A few times recently, I have come across a statement that if you want to build a successful customer-centric B2B eCommerce, you need to apply solutions that work in the B2C sector. Although I, like probably most of us, think that one should learn from good advice and experience, I also believe that the above theory is an oversimplification of the subject. And while there are many practices from B2C that enrich the B2B sector, we need to keep in mind the fundamental differences between them, which, whether we like it or not, determine their shape and should define both business and technological approach.
But, let's start from the beginning.
As Meetsales’ CTO Jakub Mikołajczyk emphasized in our recent article, unlike B2C, many B2B companies didn’t handle well last year’s turbulence and the overall rapid digitalization. They were forced not only to quickly digitize their businesses but also to move their employees, and most importantly customer relations online.
The studies show that more than 70% of buyers state that their latest buy was difficult or complex. This means that there are no quick and easy solutions that can be translated into the B2B market, especially when it comes to customer experience. So, it’s high time for B2B eCommerce to create an end to end digital purchasing process and in doing so take into account the specifics of the B2B sector, characteristics of its customers, and their high requirements.
Key characteristics of B2B eCommerce
There are plenty of aspects of B2B eCommerce that need to be considered while designing an extraordinary customer experience, planning a sales strategy, and choosing the right eCommerce architecture for your online business. But they all revolve around customers, the product, and the buying process itself. And all of them should be approached to ease your client’s journey and provide a strong ROI at the same time.
Customers & Relationships
There are many essential factors that characterize B2B eCommerce and distinguish it from B2C eCommerce, but in the end, it all starts with a customer. B2B customers are driven by facts and logic. Their purchases are always well planned, calculated, and entail doing thorough research. Moreover, the buying scenario is compound and involves many stakeholders which complicates and often prolongs the decision-making process. Let’s not forget to mention the relationship aspect. Clients are looking for a reliable supplier that can accommodate repeat purchases and nurture long-term partnerships that match their business needs which still means sustaining and building human to human relationships and leveraging omnichannel sales strategy.
Products in B2B are complex because they can range from simple consumable products to specialized and highly configured products. They often have many variants, and they may require advanced quoting or custom configuration. This also involves having multiple advanced products attributes such as specifications, warranties, service manuals or PDF’s with installation guides.
What is more, B2B eCommerce needs to create a particular search experience, which is often personalized to each user type. It should aim at helping all persons involved in the buying process to find exactly what they are looking for as it is pretty usual that B2B buyers are required to order the same products repeatedly. Advanced B2B search features such as auto-complete or suggested spelling corrections can also help speed up the searching experience and allow for that buyer to filter their search results by if they’ve ever ordered the items before or not.
Pricing & Closing the order
Many B2B customer relationships have dedicated pricing arrangements, whether across-the-board or volume-based discounts. B2B platforms are built to handle these customer-specific pricing scenarios. Pricing adjustments may change based on changing bill-to and ship-to information and often need to be presented to the user as quickly and accurately as possible. Additionally, integration with various payment management solutions and providers is a critical part of B2B eCommerce to serve customers with credit limits, invoice history, and payment options.
As the studies show, checkout is one of the most tricky parts when it comes not only to B2B but eCommerce in general. Cart and checkout abandonment may apply even up to 80% of all online shopping, which is yet another proof of how crucial following your customer’s journey is. By solely increasing the checkout experience, the conversion rate can increase by 35%.
Fundamentals of creating an efficient B2B eCommerce platform
All the above characteristics and aspects should be reflected while building a modern eCommerce architecture that should meet three essential requirements.
3 crucial requirements of modern B2B eCommerce:
It should be open for future integrations and flexible when adding components and solutions that your business really needs, leaving all irrelevant features aside. Furthermore, it should be technologically prepared for your business growth and allow you to expand in time. And last but not least, it should match your customer’s preferences, target and solve their problems.
In other words, the right eCommerce engine built for B2B should maximize the buyer’s demands, address specific economic requirements, and accelerate the productivity of every person involved in buying experience. And in our opinion, this is exactly what composable commerce, based on microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless approach, is all about.
Are there some ways in which B2B and B2C are similar? Yes, there are many practices that must still be included when it comes to the look and feel of the screen the customers see in front of them. But that’s where this similarity ends. The rest requires a unique approach driven by specific B2B characteristics. And with that in mind, we built the Meetsales platform - to address the complex business needs of the B2B sector, offering complimentary support to your sales force and acting as a lifeline when your automated sales process fails to catch up.
Want to know more? Don’t hesitate to contact us and find out what features we still have up our sleeve!