Overcome the B-to-B E-Commerce Challenge by Thinking B-to-C
Most analysts agree that business-to-business commerce is a golden opportunity for companies serving the global online marketplace. Even as early as 2009, research by BMWI pegged B-to-B internet purchases at 90 percent of global online spend. Goldman Sachs forecasts that by 2013 nearly $1 trillion will be spent in direct-to-buyer e-transactions.
If such rich opportunity awaits, why then has the commerce model for the B-to-B online experience been so slow to evolve? One of the biggest reasons is fear. Many businesses looking to add a direct-to-business buyer channel worry about disrupting or cannibalizing their traditional sales channels. While the impact a direct sales channel can have on a B-to-B business can't be ignored, businesses looking to move to a direct model must consider the needs and expectations of the end customer.
Taking a Page From the B-to-C Playbook
Unlike the well-developed, ubiquitous and fairly standardized shopping experience that online consumers have come to expect — and demand — buyers in the B-to-B space have struggled with a hodgepodge of homegrown sites or systems that have languished in legacy technology. In many cases, manufacturers offer buyers no online purchasing option at all, avoiding conflict with other sales channels altogether.
However, organizational buyers are increasingly demanding the same caliber of experience and sophistication they enjoy as consumers. Recent studies suggest nearly 60 percent prefer to buy direct from the manufacturer instead of through the channel. They demand a richer online purchasing environment and the flexibility to make purchases across multiple platforms and sessions. And they expect to be able to place, adjust and cancel orders in real time, as well as access technical data and comparison information with dynamic, up-to-the-minute visibility of inventory, shipping status, payment status and more. Most importantly, they expect to be able to use these features with ease while sitting at their office PC, on their tablet at home or on their smartphone while on vacation.