What it Takes to be a Leader in B2B eCommerce

Hayden Baer

Why a user-friendly B2B eCommerce site is so valuable in today's market

B2C eCommerce is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy, with U.S. eCommerce sales growing by 15% in 2018. While this poses a significant opportunity to B2C businesses, and even more promising opportunity lies within B2B eCommerce. In fact, a reliable and user-friendly eCommerce site is more valuable than ever before.

Forrester estimates that by 2020, U.S. B2B eCommerce will be twice the size of B2C eCommerce. As the demographic of B2B buyers has shifted, so too have the purchasing behaviors involved in B2B. More B2B buyers prefer the convenience and ease of access provided by eCommerce sites, and 59% of B2B buyers now prefer to do their own research, rather than talk to a sales representative. As the dynamics of B2B transactions continue to evolve, businesses that fail to adapt can quickly find themselves falling behind.

In their study, “What it Takes to be a Leader in B2B eCommerce”, Forrester discusses the benefits of B2B eCommerce, as well as strategies and best practices to maximize value. The study established three tiers that companies fall into regarding their eCommerce efforts: Novice, Explorer, and Master. Each classification is based upon how many of the Forrester Best Practices a company has in place. Let’s take a deeper look at the best practices to follow to improve your organization’s standing and become an eCommerce Master.

Forrester's eCommerce Best Practices

Forrester's best practices are based upon the maturity and structure of a company’s overall eCommerce efforts. Those companies following Forrester's best practices will have:

  1. A dedicated eCommerce team or department. This one speaks for itself.
  2. An established eCommerce leader; someone who can champion the company’s eCommerce efforts and form a cohesive vision between the dedicated eCommerce team and the rest of the organization. Finding this champion might initially be a challenge, but we’ve found that the rewards will be well worth it.
  3. A dedicated technology team supporting eCommerce efforts. B2B businesses require flexible technology that can adapt to their customer’s needs, and Magento is one such technology that boasts impressive flexibility. As an open-source platform, Magento can be modified to address the evolving needs of your business. The combination of a flexible platform and your skilled technology team are key to the long-term success of your company’s eCommerce efforts.
  4. A cross-functional agreement on the company’s eCommerce strategy. Failure to reach a consensus throughout the organization can result in friction and discontent between different departments. In our experience, a cross-functional relationship between the sales and eCommerce teams serves as a tremendous boon to the organization.
  5. A dedicated P&L for eCommerce sales. While you might have certain metrics in place to measure the success of your eCommerce site, a dedicated P&L will serve to present a more complete view of your eCommerce efforts. Upon reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of your eCommerce efforts you can adapt them to better suit your business goals.

Forrester's eCommerce Maturity Tiers

Forrester determined there are three tiers of maturity across the B2B eCommerce market, the most basics of these tiers being Novices. Companies in the Novice tier have not implemented any of Forrester's best practices. This means that these companies have no dedicated eCommerce operations and have yet to align their eCommerce strategies with other sectors of the organization.

The second tier, Explorers, are those organizations that have started down the path of mature eCommerce processes and have adopted at least two of the five best practices. Today, the largest group of companies, roughly 55%, find themselves in this segment.

The third and final tier is the Masters. These companies have fully matured functional eCommerce operations and in doing so have adopted four to five of Forrester's best practices.

Why should you strive to be an eCommerce Master?

While sporting the title of eCommerce Master is all well and good, what can you expect to see through the implementation of an effective eCommerce effort? Over 70% of the firms in the Master tier found that their eCommerce efforts were crucial to achieving their goals of increasing revenue, customer satisfaction, and retention. Furthermore, these companies also noted how their eCommerce efforts contributed in lowering order error rates and the cost of sale, as well as improving their position in comparison to their competitors. Do you know where your company falls in Forrester's categories? 

Are you interested in improving your eCommerce capabilities? Contact our team to get started.

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