A growing number of business buyers are digitally native but experience a disconnect between the way they buy personal consumer goods and how they are forced to make business purchases. Brands can and should consumerise B2B experiences and enable online business shopping that’s as easy and convenient as a DTC channel.
The rise of ecommerce has revolutionised the way people shop, from consumers to business buyers. Digitally enabled buyers want to conduct the majority of their research online instead of interacting with a sales rep. In fact, the balance has shifted so far into the digital experience that buyers only spend 17% of their purchase journey with sales reps.
However, many B2B sellers have continued to advertise and sell products in a traditionally analogue way. Non-digital channels like ordering by phone and exchanging emails about purchase orders and invoicing are not just inefficient – they create unnecessary friction throughout the buying journey. Brands in the consumer electronics space that consumerise B2B experiences not only grow business, but also increase customer loyalty, lifetime customer value and overall brand success.
The landscape is quickly changing to make B2B ecommerce buying the norm. A forecast from Forrester predicts that the volume of transactions in B2B sales will exceed $3 trillion by 2024 and that ecommerce sales will account for almost 25% of total US B2B sales by 2027.
What Consumerised B2B Experiences Look Like
Today’s B2B buyers and decision makers are getting younger and tend to be digital natives. Therefore, they are more than familiar with shopping online and on DTC channels in their personal lives. Online shopping experiences offered by marketplaces, brand sites and major retailer owned online stores set the gold standard in a simple, frictionless buying experience. B2B buyers want the same benefits offered by a streamlined checkout process, a wide range of payment options, personalised product recommendations, helpful product information and clear delivery timelines and tracking information.
Additionally, B2B buyers want a website that is easy to use and mobile-friendly, with quick and easy product search and navigation. Since B2B buyers prefer to do their own research before interacting with sales, B2B ecommerce websites should have the most up-to-date information on pricing, product availability, shipping options and delivery dates.
The Challenges of Consumerising Business Ecommerce
The consumer DTC channel shopping experience has matured and become more sophisticated over the last couple of decades and yet B2B lags behind. This is likely due to the complexity of the B2B buying process in general compared to the consumer experience.
If a public consumer needs to purchase a new laptop, the shopper simply goes to their preferred online store, selects the laptop, checks out, likely pays with a credit card and then tracks the shipment until it arrives.
In contrast, corporate customers have different needs and processes. For example, a corporate client may be entitled to a volume discount on laptops. Or the client needs to associate the purchase with a service agreement. Corporate buyers also have payment terms and those payment terms may vary from customer to customer. Brands must be able to accommodate the purchase requirements of the client’s accounts payable and finance departments.
In short, B2B purchasing requires more intricate systems and ecommerce platform features. These features are not always available from a brand’s DTC ecommerce partner and creating them in-house is too resource intensive.
The Benefits of Consumerised B2B Electronics Ecommerce Experiences
Despite the challenges of establishing a B2B ecommerce channel, there are and will be huge benefits for brands. Building an online shopping channel for their corporate customers delivers an experience that drives sales. In a recent survey, 32% of B2B sellers identified ecommerce sales as their most effective channel, surpassing in-person sales.
It is no wonder that ecommerce options are alluring to buyers, but some of the same benefits apply to sellers. A good B2B ecommerce experience allows the seller to provide customers with a more streamlined, efficient and cost-effective buying experience. This builds customer loyalty and helps ensure higher customer lifetime value. A B2B ecommerce channel also allows electronics brands to better track customer data and trends, which can be used to make more informed marketing and product decisions.
Consumer electronics brands that consumerise the B2B experience also have the freedom and ability to determine online product availability. Negotiating for product placement, number of SKUs and merchandising design with wholesalers and distributors limits revenue opportunities. Brands that own their B2B ecommerce channels can offer their entire catalogues and can more quickly add or remove products based on demand and data.
In addition to selling products, consumer electronics brands that own their B2B online store can offer parts and replacement SKUs and accessories. This not only adds revenue potential, but ensures that corporate customers can access parts and repair equipment that keep warranties and service agreements in tact, giving the customer peace of mind.
Finally, a B2B ecommerce option allows sellers to better manage inventory and update product information in real time. And, with the right ecommerce platform, brands can offer specific personalisation to buyers based on their intent data and other factors.
What to Consider Before Launching a B2B Online Store
While an ecommerce experience is important, buyers expect more than just a simple online store. Top brands implementing an ecommerce option for customers seek to make the online experience more appealing than the offline experience. This includes meeting all the client’s business requirements like pricing and payment terms. It also includes offering more and better shipping options, targeted personalised recommendations, enhanced guarantees or warranties and increased product availability.
In addition, for B2B buyers, enhanced payment security, quick navigation, cost calculators and chat support options are top priorities.
And, the ecommerce experience should not stop at the time of purchase. To give the full B2C experience, brands should keep the checkout, payment, delivery tracking, product information and training, returns and support options all within the same website or portal.
Creating and launching a consumerised B2B ecommerce channel is complex. But with an experienced, dedicated ecommerce team, brands can launch quickly and reap the rewards.
ESW can help build a world-class ecommerce solution in a matter of weeks. Whether your brand needs checkout and payment solutions or you want to create a private, gated store experience just for your business clients, ESW accelerates speed-to-market and speed-to-revenue. Contact us today to learn how we can help you build an ecommerce experience for your B2B customers.