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B2B eCommerce opportunities and challenges: The unfiltered truth

Actualizado: 16 nov 2023

B2B opportunities and challengs: The unfiltered truth

When you’re selling B2B, things like Excel spreadsheets, in-person sales, and manually processed orders are the norm. But a whole new world awaits online. According to a recent McKinsey report, B2B eCommerce has become so popular it has surpassed other channels like in-person sales, video calls, and email to become the most effective way to secure business. From marketplace to webshops, there’s something for everyone. What’s more, B2B companies that facilitate an omnichannel experience have improved their market share by a minimum of 10% yearly.

In case you’re yet to hop on the B2B eCommerce train, in this article, we’ll cover why B2B eCommerce has become so important. We’ll also give you a candid view of the highs and lows to expect when operating B2B eCommerce channels and some tips for you to set off on the right track.

Table of contents:

  • The rise of B2B eCommerce and what it means for your business

  • B2B eCommerce: The opportunities and challenges

  • Quick tips for a winning B2B eCommerce business

  • Tackle B2B eCommerce like a pro

The rise of B2B eCommerce and what it means for your business.

Despite the increasing adoption rates, eCommerce B2B space wasn’t an overnight success. Some specific features and consumer shifts have steered B2B online selling to fame. Let’s take a look at a few:

Omnichannel commerce maintains a firm grip

It wasn’t too long ago that B2B commerce consisted of a web of distributors, sales reps, wholesalers, manufacturers, and trade shows. But the game has changed. With the digital revolution in full force, channels like online stores, digital catalogs, social media, and search engines play an increasingly larger role in B2B selling and marketing. In 2021, online sales on B2B ecommerce sites, log-in portals, and marketplaces jumped by 17.8% to $1.63 trillion from $1.39 trillion in 2020.

McKinsey’s research took this sentiment a step further, revealing customers want an even split of traditional, remote, and self-service channels. So using eCommerce channels to complement rather than eliminate your offline channels will be the way forward.

Shifting workforce trends drive digitization in B2B buying

B2B eCommerce opportunities and challenges: The unfiltered truth

If there’s one that happens like clockwork, it's changes in workforce demographics. Millennials currently make up 38.6% of the labor force, with this figure expected to hit 75% by 2025. Millennials also participate in 73% of all B2B buying decisions.

With these shifts come changing buyer expectations, like the desire for a digitized buying journey, personalized shopping experience, great offers, and diversified communication channels. It’s no longer uncommon for sales reps to receive requests for digital renders, virtual showrooms, demos held by video conference, pre-recorded sales webinars, and customer support via social media.

To keep your company relevant and leads pouring in, you’ll need to adapt your marketing, sales, and customer success strategies to serve the millennial and Gen Z workers while still catering to Gen X, Boomer, and Silent generations.

B2B eCommerce: The opportunities and challenges

Although the stats and facts point towards B2B eCommerce being a hot opportunity, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what you’ll be getting into. Let’s cover some of the opportunities and challenges you could encounter:

The opportunities

B2B eCommerce: The opportunities and challenges

Scale your revenue and profits

One of the great things about B2B eCommerce is that time constraints go out the window. You can sell around the clock without needing a large team to cater to orders. Plus, you can capitalize on trends like mobile commerce, social commerce, and personalization to increase conversions.

And let’s not forget cross-border eCommerce and its upward trajectory. By taking your business online, you’ll have access to a broader pool of prospects and customers, increasing your odds of closing sales. Additionally, adding online sales channels diversifies your business income streams, reducing risk.

These perks combined can skyrocket your business’ sales and improve your bottom line as 35% of B2B buyers make at least half of their purchases online, and in 2022, online B2B sales grew 18% year-on-year, exceeding $1 trillion.

Get operationally efficient

Sometimes, adding an online channel may seem like a lot of work that’ll lengthen your to-do list. But when done correctly, it can help you streamline operations, boost productivity, and make buying more convenient for B2B buyers. For instance, you could implement popular delivery methods like Buy Online Pickup In-store (BOPIS) and same-day delivery, enabling you to fulfill orders from stock already in-store to increase inventory turnover and reduce warehousing requirements. But one of the most reassuring benefits is risk mitigation. If your offline operations experience shutdowns or delays, you can keep operations running by selling online.

Reduced costs to pave the way for growth

It’s no secret that running a B2B commerce business is costly. Not only do you have large stock orders, but you’ll also have bills like showroom space, office space, in-person staff, equipment, and facilities maintenance. These costs slice through your cash and, without proper regulation, teeter your business on the line of unprofitability.

Luckily, you can eliminate or reduce these costs by opting for an online webshop or marketplace store. Then funnel these savings into growth-boosting initiatives like social media and influencer marketing for more profits.

Provide an elevated customer experience (CX) to win more loyalty and sales

With 63% of customers beginning their shopping journey online and more of them embracing omnichannel purchasing, the need for a multifaceted online presence is becoming increasingly important. Having an online webshop or three will help you cater to the different ways customers want to do business. This fact is important, considering that:

In other words, investing in a B2B eCommerce business will make your business more competitive, and memorable while encouraging buyers to return.

The challenges

B2B eCommerce: The opportunities and challenges

Attention! Technological knowledge required

Even with online webshops that have drag-and-drop builders and done-for-you eCommerce services, building and maintaining an online store is no small feat. The time and financial investment required to create a successful B2B eCommerce business long-term shouldn’t be understated. You’ll need some technical knowledge, and depending on the platform you use, you may need coding skills to optimize store pages, implement automation, and extract data.

Choosing the right tech platform can be challenging. The right choice depends on your business goals, market trends, online selling knowledge, eCommerce marketing experience, and luck. So some brands may not be comfortable rolling the dice. Then there’s eCommerce solution-suitability factor. You’ll have to ensure your selling platforms and tools are made for B2B behavior. Right now, there aren’t as many options available as B2C, which could result in not finding a solution that serves your specific needs.

The incoming online competition isn’t for faint-hearted

The eCommerce world is busy and competitive. So defining a solid USP to share and building a strong online brand presence is essential to stand out. The problem is, that these assets take time, money, and skill to establish. This explains why 14% of small businesses struggle to get noticed online securing low traffic, and 11% have a hard time managing website building and maintenance costs.

To succeed, you’ll need to keep a keen eye on your competitors, market patterns, and customer buying trends. So if eCommerce marketing isn’t your strong point and you don’t have any marketers on your team, handing over the responsibility to a reliable eCommerce marketing agency or professional is a must. This cost could add up as some offer requests for a monthly service fee and revenue share. So you’d have to double-check your numbers and be prepared to wait to see an ROI as eCommerce is a long-term game.

Fear of the unknown and resistance to change

While change is necessary for progress, this doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be well received. So considering B2B commerce traditionally an offline business model, your team and customers may express concerns about or resist going digital. Then there’s the change management dilemma. Executing changes in a way that drives results, clarity, and confidence among your team can also be difficult.

To overcome these issues, you’ll need to do a good job of aligning with internal stakeholders and relaying the benefits of having an online store. For example, let your team know they’ll benefit from things like reduced admin loads and more time to do their actual roles, leading to greater job satisfaction. Likewise, if you have cost savings that you’ll be passing on to buyers, let them know. Additionally, onboard the right tools to make tasks like analyzing store data, monitoring lead progression, and managing customer requests across channels easy.

Quick tips for a winning B2B eCommerce business

  • Blend different sales channels into your commerce strategy. We’re talking online and offline, sales-rep assisted, and self-service. This multifaceted approach will help you meet the different needs and wants of your customer base.

  • Make online order management easy. It’s easy for things like order processing and shipment tracking to become complicated and expensive. Take time to optimize your online buying experience to increase the odds of converting leads.

  • Choose the right eCommerce platform(s). What will work well for your business depends on numerous factors, like where your clientele is based, what you’re selling, and current market trends. The trick is to establish yourself on one channel and then move on to the next. In practice, you could end up with a marketplace store and a webshop with an online showroom and mobile commerce facilities.

  • Provide a fantastic omnichannel buying experience. Buyers tend to explore before making a purchase. Be ready to catch them wherever they land by implementing different online sales channels. These should complement your traditional offline sales methods like over-the-phone sales lines and trade show booths.

  • Reinforce your eCommerce strategy with growth-boosting initiatives. We’re talking hyper-personalized marketing, advanced sales tools, hybrid sales teams, customized strategies according to the sales channels, and building your own marketplace. Companies that implement all five strategies are 2.1X more likely to gain 10% or more in market share growth. Also, 80% of customers are more likely to buy when brands offer personalized experiences.

  • Make great content a priority. In the online selling world, where customers can’t see or touch products physically, your content will be your biggest advocate. So take time to create great product descriptions, photos, and videos. Inject social proof like reviews and testimonials onto product pages to instill confidence in buyers.

Top tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment with technology like 3D product simulators to give customers a better idea of your product features and capabilities.

  • Implement a pay by invoice solution to make managing costs and payments easy for your customers. 54% of B2B buyers mentioned that pay by invoice is their preferred payment method. This move will enable you to increase conversion when a business buyer is in your webshop. For best results, ensure the platform you pick is built especially for B2B eCommerce and has a wide coverage of buyer location.

Want to learn more about what it takes to build a money-making B2B eCommerce business? Check out our guide.

Tackle B2B eCommerce like a pro

Now you’re armed with some knowledge of the highs and lows you may encounter on your B2B eCommerce journey, the next step is planning. Research eCommerce channels, your competitor's strategies, and market trends to decide where to start and how. Once you’ve got a minimum viable product, launch it into the market, and adjust your approach based on your store data and customer feedback for bigger wins. So, don’t delay. Put pen to paper and map out your B2B eCommerce takeover. Success awaits.

Sprinque can help you get paid with ease. Discover how by booking a meeting with us.

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