The Modern B2B eCommerce site – B2B 2.0

Bill Onion

B2B eCommerce 2.0

"The customer is always right". This golden (however much, at times, despised) rule of retail, or B2C, has long governed the curious relationship of the buyer and the seller. When applied to eCommerce, consumers have demanded sites that are more intuitive; they've requested more information, instantaneous feedback on availability and avenues to discuss, review and compare. The eCommerce channel continues to grow, almost exponentially it seems, and B2C eCommerce's lesser-known kid brother, B2B eCommerce, took note of this eager-to-please market and began mimicking its habits and tendencies. What we have come to call B2B 2.0, is the process through which B2C functionality is leveraged to allow for cross and up-selling, optimized content and the sharing of peer-to-peer information. Within this new world order of B2B eCommerce, three major areas of practice management are emerging, and B2B is beginning to look less like the younger brother and more like a twin.

A Rich Customer Experience

Retail giants such as Target and Amazon have set the standard of eCommerce experiences, and the bar is quite high. The same consumers who spend their evenings shopping online found themselves pining for the functionalities in the B2B stores they must frequent at the office. Who said simply because it's one business selling to another that pleasantries and conveniences needed to be saved for client luncheons and conference calls? When boiled down, a business is only a larger group of individuals working toward the same goal; shouldn't they be entitled to rich, well-written and well organized content, easy navigation and customized logins and checkouts? Someone said they were, and that trend is quickly gaining momentum.

Operational Management

Of successful calls placed to a customer service center (ones where you're able to reach the correct department during "normal" business hours) regarding B2B eCommerce, about half usually deal with one of three questions:

Do you have it in stock?

What is my price?

Where is my order?

Depending on the processes of the organization, this could potentially lead to lost sales or misquoted prices. In an effort to create a B2B eCommerce experience which more closely resembled B2C, businesses recognized the importance of integrating their front-end user interfaces with their back-end ERPs. In doing so, human intervention is reduced and subsequently, so is human error. Through linking information in the ERP directly to the eCommerce store, buyers can view their order histories, check their accounts and order statuses and in effect, customize their shopping experiences in the workplace.

Consumer-centric Marketing

Modern B2B sites began taking note of how well B2C sites target their customers for cross-sells and up-sells. Through tracking consumer behaviors by way of site analytics, items such as which pages a person viewed, how much time he or she spent on a given page and on which items he or she clicked, businesses can create personalized marketing campaigns. These campaigns also benefit the internal sales team, as they are presented with a perspective into the psyche of buyers, which for years has remained elusive. Social streams such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs also play an integral part in eCommerce marketing. While B2B doesn't lend itself to social media in the same ways, the core concepts can be borrowed. Business can encourage customers to share their B2B experiences by tweeting a blog, "liking" an organization on Facebook or contributing to a case study (a word-of-mobile-mouth phenomenon). Through dedicated consumer-centric marketing initiatives, many formerly traditional B2B organizations are beginning to realize their ROIs as quickly as their B2C counterparts. As online user experiences continue to improve, so will the bottom line of both B2B and B2C organizations. B2B sellers will soon find that they won't be able to compete with peers who've already adopted practices of eCommerce 2.0; and if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Join us in the B2B discussion by sharing your thoughts and ideas. We would love to hear from you.

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