automation and workflows, you can trigger when inventory is low and who to order from based on your data. It can save you time and money, while eliminating human error.
What to Do Next: Choose a B2B eCommerce Platform
Whether you’re ready or not, eCommerce is becoming an integral part of the B2B industry. If you want to get ahead of the curve, you’ll want to take advantage of this opportunity now. Start preparing your company to benefit from these advantages of B2B eCommerce.
For some of you, that means upgrading or choosing for the first time your eCommerce platform. To help you choose a platform that’s best for your business, take a look at our article to see what matters most when it comes to B2B eCommerce platforms.
To keep reading about other B2B eCommerce topics, check out these other articles: