eCommerce has become a major leveler for businesses of all sizes. Platforms like Shopify and Magento have democratized the eCommerce marketplace, especially for smaller businesses looking to reach out to a wider audience. While B2C businesses stole the limelight and marched ahead in generating revenues, – the worldwide B2C eCommerce sales topped $1.2 trillion in 2013. At the same time, B2B businesses have been actively playing catch up. Research by the Acquity Group indicates that 90% of B2B buyers in the 18 – 35 age group make company purchases online.
So why hasn’t the B2B sector generated as much revenues? The answer lies in the below par buying experience. After all, 70% of all B2B buyers said they would spend more online, if only their suppliers’ websites were more user friendly.
First, how B2B differs from B2C
Buyer Vs Buyers
You log into Amazon. You troll the site for what you need. Add to cart, pay up and you’re done. Consumers buy products and services for personal use or as gifts. Businesses, on the other hand, are purchasing products and services for use within their company – which means it is for a collective group of people. This automatically makes the process more complex.
Fixed Vs Negotiable pricing
On most B2C websites, pricing is universal, most of the time: unless there’s a special, members-only sale, or a customer armed with a discount code. Not the case with B2B. Bigger companies placing bigger orders are able to negotiate for lower prices, as opposed to a smaller player with a limited requirement. And, as a result of the dichotomy, customers are given different login IDs so that they are shown the prices which apply to their bargaining power
Higher traffic volumes Vs Higher order values
B2B AOV (average order value) is much larger compared to a B2C purchase, and products are often brought collectively. This results in lower traffic, but a bigger sale, unlike B2C, where high levels of traffic may not result in equally high profits.
Pay-on-delivery Vs Pay-after-delivery
In B2B, the person browsing may not be the person actually buying – the actual purchasing may be done by the procurement department, or head buyer. And more often than not, products are not paid for at the point of sale via credit card or PayPal, like a B2C site. Once the B2B order has been placed, shipping and delivery is arranged, and the buyers receive an invoice which they will clear based on the agreed payment terms. The logistics channels too differ: it’s not always FedEx and UPS! A shipment of boilers, for example, would need a large freight carrier.
Facebook Vs LinkedIn
B2C marketers focus more on Facebook, while the B2B experts are more into LinkedIn. According to The Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2014, 97% of B2C marketers use Facebook, as opposed to 89% of B2B. And the reasons are easily found – Hubspot claims that B2C acquired 77% of their customers from Facebook, while B2B acquired just 43%. The B2B sector make that up by laying emphasis on LinkedIn. 88% of them utilize it, as opposed to just 59% of B2C marketers.
Next, the 2 pillars to B2B success – Channels and UX
(Click to Tweet!)
B2B is now gaining the attention of eCommerce juggernauts like Amazon, Alibaba, eBay and Google. (Just check out AmazonSupply.com and see for yourself!) The kind of evolution that happened in B2C is just waiting to happen in B2B, and there are 2 key elements to stay ahead of the game:
Sharpen your channel focus
It’s no secret that consumers are browsing and buying more via smartphones and tablets. Studies show that over 50% of B2B reported that customers use smartphones to research products and make purchases. Therefore, B2B businesses must pour more energy and resources into the mobile department, and make it easier for the buyer/ procurement team to search for, approve and make purchases Via mobile. In fact, a report indicates that B2B customers are more active online than offline, and they have higher average order volumes. (So omnichannel retailers know where they need to focus!)
5 steps to a B2C-like customer experience, fine-tuned for businesses
(Click to Tweet!)
The customer experience also needs to change. B2B customers don’t need hourly sale updates. They need access to what you have on offer, and they need to be able to browse with ease, search for specifics and negotiate for the best payment terms.
The order values are larger in B2B, so all the more reason to have stock updated in real time and display availability. The buyer needs to have an idea of when he can expect the goods.
B2B customers don’t necessarily pay at checkout – a majority of the transactions are purchase order based. Make the process easier by aggregating invoices and clearing payments at the end of the month.
Shipping in the case of B2B isn’t just about express shipping a parcel. There needs to be coordination between the logistics partner, the buyer and the seller to deliver the product when the buyer needs it and in the best possible way. For example, it may not be the best idea to shrink-wrap headphones or send LCD screens by road.
Ease of use
Some customers may come to you to purchase only printer paper. Others may have a product restock requirement at the end of every quarter. Make the process smoother and quicker by creating logins and saving preferences and order history so they don’t have to re-enter information. B2B customers are often long-term, repeat customers, who have strict schedules, specific needs and a special buying relationship with the seller. Logins customize experience, and keep the buyer organized and in control of their options.
B2C websites are often screaming at every category and kind of customer on the homepage. Multiple tabs and categories are aimed at making the browsing process easier, while banners and popups help highlight the latest deal on offer. B2B buyers are not going to make a snap decision. The call to action needs to be streamlined, and the focus should be on:
- The problem you can solve
- Any additional information a buyer may need
- How to buy
B2B buyers don’t need deals, mega discounts and snazzy marketing campaigns to lure them in. What they are looking for is a partner they can trust, and accessibility paired with smart tools to make the buying process hassle-free. Cater to those needs and creating a better overall experience is what will keep you ahead.