(This post was last published on January 1, 2018. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Online shopping is disrupting traditional B2B selling. Digital-savvy buyers want the convenience, speed, accuracy, and personalization that eCommerce stores, mobile apps, and B2B marketplaces like Amazon Business offer.
In fact, 68% of B2B buyers prefer to do business online versus with a salesperson.
Leading B2B merchants are tackling eCommerce head-on, realizing that it’s essential for growing revenue and driving new customer acquisitions. Otherwise, you risk getting left behind by the competition.
As the B2B industry undergoes a digital transformation, look at the top 10 advantages of eCommerce.
1. Size of B2B eCommerce
Did you know that the online opportunity for B2B sellers dwarfs that of B2C?
B2B eCommerce is predicted to reach $1.8 trillion and account for 17% of all B2B sales in the U.S. by 2023. The industry is twice as big as B2C. And just like B2C, more sales continue to shift from in-person to online.
Is this an opportunity you can afford to pass on?
Forrester also found that manufacturers and wholesalers are the two industries generating this massive market growth. Currently, too many of them rely on homegrown systems that are slowing them down. As B2B customers demand better buying experiences, merchants are trying to keep up with new technology and processes.
2. B2B’s Bigger Order Values and Higher Conversion Rates
Compared to consumers, B2B buyers have higher average order values and they’re more likely to buy.
Since they buy in bulk, an average order value of a B2B transaction is around $491, opposed to $147 for B2C.
And, conversion rates are higher. B2B websites report average conversion rates at 10%, while B2C experiences are around 3%.
This shows that eCommerce can have a high ROI for B2B merchants who invest in it.
3. Millennials Want to Shop Online
Digital-savvy Millennial buyers are changing the game for B2B. 80% of all B2B buyers will be Millennials by 2023, and they want to research and buy online.
As your potential buyers research and compare online, you have an opportunity to expand your reach to anyone looking to buy on the internet.
4. Create B2C-like Buying Experiences
The first B2B websites were simple “portals” used to replace customer service reps and allow existing customers to place reorders. Other sites were just online catalogs for browsing only.
Today, B2B sites are providing shopping experiences that aren’t far off from what any consumer would expect. There’s simple site navigation, high-quality photos, simplified checkouts, and flexible payment options. In other words, they’re visually modern, easy to use, and focus on straightforward processes to increase conversions.
This shift has led many popular platforms like BigCommerce, Shopify Plus and Magento to add more B2B functionality to their platforms. This gives you the opportunity to upgrade your technology and buying experiences to meet the needs of online-savvy buyers. You can use proven practices from B2C, while still accommodating for the complexities of B2B purchasing like payment terms and customized pricing lists.
Read more about how to choose the right B2B eCommerce platform for your business.
5. Display Full Product Catalogs Online
A challenge of selling online for B2B merchants is managing your large product catalog. Luckily, there’s now accessible technology that allows you to easily display and handle your product information online with grace.
When done right, it can be integral part of an effective online experience to help with:
- Site navigation – Make it easy to navigate hundreds of product categories and choices
- Site search – Search and find products on your site
- Rich product listings – Help buyers compare the quality of products
- Product recommendations – Show relevant product suggestions for upsell opportunities
6. Integrate Systems and Automate Key Processes
In the past, eCommerce platforms were built independent of legacy ERP or order management systems. This left B2B sellers scrambling when it came to order processing and tracking inventory. Your critical order data wasn’t synchronized between systems, leaving you with hours of manual data entry which can easily lead to costly mistakes like shipping the wrong quantity.
Today, cloud-based eCommerce platforms have built-in order management systems or easily integrate with your back-end systems. Sellers can now sync order, inventory, and customer data across all their channels.
With integrated software systems you can:
- Automate order fulfillment
- Display inventory availability in real-time
- Handle complex processes like partial delivery
- Efficiently ship from multiple warehouses
- Provide customers with real-time tracking updates
B2B sellers can now promise fast, accurate, and transparent delivery to their customers.
7. Compete with Amazon Business
33% B2B buyers said they turn to Amazon Business or Google to begin their purchasing journey, compared with 32% for a supplier’s website or portal. Of those buyers starting their B2B buying process online, 30% are making more purchases through Amazon Business. Just like consumers, B2B buyers are turning to B2B marketplaces for large product catalogs, low prices, and fast shipping.
To compete for those customers, you either have to create an Amazon-like experience on your website or sell on Amazon itself. Read more about the pros and cons of selling on Amazon Business.
8. Sell Direct to Consumers
Beyond B2B, you can use your online store to sell directly to 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 and find new channels of growth. To do this, you’ll need to invest in strong digital marketing and online merchandising.
9. Provide Self-Service Account Management
B2B businesses can leverage modern eCommerce technology to put more power into the hands of their buyers. By providing strong self-service tools online, you can streamline time-intensive parts of the sales process. Your customers don’t have to interact with a sales rep for every small need or want.
Self-service tools can help your buyers manage basic parts of their account online like:
- Updating billing and shipping addresses
- Save and update payment forms
- Check order progress
- Add / remove account users
- Reorder buttons
- Streamline shopping experience
Read more about how to optimize your online experience for self-service.
10. Manage Suppliers More Efficiently
B2B manufacturers have to manage several supplier relationships at once. You have to know what your current inventory levels are, what your supplier inventory levels are, when you’re going to need to order again, and more. To handle this, you’re probably used to a lot of spreadsheets, phone calls, and faxed order forms.
You can make these processes more efficient by integrating digitally with your suppliers through your eCommerce platform. For example, through automation and workflows, you can trigger to buy more inventory when you’re close to a stock out. This can save you valuable time and money in the long run.
What to Do Next: Download Our B2B eCommerce Guide
Whether you’re ready or not, eCommerce is transforming how the B2B industry buys and sells. If you want to get ahead of the curve, you need to take advantage of this opportunity now!
To help you start preparing your company for a digital transformation, download our free guide: How to Navigate B2B eCommerce: Go-to-Guide for Manufacturers and Distributors Selling Online.
You can also check out these other helpful resources for B2B eCommerce:
- B2B eCommerce Trends that Sellers Need to Know AboutB2B eCommerce Best Practices You Should Know
- 7 Tips To Supercharge Your B2B eCommerce Site