According to a recent report by McKinsey, Business-to-Business e-commerce has gained immense popularity, surpassing traditional channels – in-person sales, video calls, and email – as the most effective means of securing business transactions. While the choice between online marketplaces and dedicated stores is valid, B2B sales companies that embrace an omnichannel approach witness a minimum yearly market share increase of 10% or more.
While the statistics and facts highlight the promising prospects and importance of B2B e-commerce, it's crucial to understand the possible roadblocks. Let's explore the advantages and challenges of B2B e-commerce operations along with some valuable tips to help you successfully overcome the difficulties.
Advantages of B2B E-commerce
Enhanced Operational Efficiency
While introducing an online channel might initially appear daunting and time-consuming, when executed correctly, it can streamline your operations, boost productivity, and offer added convenience to B2B buyers.
Moreover, one of the most reassuring benefits of B2B e-commerce is risk mitigation. Even if your offline operations encounter shutdowns or delays, online sales can keep your operations running smoothly.
Increased Loyalty and Sales with Improved CX
Establishing one or more online stores allows you to cater to diverse customer preferences in how they conduct business. This is crucial considering that, according to PWC, 73% of buyers acknowledge that CX influences their purchasing decisions and 86% are willing to pay more for an improved CX. In essence, investing in a B2B e-commerce venture not only enhances your competitiveness and memorability but also encourages repeat business from satisfied customers.
Operating a B2B commerce business is certainly expensive. With substantial stock orders and overhead costs such as showroom space, office space, in-person staff, equipment, and facility maintenance, these expenses can erode your financial stability if not managed carefully.
Fortunately, you can eliminate or significantly reduce these costs by embracing an online webshop or marketplace store. And as you decide to redirect the savings towards growth-oriented initiatives instead, you still have the opportunity to minimize the costs of efforts by introducing AI into your workflows.
What Are Some Typical B2B Challenges in E-commerce?
- Need for Tech Expertise
Even with online stores that offer user-friendly drag-and-drop builders and robust e-commerce services, creating an online store takes time, effort, and investment. You can’t do without a certain level of technical expertise. Depending on your chosen platform, even coding skills may be required to optimize store pages, implement automation, and extract data.
- Platform Choice Paralysis
Selecting the appropriate technological platform can be daunting. The right choice hinges on your business objectives, market trends, online sales proficiency, e-commerce marketing experience, and an element of luck. Quite naturally, some brands may be hesitant to take the risk.
- Industry Conservatism
B2B commerce has traditionally been an offline business model, so your team and clients may express apprehensions about or resistance to embracing digital transformation. Navigating the complexities of change management can be hard, especially when aiming for results, clarity, and confidence among your team.
- Tough Competition
The e-commerce realm is bustling with competition, so it’s key to define a compelling Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and cultivate a robust online brand presence to distinguish yourself. To achieve success, you need to vigilantly monitor your competitors, market trends, and customer purchasing behaviors.
- Required Investments
Obtaining all the necessary assets demands a significant investment of time, resources, and expertise. This explains why 14% of small businesses struggle to gain visibility online, resulting in low web traffic, and 11% find it challenging to manage the costs associated with website development and maintenance.
7 Key Strategies for a Successful B2B E-commerce Business
Launching a successful B2B e-commerce business can indeed present a formidable set of challenges. However, amidst these hurdles, 7 key strategies emerge as promising pathways for aspiring entrepreneurs. These strategies are not only effective in overcoming challenges in B2B marketing and sales but also instrumental in establishing a resilient and enduring e-commerce enterprise.
1. Prioritize High-Quality Content
Customers cannot physically interact with products, so your content serves as your most powerful advocate. Invest time and money in crafting compelling product descriptions, adding captivating photos, and uploading informative videos. Consider experimenting with technologies like 3D product simulators to provide a better understanding of your product's features and capabilities. Incorporate social proof in your content through reviews and testimonials to build buyer confidence.
2. Select the Right E-commerce Platform
Your key step is to choose the platform that aligns with your business's specific needs, considering factors such as your target audience's location, the nature of your products, and prevailing market trends. Consult our guide on e-commerce platforms to know more about the existing offers.
3. Offer a Seamless Omnichannel Experience
Recognize that buyers often explore multiple touchpoints before making a purchase. Implement various online sales channels that complement your traditional offline methods, such as phone sales and trade show booths.
Incorporate a mix of online and offline sales channels, including sales-rep assisted and self-service options. This multifaceted approach caters to the diverse needs and preferences of your customer base.
4. Implement a Convenient Pay-by-Invoice Solution
A staggering 54% of B2B buyers prefer a pay-by-invoice option. Simplify cost management, facilitate payments for your customers, and boost conversions by offering this payment method. For optimal results, select a platform specifically designed for B2B e-commerce with extensive coverage of buyer locations.
5. Invest in Growth Initiatives
Companies that leverage growth-oriented initiatives are 2.1x more likely to achieve 10% or greater market share growth. Try out new advanced sales tools, build hybrid sales teams or even consider creating your own marketplace.
Don’t disregard personalization initiatives either since over 80% of customers are more inclined to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. Plan the introduction of hyper-personalized marketing and adoption of customized sales strategies for different channels.
6. Communicate with the Stakeholders
To surmount all challenges in B2B sales, you need to effectively align with internal stakeholders. Regularly communicate the benefits of B2B e-commerce to your team. Explain how implementing the right tools can streamline tasks such as analyzing store data, monitoring lead progression, and managing customer inquiries across multiple channels. Underline that with B2B e-commerce they stand to benefit from reduced administrative burdens and more time to focus on their core responsibilities, ultimately leading to greater job satisfaction.
7. Request Agency Assistance
If e-commerce marketing isn't your forte and you lack marketing professionals on your team, delegating this responsibility to a dependable e-commerce marketing agency or specialist becomes essential. Keep in mind that this expense can accumulate, as some agencies request monthly service fees and a share of your revenue. Prepare for careful financial planning and a rigorous partner search.
Approach B2B eCommerce with Expertise
Now that you've equipped yourself with insights into the potential B2B marketing challenges and strategies for your e-commerce venture, the next crucial phase is acting.
Begin by conducting thorough research on various e-commerce channels, analyzing your competitors' tactics, and staying updated on prevailing market trends. This will help you determine where to initiate your journey and how to proceed. Once you've developed a minimum viable product, launch it into the market and remain agile in adapting your approach based on the insights derived from your store data and invaluable customer feedback.