B2B buyers have a fair question to ask, and they are asking it loudly. Why is it that the experiences they receive shopping for everyday items in their regular lives as B2C consumers are nowhere to be found in their B2B work dealings?
The likes of Amazon, Target, Zappos, and B2C brands have raised the bar for what a buying experience should be. And the typical excuses that B2B organizations have been making for years – such as, Our products are too complex to be sold online like common goods. – are no longer enough.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the B2B industry’s hand in terms of setting up online storefronts – even as rudimentary as some may have been – and embracing ecommerce out of necessity. But customer expectations still outpaced gains by B2B companies when it came to ecommerce over the past four years. Meeting these needs is a tall order and easier said than done. But you might also be making the challenge more difficult than it needs to be. Before we get into that, let’s explain how we (B2B organizations) got here (the mighty uphill battle of ecommerce experiences).
Every company has to evolve with changing times. B2B organizations, however, are starting from the back of the pack. The B2B tech stack has historically been neglected from an investment standpoint for such a long time. These legacy systems were often not connected to one another or reported on well. That’s because, despite B2B bringing in millions of dollars per year, B2C has the larger reach and perception of the greatest opportunity potential. So for companies with both B2C and B2B lines of the business, B2B took the backseat.
Not only are B2B companies fighting to keep up with B2C standards, but they’re also doing it with often archaic systems and processes. To update these systems and processes means making key operational changes, and with complex delivery needs and long sales cycles, changes to how business is done can look daunting. To make sure you’re setting yourself up for success, follow these three pieces of advice.
A main argument against investing in a B2B ecommerce platform is that leaders can’t prove or justify ROI. How do you know that the system is more efficient than previous ways? An easy way to prove ROI is to look at the cost of sale. And it’s not just decreasing the effort of a salesperson to close a deal. You should also be factoring in the total efficiency of your labor (can you do a higher volume with the same resources?), customer service issues, and the length of the sales cycle.
It’s elusive to reach, but the holy grail of ecommerce ROI looks like this: more top-line revenue (selling more product) combined with more efficient processes (time and effort needed to process a deal) and cost avoidance (not having to hire more salespeople because you can now scale volume with the same resources).
Because B2B companies generally sell more complex and higher-price/higher-volume products, there is a perception that an ecommerce platform must be fully customized to their specific needs. And some customizations are likely necessary. But a common mistake we see organizations make is not beginning by not properly leveraging the out-of-the-box functionality of a platform like Salesforce B2B Commerce Cloud.
Platforms like Salesforce build their products to adhere to best practices and take care of the baseline functionality. If you overly customize in the wrong ways, not only are you increasing the likelihood that aspects of your system will break, but it’s going to be much more difficult to connect your various systems (commerce site, CRM, order management system, and so on) and scale over time. And we know that the tech stack of a B2B company can be vast and expansive. It’s best to work with a partner that understands how to properly customize the platform of your choice.
Similar to customization, companies can get overboard with AI. Where you should be leveraging this technology to make your life easier is with automation. One of the benefits of an ecommerce platform is to free up your sales team from having to process and manually update orders. By setting up automation to handle purchase processing, order management, and features like automatic reorder and purchase recommendations, you are both allowing your sales team to get back to selling and creating a better customer experience.
For even more ways to adopt, implement, and scale a sophisticated ecommerce program that will satisfy your more-demanding customers, download a copy of our latest ebook, Making the B2B Commerce Jump.