Industry analysts say b2b companies will be more competitive by catering to customer expectations, particularly in a merged eCommerce experience.
The b2b world has been slower to adapt to eCommerce than b2c. In the US, less than 10% of b2b sales were completed through a website. That share is expected to grow to 12% in the next few years.
eCommerce will never replace phone calls, sales reps and other traditional b2b channels.
But customers are starting to expect the same kind of flexibility they find in the b2c world. This convergence is not just about catering to customers, but some see it as indispensable to entering new export markets, as well.
Merged eCommerce: Omnichannel
Trading partners want eCommerce to be part of an omnichannel. Like their b2c cousins, they want choices.
As Forrester B2B eCommerce analyst Andy Hoar writes, these buyers are “becoming fickle and demanding a full spectrum of self-service, full-service and hybrid purchase options….b2b buyers will reward sellers that accommodate them with their spending and loyalty. The bad news is that they will remorselessly defect from sellers that don’t.”
Better B2B Websites
An IBM report argues that merged eCommerce means providing a more personalised b2b online experience. This means easier product searches, more detailed information about items, better presentation, and added features like recommended products.
Another report, by Gartner, asserts that companies with such effective personalization on their eCommerce sites will outsell their less personal competitors by 30% within a few years. The trend points to 70% of b2b e-commerce sites having some form of this personalisation by 2018.
Export From B2C to B2B
Medium-sized companies may find it easier to start with b2c when entering a new market.
Forbes magazine recently presented this idea, using China as an example. Traditionally, openly big western brands could find well-placed Chinese distributors to get selling in China. The rest were left with lower-tier distributors that offered less favorable business arrangements. Trading platforms like Tmall and JD actively seek foreign brands, allowing smaller companies to market and sell directly to consumers.
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