B-to-B Sites Follow B-to-C in User Functionality and Benefits
Lately you’ve probably noticed that more and more B-to-B direct marketers are adding various Web 2.0 social networking functions to their online marketing efforts. Office Depot, for example, allows you to share one of its products with your network via Facebook, DiggThis and del.icio.us. It also allows you to review a product and read the product reviews of others, both good and bad.
I’ve also noticed many more product videos cropping up on YouTube. Try searching for industrial tools or forklifts, for example. YouTube isn’t just for funny or entertaining videos anymore. Very useful videos on how to find, buy and use various B-to-B products are now part of the mix, as well. Try searching for some of your best-sellers.
I’m spotting a simple trend here: What we’re seeing today on many B-to-C sites will soon start popping up on B-to-B sites.
Here’s another example: More B-to-B sites are offering different payment methods, such as PayPal. Nearly 21 percent of all online purchases are made using PayPal, compared to 42 percent with credit cards. And PayPal is gaining fast. I also noticed that PayPal is launching a new service called PayLater that, as the name suggests, allows approved buyers to take up to 90 days to pay for their purchases. Bill Me Later and others offer similar deals. I expect we’ll see this offer migrate to B-to-B.
After all, what small business wouldn’t want extended terms? Even if your customers continue to have you bill them directly, they’ll soon expect similar payment terms from you as the ones available from PayPal. This would be especially true if your competitor already accepts PayPal and offers those deals.
This reminds me of the birth of the free shipping offer. Remember when that began? It started in B-to-C as a seasonal promotion or “extra” offer, but quickly expanded and migrated to B-to-B. Now it’s almost an expected benefit when a purchase of a certain size is made in many product categories, including office supplies, computer supplies and consumer electronics.
So, if you want to know what online functionality your customers will demand in the years to come, check out the leading B-to-C sites, and ask yourself whether what they offer — e.g., customer product reviews, the ability to share deals with friends, comparison shopping — is of interest to your customers. Such emerging functionalities won’t always migrate to B-to-B, but my guess is that most will.
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Terence Jukes is president of Ability Commerce, a 140-person firm that designs, builds and runs e-commerce and related marketing programs for catalog companies. He can be reached at TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com.