Today, your B2B customers want to shop online
All B2B businesses wants an e-commerce solution these days. It is driven by both practical necessity and pressure from customers. But it also creates a new competitive advantage for the smaller B2B companies.
E-commerce is not new. B2B businesses have been using e-commerce for decades, but it has mainly been a complement to sales representatives – and receiving orders by phone, fax and email.
There was a slow-moving trend for more and more transactions to take place on digital portals, but suddenly the corona pandemic hit us, and the trend picked up speed.
E-commerce replaces sales reps
Today, half of all B2B trading in the Western world is done through an e-commerce platform. The other half is handled by emails and phones and sales representatives.
But sales representatives have had difficult conditions during the pandemic. They cannot visit the customers, replenish their inventory, and pitch new items.
Today, everyone is shopping online
At the same time, customers have discovered that it is easy to order online and that they have more control. During the pandemic, everyone has become accustomed to shopping online. If anyone was a bit reluctant to shop online, they have become accustomed during the pandemic.
Developments in B2B commerce are often driven by trends in B2C.
I did not buy much online before the pandemic, because I wanted to physically touch the item, and because the shipping fee was intimidating. But today I buy almost everything online and happily pay for delivery to my doorstep.
I think most people can recognize the development we have gone through during the pandemic. It is a paradigm shift – and this consumer behavior is naturally spreading to B2B shopping.
Pressure from customers
Today, most people find it easier to shop online than to spend time with a sales representative. This puts more pressure on all companies – large and small – to have an e-commerce platform.
I find that smaller and smaller companies are acquiring e-commerce. Today, it is a necessity for all B2B businesses.
It is, in my view, a major change that has happened in the last few years. It’s a landslide.
New opportunities arise
There are probably many companies that think it is annoying that they are now pressured to acquire more IT if their old setup with salespeople and phones worked just fine. But I also find that many companies take the opportunity to get closer to their customers in a different way.
Many smaller B2B companies have realized that they must differentiate by offering advice. Most sell products that customers can get cheaper elsewhere – but the smaller companies benefit from advising better on the products.
I hear again and again from smaller companies that the recipe is that if customers are taught to place orders in the e-commerce portal, especially on consumables, accessories and replenishments – then it frees up time to provide better advice to customers – and that advice is the crucial competitive advantage for the smaller B2B companies today.
When considering e-commerce
Let’s create an overview.
When a small B2B business is considering an e-commerce store for the first time, it is usually these reasons that characterize the decision:
- Your customers demand the opportunity to look at items and place orders online when it suits them.
- Your competitors have opened an e-commerce store.
- The contact with your customers has deteriorated because the sales representatives cannot visit them.
- You become aware that the time saved on order reception can be used to create better customer relationships through offering advice – if the customers place orders online on their own.
There is another group of B2B companies that have had e-commerce for many years. These are typically somewhat larger companies. They have other reasons to consider a new e-commerce solution:
- Customers have higher expectations for e-commerce than just a few years ago. It is not acceptable to have incorrect inventory levels, prices, availability, etc.
- When the platform must handle many transactions, it becomes a bigger and bigger challenge that data must be maintained in two places and that there are manual processes. The requirements for integration and data synchronization are becoming greater.
These companies are often trapped by an older ERP system. If you must upgrade the ERP solution before you can establish a new ecommerce system, then you are faced with 2 major IT projects.
Now I will allow myself to end with a little advertising for my own initiative. It is important to me to offer an e-commerce solution that meets the challenge.
- The smaller B2B companies need an e-commerce solution that is plug & play and does not take long to set up.
- The companies that are more experienced with B2B ecommerce need an ecommerce solution that can be established without an ERP upgrade project, and still be 100% connected with ERP from day one.
I think my team has a good proposition. We want to offer B2B ecommerce that is as easy to set up as Shopify is for B2C businesses.
We have solved this with the B2B E-commerce app, which can be used for the ERP solution Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. If you want to read more about it and watch a lot of videos, jump to this page.