With consumer sites, it’s never a question. At the end of all your product research and cost comparison, you’ll find an e-commerce solution to make a purchase. It’s expected — a natural step in the buyer’s journey. You want goods or services, and the brand delivers on that promise in a simple, easy-to-use manner.
So why is an experience so common in the B2C realm so much harder to come by in the B2B world? B2B e-commerce no doubt holds tremendous value, but compared with B2C e-commerce, it lags in maturity and is fragmented.
Are B2B decision-makers so different from Amazon customers? Do they require a live salesperson to hold their hand to seal the deal?
These are reasonable questions, but a recent Ad Age article would answer those last two with a resounding, “No!” Such attitudes feed into the three crucial misconceptions about the influence of e-commerce on B2B brands. Let’s break them down.
“We don’t need e-commerce.” This may have been true in years past, but expectations have changed dramatically and quickly. It starts with the much-anticipated rise in millennials as potential B2B buyers. The study cited in the Ad Age article states that 46 percent of those buyers were ages 18-34 in 2014, up from 27 percent in 2012. Another study from Accenture finds that 69 percent of B2B buyers prefer to use direct, instant online forms of payment.
“What about my sales force? Won’t they be rendered obsolete?” On the contrary. E-commerce is a tool that will free your sales team to focus on more high-value tasks, such as building relationships. Members of your sales team won’t be bogged down with paper invoices or purchase orders, chasing down payments. They’ll have the time and resources to build connections that matter, boosting loyalty among customers throughout the decision-making process and long after the sale is in the books.
“We already have a perfectly fine out-of-the-box platform.” That’s too bad, because this is where you have the opportunity to really differentiate your business. B2C e-commerce has created expectations for what your customers will encounter with your platform. Does it work seamlessly in mobile? Ad Age points to the study’s finding that 34 percent of buyers use their mobile devices across each stage of purchase. Do you allow for ratings and reviews? If whatever you’re offering is strong, transparency can be your greatest asset. Our UX team likes to talk about a “useful, usable and pleasant experience.” It’s time to give your B2B customers what they’ve come to expect from top brands.
More than ever, we find end users want to self-manage orders electronically. They’re getting younger, and they don’t want the same old sales experience. They have higher expectations. The time has come to invest in the user experience to meet those expectations and add more value in the buyer’s journey. E-commerce will free your human sales team to do what humans do best, leaving the automated purchase for what digital does best.
For more on how your company can become more useful, usable and pleasant, take the quiz, “How Well Do You Know Your Customer?”