Optimizing B2B eCommerce Experience during COVID-19
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Economies across the world are seeing implications of the massive lockdown and will gradually move on the path of recovery hereon. Business owners on one hand have to look into maintaining the stability of their ventures and on the other have to be mindful about the right way to react to the changing priorities. Be it B2B businesses, B2C, or any other model, the impact of COVID has been seen on all.
Digitalization is accepted as a better means to carry out business processes. It was already in motion even before the pandemic struck. Now COVID has proved to be a catalyst in the process, speeding up the transition to the web. It will be interesting to observe how the B2B sector will survive the challenge. The steps entrepreneurs will take to minimize impact and the long term solutions they come up with. It’s time to analyze the effects of COVID on B2B businesses. Optimizing B2B eCommerce experience during COVID-19 has become the need of the hour.
B2B eCommerce marketplaces- Facilitating online shopping for businesses
Marketplaces are the answer to all businesses who are looking to go the digital way when it comes to the procurement of goods and services by ditching the age-old way of offline shopping. That is also the path to take for B2B businesses during COVID19.
A new study stated that B2B online marketplaces will constitute a 30% share in total B2B sales around the world by the year 2024.
A report by Oracle is of the view that,
“Over one-quarter of B2B buyers (26%) identify marketplaces as their most preferred purchasing channel, and more respondents (87%) – including 97% of Millennials – buy [more] through marketplaces in general than in any other channel.”
B2B customers desire experiences similar to B2C
The convenience of purchase, a good shopping experience, a huge catalog of products, customer reviews, and ratings are some most coveted features. The expectations of customers have led giant B2C marketplaces to the likes of Amazon, take necessary steps, and expand into B2B.
The B2B buying behaviors have been inspired by the B2C ones, so much so that they have started to imitate the patterns of the latter. Hence similar to B2C, B2B ventures too will have to focus more on building brand awareness and credibility in the eyes of the customer, and not to forget form value-adding communities to help other businesses make buying decisions.
Brands are convinced of a bright future with B2B eCommerce marketplaces
Yes, they absolutely are, we don’t say that! The stats do,
- Over 72% of brands are convinced that by the year 2025 they will be generating at least half of their revenue from online commerce, says the research results of Episerver the sample being 100 B2B marketing decision-makers from across the UK. Every brand was convinced of a brighter future with B2B eCommerce in the next few years and even suggested it to be a primary revenue source.
- The B2B survey on digital experience by Episerver also suggests that B2B is ready to embark on the journey to growth across all sectors imaginable, from retail to manufacturing and even IT
- Episerver’s research backs the changing landscape of the B2B industry and recommends businesses to give their customers the opportunity to shop online similar to B2C.
B2B industry when compared to B2C
Before we get into busting one myth after the other it’s crucial to understand the fundamental difference between B2B and B2C types of businesses. The transacting parties involved in both the business types make a world of difference for these sectors. Where B2B deals require the manufacturer/seller on one end, on the other is the consumer of the product. Whereas in B2B transactions both the parties could possibly be manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers. Which understandably makes the volume of sales larger in the B2B setup as compared to that of B2C.
- Contrary to popular belief it’s interesting to note that the B2B industry is expected to be twice the size of B2C this year in 202o. It is also expected to be the sector with the highest eCommerce growth in a span of five years down the line till 2025.
B2B eCommerce and COVID
COVID-19 effects on B2B commerce have been largely seen. The closure of manufacturing units during COVID has proved to be detrimental for the smooth movement of supply chains. The units where production was still ongoing were also not able to function in full force due to a limited workforce. It indeed proved to be a testing time exposing the vulnerabilities of different business sectors.
Not just this, since the demand never went down for a few industries managing supply and demand synchronization also posed a challenge. Then came the sudden shift in consumer purchase behavior, shut down, etc. which only made the situation even more challenging. The B2B industry too did not remain unaffected. COVID-19 effects on B2B businesses have been widespread.
- However, despite these concerns, B2B eCommerce continued to grow. A 30% boost in traffic was recorded by B2B eCommerce websites, majorly in the life sciences and pharma industries for obvious reasons.
- With online shopping getting popular in the B2B sector it will be a smart move by businesses to allocate appropriate budgets and resources for online marketing. This can be utilized to create brand awareness and establish communication with customers through social channels.
The response phase of businesses was broadly classified into three phases:
- 1st phase where the primary focus was to sail through the crisis
- 2nd phase 2 involves an analysis of the impact and preparation of a recovery strategy to minimize the impact
- 3rd phase 3 includes preparing for a future with altered customer preferences
Commercial B2B operations rely on imports through various transport channels which have also been affected by the pandemic.
Similar to B2C, in the B2B industry as well the concerns arise from various directions. In addition to fixing the disturbances caused in the supply chain dynamics focus shall also be on employee health. Building community trust and forming great customer relationships is also a must. An understanding of the short term and long term impact of the crisis is crucial to making the right steps hereafter.
What steps do businesses need to take in order to sail through COVID?
In addition to focusing on value-adding mergers and acquisitions, you as a B2B business owner will need to take care of the following things wrt the online space. Here we will deal with 2 situations, one at a time.
- What to do if you do not own an online B2B business
- Prerequisites to shifting your B2B business online
- Optimizing your already existing B2B eCommerce business
What to do if you do not own an online B2B business- Move to the web
The relevance of online channels holds as much true for B2B as it does for B2C, more so now in times of the pandemic. Experts attach twice the importance to the online presence for business now than what they did some time back.
With increased penetration of digital media, it is becoming crucial for businesses to have an online presence. The customer today is expecting to avail of the same experiences they get on B2C platforms on the B2B ones. The myth that customers do not want to participate in B2B interactions online needs to be busted. Today’s B2B buyer is a millennial that does not want to place orders on the phone.
- Over 41% of customers picked self-service functionality as one of the top 3 ways that B2B organizations could adopt to make them shop through online channels
- Close to 73% of B2B executives are of the view that customer expectations for personalized experiences are significantly growing now in comparison to previous years.
- Approximately 89% of B2B researchers choose to extensively research online prior to engaging with them. Which makes it all the more important for you to have an online presence for your business
Prerequisites to shifting your B2B business online
The decision to have a B2B eCommerce website may not necessarily be complex and hectic. A few right decisions and you will land yourself the best platform, and begin generating leads. If you do not have the expertise to create one such platform there are multiple outside agencies that will do the job for you and brilliantly, to say the least.
Your primary job would be to mold your product data in a manner that fits the bill for an eCommerce website. For the online implementation of your business setup, you need to carefully craft product descriptions. Do away with industry jargon, and represent the product in a way that customers can easily browse for it. A website will look aesthetic with UI you have in place and the images that appear on it. Remember a picture speaks a thousand words and no matter how luring and articulate your product description is the customer will believe what he sees. Your product images will play an important role in sealing the deal here.
All you need is to craft your products and make them ready to show up well on an eCommerce website. Third-party solution providers will take care of the rest and help you fill in the loopholes.
Optimizing your already existing B2B eCommerce business
- Establishing human connect during times of crisis
During the COVID crisis, it becomes your foremost responsibility to cater to your costumes in the best possible manner. There are areas that are worst hit by the pandemic, offering additional offers and deals to customers belonging to those areas will help earn customer loyalty. Standing together with the community and coming to its help when it needs the most will help you establish a human connection. In case of limited stock, you shall prioritize catering to customers coming from some majorly impacted regions. Distributing goods and essentials, running discounts, forgoing additional charges are a few measures you could take as a business to fulfill your responsibility towards the community.
- Ensure Quality-Focus on user experiences
We all know how simply having an eCommerce version for your B2B business won’t help. When businesses have come to a standstill you must take this time to curate exceptional experiences on your B2B website. You’ll need to ensure the delivery of great experiences, smooth functionality, and secure payments through it. Quality cannot be compromised on and that is the rule of the thumb.
Running a B2B business must have let you in on the requirements of your customer. Now all you need to do is take it up a notch by focusing on the overall experience of it. Product synchronization, product details, pricing, and data updation at all times shall never experience any delay. Make your website aesthetic to look at and easy to browse. You shall put in place provisions for your customers to be able to pay safely for their orders. Additionally, they should also be able to track them at all times.
- Create a blog
Yes! Create a blog. Tell people about your niche, educate them, make them aware of your B2B eCommerce business. Content consumption in all forms has increased, especially now. If for long you did not find the time to create textual content do it now. People want to connect with brands that have the right stories to tell. Talk about your niche and bring your targeted customer to read it. Provide solutions and help them make informed decisions. The better thought leadership that you will be able to establish with your content the more SEO juices will flow to your site and the more will be your brand recognition.
- Create an omnichannel strategy
73% of millennial workers take crucial purchase decisions for their company or business.
The B2B buyer today is a millennial and you don’t know from where she will place her order. Will it be your website? Or will a mobile app be the preferred option? Well, no matter what it is you have to be prepared. The device shall not create a barrier between you and your customer.
Mobile-friendliness of your B2B eCommerce website is a must given the ever-increasing penetration of smartphones and the internet. B2B mobile commerce is getting bigger. Over 53% of B2B marketers have already incorporated mobile marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy.
B2B eCommerce marketplaces today are targeting to deliver B2C like experiences to their customers. This approach is helping them move up the success ladder. This will upgrade B2B businesses from their age-old ways of transacting and also connect the buyers and sellers digitally. Streamlining the entire supply chain to a large extent can be possible using this strategy. Also, B2B business owners now accept more than ever how moving online is helping automate the entire process of carrying out business transactions and making the process of sale highly efficient.