Transitioning to B2B ecommerce is a beneficial move for many B2B companies, but it can be a large undertaking. It’s no secret that business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses tend to dominate the ecommerce and digital sphere, but it is often a missed opportunity for B2B companies that don’t make that leap.
As the world is continuously going through a digital transformation, customer experience has become a focal point. However, B2B brands often miss the chance to communicate with customers directly. In the B2B space, many companies focus solely on products and services, rather than looking at the customer experience and determining how it can be applied to their business models. In order for B2B companies to break into the B2B ecommerce world, many must undergo a comprehensive digital transformation.
This chart illustrates the 7 largest ecommerce companies in the world for 2019:
Master direct-to-consumer as a B2B company
The smaller percentage of B2B companies that have embraced digital transformation have managed to build a strong brand presence online to increase sales and brand loyalty. Additionally, they’ve increased organic growth by building a direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel that converts prospects into clients. They’ve also discovered ways to differentiate themselves and make changes throughout their organizations. It’s important to remember that brand loyalty is not just for customer-facing companies. As a B2B company, you’re still selling to a person and you can utilize technology and data to improve their experience.
How to implement B2B ecommerce solutions through digital transformation
Leading your business through a digital transformation can be difficult, but if we break it down to these three focal points, it is much more manageable.
- Streamlining internal processes: Investing in new technologies that integrate with each other, will help you streamline many internal processes by eliminating tasks like manual data entry. It can also allow everyone within your company increased visibility to the sales process.
- Exploring new sales channels (like ecommerce): A big part of the digital transformation is to look at new digital sales channels that will allow you to sell your product on a different platform and reach your customers directly. Exploring new sales channels is important to ensure you are able to offer the omnichannel experience that your customers are looking for.
- Creating an omnichannel experience for your B2B buyers: One of the main benefits of undergoing a digital transformation is that ability to offer a comprehensive omnichannel experience for your customers. While this terminology tends to be reserved for B2C companies, keep in mind that B2B buyers still want a good customer experience—and that can be a big part of their decision-making process.
During this transition, it’s very important to invest in subject matter experts that make sure you stay on top of the latest technologies, trends and opportunities. Remaining relevant as technology constantly changes and evolves is key to the entire process so make sure that your standard operating procedures allow you to remain flexible. It’s also vital that you choose and implement technologies that will be embraced by your sales team and enable them to increase sales. The greatest technology in the world won’t help your business if you don’t have the proper strategy, operational model and infrastructure in place to succeed in adding a B2B ecommerce channel.
A Case Study in Ecommerce with Nature’s Bakery
After conquering the world of retail distribution, Nature’s Bakery was ready to take on a new market: ecommerce. They needed a class-leading logistics provider with expertise in ecommerce, food storage, distribution, and fulfillment with the capability and technology to flex with demand as necessary—while they focused on what they do best, baking amazing fig bars and brownies. Read on to discover how ITS Logistics created the perfect solution!
Common challenges with B2B ecommerce and how to navigate them
While B2C ecommerce companies have been perfecting their omnichannel user experiences for years, it can be daunting for B2B companies to get started. The first thing you need to focus on is understanding your customers’ pain points. It’s impossible to know how to optimize their experience if you don’t know what they’re looking for. Use historical data to determine and implement design and developmental improvements, and make sure you reevaluate regularly to consistently optimize the customer experience and ordering process. This is also true for making decisions about ad buying and strategies. Many B2B ecommerce businesses don’t have a good way to gather customer feedback and measure the success of marketing insights. It’s important to put processes in place to do this, so you can base your decisions on real-time data.
Data silos are another challenge within B2B organizations, especially large ones that have various departments and retailers. You can’t rely on retailers to provide accurate customer information, so it’s important to be able to leverage your own data by investing in business intelligence and technology that collects and analyzes this data. This is much easier if you can build your own D2C channel that integrates with your systems and gives you ownership of customer data. Measuring and leveraging these insights can allow you to make smarter ecommerce business decisions with your customers in mind. As B2B brands build and enhance digital channels, the question is raised as to how this will affect internal and external sales channels. The solution to this one is simply to keep everyone involved as part of the digital transformation to ensure their needs are met, to increase buy-in and to avoid conflicts.
You can’t rely on retailers to provide accurate customer information, so it’s important to be able to leverage your own data by investing in business intelligence and technology that collects and analyzes this data.
How to ensure a successful digital transformation to B2B ecommerce
This transformation is a big undertaking and there are key areas to focus on as you are preparing to make this transition.
- Culture: Culture is one of the major problems when it comes to digital transformation. It’s not just about hiring the right staff, but it’s about breaking down those silos we talked about earlier to create an organization where people work together to accomplish new business goals.
- Channel conflicts: Ensuring transitions like this are implemented slowly, or in phases, can help team members understand and implement new tools and assets into their processes. Make sure you communicate to your teams how beneficial the new D2C channel will be prior to implementation. It will provide access to real-time data like inventory and specs that can be used during visits with decision makers to aid in sales, as well as continuously adding value throughout the entire sales cycle, event after the sale.
- Infrastructure: Being able to capture customer data across all digital touchpoints is obviously very important. It’s also important to keep in mind that the ability to do so starts with the right infrastructure that will help streamline workflows, provide visibility for key metrics and minimize data entry between systems. Make sure your infrastructure is able to integrate with everything you need using electronic data interchange (EDI) or something similar.
Building a D2C channel as a B2B company
Because most B2B brands rely on their retailers to reach new clients, you need to change your approach when going the D2C route. 43% of buyers actually prefer to buy directly from the brand that manufactures a product, not a distributor. On top of that, 20% of those buyers are even willing to pay slightly more for the opportunity to do so. There’s more of a reason than ever to get in on B2B ecommerce solutions.
43% of buyers actually prefer to buy directly from the brand that manufactures a product, not a distributor. On top of that, 20% of those buyers are even willing to pay slightly more for the opportunity to do so.
Creating a D2C channel gives you the opportunity to keep your current customers engaged while attracting new clients. Don’t forget that maintaining your D2C channel is more than just building a pretty website. It’s important to use tactics like email, social media and digital campaigns to keep your customers engaged. You’ll also need to manage inventory, fulfill orders (or hire a third-party logistics provider to do this) and give you customers a quality experience that matches your brand.
The bottom line is that by pivoting your product-centric operations to be customer-centric, you can utilize a digital transformation to better align with the needs of your buyers. Undergoing a digital transformation into the B2B ecommerce space can be a long process, but the important part is to keep your customers and their needs at the front. For more information about B2B ecommerce and how ITS can help, contact us today!
Case Studies for Distribution Services and More
Check out some of our creative distribution, fulfillment, inventory management, and supply chain solutions that resolved our partner’s logistics problems.