When people think of ecommerce, companies such as Amazon, Walmart, or Apple come to mind, and for good reason: Retail sales for these business-to-consumer brands totaled over $201 billion dollars in 2016. Digital transformation that includes ecommerce is at the top of their priority lists because brands want to create a cohesive, connected customer experience that will exceed ever-increasing customer expectations.
However, there’s a bigger ecommerce opportunity on the horizon. According to Forrester, B2B e-commerce sales are expected to top one trillion dollars by the year 2020, making digital transformation especially important for B2B companies. With a wide-open market that is ripe for the picking, if B2B marketers can enable the right digital transformation strategies in the ecommerce realm, they can claim their piece of the $1-trillion-dollar pie.
Advancements in technology have allowed B2C brands to personalize the customer experience like never before, which has raised online purchasing expectations for the work-related buyer. Traditionally, ecommerce strategies have been imperative to B2C success, but the B2B ecommerce experience has lagged behind. Now, brands have the opportunity to close that gap and provide the same ecommerce experience for B2B customers that they’re used to when they make purchases at home.
Given that brands are under constant pressure to realize efficiency gains, ecommerce is one of the first places that B2B companies should look when implementing transformation strategies. B2B Buyers conduct research online, and it’s important that brands optimize the experience to keep them in the sales funnel. Through optimization strategies, B2B companies can better move buyers through the purchasing cycle in a cost-effective manner. In addition, work-related buyers are always on the go and bring your own device (BYOD) is a standard practice, making business people the consummate mobile consumers of information. If B2B brands can meet them there, they have a massive opportunity for ecommerce growth.
Practical Steps for Implementing the Right Strategies
Take Notes from B2C Success
To stay relevant, companies must continue to reinvent themselves, and a shining example is General Electric. Under former CEO, Jeff Immelt, the 125-year-old company has been inspired by brands such as Amazon, and now, they’re embarking on a new Internet of Things journey where they are employing B2C strategies in a B2B brand. By looking at B2B ecommerce through a B2C lens, smart brands can follow in the steps of GE and reinvent models to better cater to the B2B market.
Capture the Entire Audience
Taking great notes from B2C success is important, but brands must also recognize the nuances that are specific to B2B purchasing. B2B has more roles per purchasing cycle, which means that B2B marketers are not just lucky enough to influence one role, they must influence multiple roles and understand and influence how they interact across the buying cycle. Not only that, they’re using multiple channels to research, connect, and purchase and those channels are both online and offline. These stakeholders may have different tendencies when they’re using a mobile device versus a desktop or even when they’re interacting with an account manager. By capturing every aspect of stakeholder behavior, B2B marketers can adapt ecommerce strategies
Have the Right Technology in Place
Because B2B buyers are expecting the same online customer experience as their home purchases, it’s important to deploy the right technology to learn about and engage with them in a personalized, contextualized manner. By collecting the right data online, brands can plan and componentize content and services elements around each stakeholder in the equation, and that content can guide them through the sales process. In addition, all of this data should be integrated into ERP, CRM, and other systems, which allows brands to take a fully integrated approach in the selling process.
For B2B brands, ecommerce strategies are the cornerstone of digital transformation because brands can capture insight and information about the thing that matters the most: the customer. From there, they can optimize and monetize the ecommerce experience in order to cash in on the $1 trillion-dollar opportunity.