What Everybody Ought to Know About b2b eCommerce in 2016



The global B2B eCommerce market will grow to $12 trillion worldwide by 2020, says Frost & Sullivan forecast. Yes, you read right. Online B2B eCommerce has become the new trend and possibly the best solution for businesses going global. And if you still depend on the good old in-person sales then it's time to think about moving your wholesale business online.

In the next few paragraphs, we have summarized some key components everyone considering or doing business online needs to pay attention to in 2016 (and in the next years).

Choose Direct eCommerce

B2B eCommerce is divided into two models, Marketplace and Self-Serving Portal. More and more retailers start selling their products on retail marketplace platforms rather building their own eCommerce websites. While a marketplace may seems more suitable for smaller wholesalers and have some good advantages for them, ultimately implementing a Direct B2B eCommerce site remains the key method to build lasting relationships and win long-term customers.

Here's Why:

Self-Serving Portal

Also known as Direct model, the Self-Serving portal involves a company to create a B2B eCommerce portal dedicated only to their products and services. Your customers have an account and can log in and place orders directly. One of the biggest upsides to having a B2B self-service portal is that a company has a full ownership of the site and all the collected data.

The self-services portal enables you to provide buyers with highly personalized services. It allows customers to review and manage their own billing information, place orders without contact with the vendor, automate recurring transactions, see and download invoices and more.

Often B2B portals are private. A customer has to be invited directly to a portal by company's employee. If not private, most portals can be accessed via the company's website.

The level of customization allows you to develop unique features and rules. It allows you to put in place customer-specific settings and execute more tailored experience: special payment terms, such as cash on delivery or net terms, dynamic shipping rules, different users having access to different products, shipping methods, payment options, discounts, integration with other software systems as ERP and CRM etc.

The best in class industrial supplier Grainger, has invested heavily in their eCommerce platform. They have more than one million online product range and had surpassed $3 billion in eCommerce sales. Online retail is accounted for a third of all of their business sales in 2013.

Going mobile

When it comes to next trend in B2B e-commerce it is definitely going to be mobile commerce. It's not as I'm telling you something new but a lot of businesses still doesn't understand how important mobile has become. 52% of B2B buyers are using their smartphones to make product research, browse catalogs and read reviews, according to Forrester. And if more than the half are using their phones to search for information, you can be sure they expect flawless buying process.

Here's what you can do:

  • Mobile-optimize website - If you haven't made your website mobile-friendly, you should. What’s more, 90% of people switch between devices which means that even if the desktop is handling the bigger part of your conversions, users will engage with your site via mobile eventually.
  • Mobile-optimize marketing efforts - Once your design is responsive it's time to involve your marketing strategy. You need to analyze how your users are behaving on your mobile and desktop site.
  • Mobile Commerce App - Having a mobile app is not a very used method in B2B eCommerce yet. But, with 80% of internet users owning a smartphone, I think it's the next logical thing to happen.

CRM Integration

Selling to businesses has many challenges. There are significant differences between selling products to direct customers and working with other companies. Implementing a CRM to manage customer service is require for both groups, if not used in the same way.

B2B customers have very different needs and motivations. Their buying cycle is longer, their budgets are higher, often have a long approval process, and have high expectations for individualized customer service, and so on. A really useful CRM solution offers the possibility for real-time information on buyers’ behaviors and patterns, better targeting specific segments, gaining valuable insight into prospects and clients.

It's important to deploy a CRM that talks to your e-commerce store. All sales data is stored in a customer account and is available to your sales rep. You are able to see a Lifetime Acquisition Value per customer, helping you aim your efforts correctly. The key is that a CRM system can help you track every opportunity through every step of the sales funnel. That means you know how to interact with each lead; what they really want to have; and what next steps are most important.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation refers to a software that exists with the goal of automating repetitive marketing tasks such as emails, personalize content and other website actions. This kind of software helps companies nurture prospects with highly personalized content that helps convert more prospects to customers.

Traditional marketing automation often refers to sending emails trigger by time delays or actions like purchases, abandoned shopping cart and clicks on a given link etc. The success of your efforts relies on fully utilizing the various channels that influence a buyer’s decision. The most effective marketing automation not only collects data from multiple channels but send their marketing messages as well.

Let's see what the numbers say:

  • There are nearly 11 times more B2B organizations using marketing automation now than in 2011. – SiriusDecisions“B-to-B Marketing Automation Study” (2014)
  • Marketing automation is used by 42% of companies, CRM / sales automation systems by 54%, while Email marketing technology has the highest adoption. It is used by 82% of companies. – Ascend2 “Marketing Technology Strategy” (August 2015)
  • 25% of Fortune 500 B2B companies have adopted marketing automation. – ClickZ Fortune 500 B2B Adoption of Marketing Tools study (2013)
  • Best-in-Class companies are 67% more likely to use a marketing automation platform. – Aberdeen Group “State of Marketing Automation 2014: Processes that Produce” (2014)

More and more B2B businesses are using marketing automation platforms to manage complex, multi-touch buyer ecosystems. Amazon is the pioneer of using data and creating a personalize user experience. They are well-known for applying shopping patterns of other customers to make contextual recommendations of products related to whatever you’re viewing. Their strategy of using more personalized, data-driven recommendations while people buy or look for something has driven more traffic and engagement than anyone else in the market.