As B2B eCommerce continues to gain traction among B2B sellers, they are now faced with the challenge to deliver the same streamlined customer experiences at different customer touchpoints. Modern buyers are looking for simplified and convenient access to product catalogs online but they also may require personal assistance or a direct phone call with a sales rep. They search for items on their mobile phones, then send RFQs on an eCommerce portal, and negotiate prices in person on a call. They expect matching buying experience on every sales channel and this is why having a strong B2B omnichannel strategy is such a vital foundation for each company’s customer-focused eCommerce.
Delivering omnichannel customer experiences in B2B eCommerce is also important for converting offline buyers into fluent eCommerce users. B2B eCommerce market is growing fast – Forrester estimates that US B2B eCommerce has surpassed $1.1 trillion and will grow up to $1.8 trillion by 2023. The name of the game for B2B companies today is bringing more customers online and that means facilitating their eCommerce buying journey every step of the way.
So, what are the key elements of an omnichannel strategy in B2B and how to implement them? We’ll start with an overview of organizational and cultural changes, after which we’ll shortlist major technological enablers.
Embracing Omnichannel as Part of Customer-Focused eCommerce Transformation
In their report on omnichannel commerce in B2B, Forrester offered several recommendations on how to prepare and execute an omnichannel strategy for B2B commerce, among which:
Understand B2B customer buying journey
B2B customers exhibit more sophisticated buying behavior than B2C shoppers. They are likely to spend more time researching about the product and the seller – this is why consistent product experience across multiple channels is important; B2B buyers make deals rather than just making purchases – they expect personalized sales and marketing at every touchpoint; finally, B2B customers look for a reliable partner who can offer long-time support and ensure high quality – that’s why your service capabilities will play as big a role as the price and quality of your products.
Prepare your sales team to support omnichannel experiences
As more B2B buyers move to online webstores and marketplaces or use them alongside traditional phone calls, the role of a sales team will be expanded to facilitate the convergence of online and offline customer experiences. Your salesforce should become the champion of the online B2B eCommerce channel and nurse your customers through their early adoption challenges. Your sales team will also benefit from growing data on customer preferences collected from your webstore – and learning how to use this new knowledge will be fundamental for successfully selling in the digital commerce times.
Aim for long-term, continuous digital commerce transformation
Implementing B2B eCommerce is a huge project that consists of multiple phases. Unexperienced businesses should start with limited trials and learn the basics of B2B customer engagement online before taking up across-the-board eCommerce adoption. They also need to stay agile when testing different online marketing strategies, eCommerce features, enterprise integrations, etc. and carefully build the best-fit B2B eCommerce strategy for their business from the ground up. There is no out-of-the-box solution that gives you everything you need, so be prepared for painstaking customization and optimization over time.
Select B2B eCommerce technology partners wisely
B2B eCommerce technology is the primary component of your omnichannel online strategy as a B2B company. Your customers – as well as your sales team – will need access to a variety of B2B-specific features and capabilities, and they will expect more to come. Make sure your selected platform can deliver those capabilities and evolve together with the dynamic B2B industry. Forrester’s survey also suggests companies do not feel like building a B2B eCommerce solution themselves – a homegrown platform was the case for 10% of participants whereas about 40% of companies opted for having one primary vendor for most of their B2B eCommerce needs.
Technology Integration for Enabling Omnichannel Customer Experiences
In their another study, Forrester confirms that technology integration remains the biggest barrier to eCommerce success in B2B. Technology integration also represents the biggest challenge for delivering omnichannel customer experiences – data sync between multiple backend systems and customer-facing applications, seamless transition between web and mobile experiences, and intuitive UI / UX for conservative B2B buyers. All of these challenges should be addressed with the following enterprise-wide technology integration:
B2B eCommerce Platform
A B2B eCommerce platform enables companies to jumpstart their digital commerce transformation by offering a large number of key features out of the box. This technology specifically addresses a B2B buyer’s needs, such as corporate account management, personalized B2B catalog management, multiple price lists, facilitated buyer-seller interaction, and others. For the best results, implementation of a B2B eCommerce platform should go hand-in-hand with mapping out your customer’s online buying journey. Your goal is to ensure that your selected platform is capable of supporting omnichannel experiences in every user scenario – it offers B2B self-serve features, it supports strong content management, it is open for third-party integrations, it supports smooth mobile UX, it can be used to set up a B2B marketplace, and it can also help your sales team sell easier to offline customers.
ERP, CRM, PIM integration
Another critical aspect is integrating a B2B eCommerce platform with your enterprise software to keep all the product, pricing, and customer data in sync. In the mentioned Forrester’s study, 52% of respondents named integration with existing and legacy technologies as “very” or “extremely challenging”. Multichannel selling, therefore, becomes way too complicated if not built upon well-integrated operations and technology. On the bright side, technology integration – if done right – is a much more popular solution than using a single vendor’s technology for all your selling needs. Forrester’s study indicates that only 13% of companies use single stack B2B software. Maintaining a neatly integrated stack of different software tools will give you a lower TCO, more freedom of choice, and potentially more best-of-breed solutions.
The mobile experience is a dominant trend for modern day eCommerce. In reference to B2B eCommerce, Google and Boston Consulting Group say that mobile drives, or influences an average of more than 40% of revenue in leading B2B organizations. Moreover, they estimate that by 2020 70% of B2B search queries will be happening on mobile devices. Thus, developing their mCommerce sales channel will remain a major priority for all B2B companies who compete for an online customer.
Omnichannel eCommerce is the Next Big Thing in B2B
A B2B buyer is moving online and expects more convenience, speed, and comfort when interacting with a seller. Even though many companies are still far from being at ease with basic B2B eCommerce technology, they will also have to rise up to the omnichannel eCommerce challenge or risk to be left behind. It’s time to start thinking really big in B2B.
About Oro, Inc.
Oro, Inc. was founded in 2012 by industry leaders in open-source business applications and is the software company behind OroCommerce, a pioneering eCommerce platform made specifically for B2B businesses, manufacturers selling online, distributors, and brands.