B2B eCommerce transforming into a B2C shopping experience
Not all eCommerce is the same. Traditionally, B2C and B2B eCommerce brands have possessed different strengths and weaknesses. For example, B2B eCommerce retailers were the first to really iron out same-day or next-day order fulfillment and delivery, ensuring companies didn’t face any operational delays because of out-of-stock inventory or not having the proper equipment.
In contrast, consumer-facing retailers have been more progressive in creating a seamless, hassle-free shopping experience that incorporates multiple channels. B2C retailers were the first to really push intuitive website designs that expedite browsing and checkout processes, as well as embraced mobile devices.
However, as Multichannel Merchant observed, the winds seem to be changing. Companies are increasingly making business-related purchases online and they are already accustomed to shopping on B2C websites. Overly complex back-end operations and obtuse B2B eCommerce websites are unlikely to be successful with consumers – if merchants within that space don’t take a look at their online stores, they may lose their customers to retailers offering more convenience.
The numbers support that claim as well. According to research conducted by Forrester, 46 percent of B2B eCommerce retailers expect more than half of their customers to shift to buying goods online within three years. As a result, B2B eCommerce retailers are seriously evaluating the strength of their B2B eCommerce websites. As many as half of respondents intend to upgrade their eCommerce operations to help them better sell their products and services to other firms, government agencies and educational institutions.
Implementing B2C design into B2B eCommerce websites
Business-facing retailers need to consider the two areas they likely need to improve: back-end eCommerce operations and front-end website design. A robust eCommerce software solution will help merchants coordinate their eCommerce operations while a well-designed B2B eCommerce website will facilitate more Internet purchases.
When retailers fully embrace B2B eCommerce and start selling across multiple channels, they’ll need to implement an eCommerce software solution that allows them to oversee every different sales avenues. According to Multichannel Merchant, the right eCommerce software allows merchandisers to manage items and inventory more effectively, automate the flow of incoming and outgoing orders with suppliers and customers alike, route orders to different drop shippers and vendors to expedite order fulfillment and delivery as well as synchronize inventory availability and pricing across channels.
The key to implementing a comprehensive platform is making data available. When merchants have an eCommerce software that allows them to manage multiple channels, they are better able to streamline and optimize eCommerce operations. Data is an asset that allows them to identify opportunities, respond to trends and ensure that people who have already made a purchase are satisfied.
Nailing the customer experience
Back-end eCommerce operations will help B2B eCommerce websites manage orders and improve their operational efficiency, but they also need to have well-designed B2B eCommerce websites that encourage people to make purchases.
This starts by taking a look at how B2B eCommerce websites guide customers through the shopping experience. Content and product pages need to be descriptive so people can make well-informed shopping decisions. The path to purchase should also be clear – shoppers should be able to learn about products, see demos and either be able to convert on the spot or know who to contact so they can take that next step.
Service is also an important factor. Merchants need to be able to track customer orders across channels, which will help customer service agents answer question and inquiries more effectively. Live chat is paramount, with service representatives equipped with all the data and information they need to resolve issues.
B2B eCommerce is growing more prevalent. Now is the time for business-facing retailers to consider their online entities and look for ways to improve customer service and internal eCommerce operations to better serve shoppers. B2C retailers have set the precedent in these areas, it’s time for B2B merchants to react.