The B2B eCommerce market is worth $6.7 trillion dollars—$1.13 trillion in the US alone. This means that for most B2B merchants, eCommerce has become a core part of their business strategy. But, merely being “online” isn’t enough to keep up with changing consumer expectations and the pace of technological innovation.
When we look at those B2B companies who are doing eCommerce really well, one thing stands out: a strong organizational commitment to digital commerce which ensures that these initiatives are well aligned with overall business objectives. The companies who’ve built eCommerce into their fundamental infrastructure will more successfully attract, delight, and retain their customers, ultimately leading to higher revenue and sustained growth.
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The impact of this organizational maturity is far reaching. According to a recent report by Forrester, compared to companies that lack such maturity, businesses that have fully integrated eCommerce into their business strategy report very or extremely important to increasing overall revenue (78% vs 38%), improving customer satisfaction (79% vs 40%), and increasing competitor positioning (78% vs. 44%).
Developing a successful eCommerce strategy that maximizes ROI for this new sales channel means considering eCommerce as more than a box to check, or a project to revisit once every few years. eCommerce is crucial to driving customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and productivity goals within a company, and setting up the proper organizational infrastructure is vital to success.
Looking to establish or reevaluate your digital commerce strategy? Below are three steps you can take to give your eCommerce initiatives the foundational support needed to grow, and deliver optimal online customer experiences:
Choose Your Leader, Build Your Team
The first step is creating space for a designated eCommerce leader in the organization. By ensuring that one, independent person is responsible for driving forward the company’s overall eCommerce success, you are making a commitment to eCommerce as a full aspect of the business, rather than a side project that might be treated as ancillary to a marketing or sales lead’s other responsibilities. Finding the best candidate for the job may be a challenge, especially if your city is not a hotspot for top tech talent but many organizations can rely on eCommerce solution partners or expert consultants to help fill gaps as they build out their eCommerce. When HVAC distributor Watsco was building out their e-commerce strategy, they more than doubled their technology staff adding over 100 new employees across five years. How you build your team depends on your current priorities, size, and staffing needs, but over time, most will want team members that focus on a range of functions, including product and development, analytics, marketing, merchandising, operations, and sales enablement to ensure digital is deeply embedded into all aspects of the business.
Ensure Cross-Functional Alignment and Support
You may notice that many of the suggested positions for your eCommerce team have titles that overlap with existing departments in your company. While eCommerce should be treated as a standalone priority, the impact of an eCommerce effort is far reaching and will affect operations and policies in other parts of the company. Implementing or upgrading your company’s eCommerce platform is not just about introducing or improving a new channel, it’s changing how the company as a whole operates.
Opening eCommerce as a new path to purchase can create tension and conflict with those already operating in existing channels. How will this eCommerce initiative impact a sales representative’s job? What new skills must customer service representatives develop in order to provide the best experience to your online customers? Communication around this change across all sectors of the business, including your boots on the ground in brick and mortar stores, phone sales reps, and customer service operators, is crucial to success, and that communication must go both ways. You must open channels of communication and empower people to provide feedback as eCommerce projects are implemented.
Set Your Goals
To make eCommerce a priority for your company, it is crucial to track a separate Profits & Loss (P&L) statement for eCommerce efforts. Ultimately, tracking P&L will help you justify your eCommerce investments, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Having a clear indication of the impact that your projects are having on the company’s bottom line – both through direct online sales and by influencing conversion in other channels – can help you justify new initiatives and expenditures, or change course, if you aren’t reaping the financial results anticipated from such investments.
A strong eCommerce roadmap is vital to compete in the competitive world of B2B. By taking a forward leaning posture into B2B eCommerce, you not only reap the benefits of offering an exceptional experience for your customers but stay ahead of emerging competitors. If you treat eCommerce as a side-project, you’ll find yourself losing customers as you race to catch up with your competitors offerings. But, if you dedicate the infrastructure and talent to build your eCommerce offerings, the opportunities are limitless.