While B2B businesses were already shifting to digital commerce, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this transition by at least 10 years. Moving forward, leading B2B companies are viewing digital interactions as two to three times more important than traditional sales approaches. This applies to both sellers and customers, therefore B2B sales solutions should consider this reality.
To be sure your business can recover from this crisis, make sure digital commerce is at the center of your growth strategy.
COVID-19 has magnified the risk to businesses relying on traditional methods. Travel, face-to-face meetings, and traditional supply chains have all been disrupted. Relying on these to conduct business puts you at greater risk.
At the same time, B2B buyer attitudes have changed as well. They’ve also cut down on travel and face-to-face meetings. What they’re doing instead is research. Lots of it. 90% of B2B buyers are using search tools to research business purchases. More than two-thirds start their buying journey by searching for products and services rather than brands. You need to make sure your content is accessible and ranks near the top in searches to expand your customer base. If not, B2B buyers may never be exposed to your brand.
The Benefits of Digital Commerce
Digital commerce provides a growing list of benefits for both businesses and buyers.
One of the keys to increasing cash flow is reducing the cost of sale. The less you have to spend to generate revenue, the more profit you make. For businesses, digital commerce reduces sales costs. It’s like having a salesforce working for you 24×7 but without having to pay the labor costs.
Whether you’re in the manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, office supply, or electronics industry, digital commerce provides additional revenue growth potential, including the unique opportunity for repeat transactions. The subscription-based transaction is a great business model for Amazon Business Sales, Staples, and other digital companies.
Enhanced tools such as personalization, Chatbots, and live chats allow for greater engagement. Coupled with content marketing and marketing automation, businesses can nurture B2B buyers through the buying funnel and increase conversions.
Digital commerce improves customer experience. It allows them to find what they want when they want it. There’s no more waiting to get the information you want or waiting for a salesperson to return your call.
In the research phase, digital commerce makes it easy to find and compare products. B2B buyers can search for products using natural language for partial name, partial SKU#. A powerful example is HCL Commerce which just added Natural Language Search capability to their advanced Search engine, Elastic Search. Buyers can also compare pricing, availability, and shipping. While this forces B2B sellers to be more competitive, it provides more options for buyers.
B2B Sales Solutions for a Better User Experience
Many B2B digital solutions weren’t built to provide a great user experience. Even those that offered digital commerce tended to be more along the lines of a product sheet providing little more than a list of SKUs, specs, and prices.
Consumer sites like Amazon have set the standard for digital commerce. Shoppers can instantly search and find the products they want, do research, and complete transactions. They can see products – often from different angles and in different settings – or watch video how-to’s or explainers. B2B sites need to emulate the Amazon buying experience to the best of their abilities.
Don’t forget, Amazon has its own Business marketplace that’s trying to sell directly to your B2B customers and is actively shaping expectations.
How important is meeting customer expectations? 84% of B2B eCommerce executives agreed that increasing expectations from customers represent the greatest external threat to the future of their business.
B2B Sales Solutions: Reducing Friction
When it comes to digital commerce, we define friction as anything that can slow down the customer journey or make it difficult for them to complete transactions.
What causes friction?
- Difficulty finding products or services
- Lack of pricing information and purchase options
- Complex forms to fill out to request a quote
- Company-focused rather than Buyer-oriented
- Slow-loading web pages
- Digital commerce sites that aren’t formatted for mobile access
One of the biggest friction points for B2B buyers is a lack of self-service options. If they have to reach out to complete a sale, you may lose the opportunity to someone that does allow them to buy online.
B2B Sales Solutions: Self-Service Options
When it is time to make a purchase, B2B buyers say they want self-service options. This trend is consistent across each stage of the buying journey. B2B buyers today are nearly twice as likely to use self-serve options as they were just a few years ago.
If you’re not offering self-serve options for research, evaluation, ordering, and reordering, you’re missing a big opportunity. When they’re researching or ready to buy, if they can’t do it digitally themselves, they may go directly to your competitors.
This is especially important if you’ve built a revenue generation strategy based on sales rep relationships. Customers are increasingly skeptical of salespeople because they don’t want to be sold to. B2B buyers want honest, relevant information without the sales pitch. This information engenders trust and gives them the confidence that they’re making a good decision.
When they’re ready to buy, they want to do it now. Digital commerce is crucial to your long-term success and to compete effectively in today’s marketplace.
It’s Time to Fully Embrace Digital Commerce
According to Forrester, US B2B eCommerce will hit $1.8 Trillion by 2023 and will account for 17% of all B2B sales. At the same time, offline commerce channels continue to decrease.
B2B sellers need to embrace digital commerce. The trend was already in progress but COVID poured fuel on the fire. It’s time to reimagine your traditional B2B sales solutions and fully embrace digital commerce for the future. Envision a platform that is built for B2B. Let us show you the foundation for that great vision with HCL Commerce.
To learn more, contact us at email@example.com.