Things are changing fast in the increasingly digital world of B2B commerce, and it can be tough to decide on the right steps to take now let alone a year or two from now.
But one thing’s for sure: things will develop in unexpected ways, so it’s best to have a strategy and a technology platform flexible enough to go with the coming changes that best suit one’s customers.
In many cases, however, B2B companies are lagging behind, experts say. “The way online B2B sellers are selling doesn’t match the way buyers are buying,” says Joe Cicman, the lead B2B ecommerce analyst at Forrester Research Inc. What sellers need to do, he says, is map out their customers’ purchasing journeys and find ways to save them time through ecommerce and provide them a better overall customer experience.
That kind of strategy, he adds, requires at least two main things from sellers: a team devoted to improving commerce from the customer’s viewpoint, and an agile technology platform, preferably embedded with APIs and microservices, and capable of building the online buying features customers want.
Many companies have yet to take the plunge into customer-pleasing ecommerce, but are getting ready to. More than half of the more than 200 B2B companies B2BecNews surveyed for a report published earlier this year had yet to launch an ecommerce transaction site. But of those without a site, 75% said they planned to launch one within two years, and more than half within one year.
Moreover, many companies, including those with established ecommerce sites, are increasing their spending on ecommerce technology and operations. 40% of manufacturers and 30% of distributors surveyed by B2BecNews said they planned to increase spending by more than 25% in 2019.
The challenges to growth in B2B ecommerce, however, are many and varied—including difficulty in recruiting experienced ecommerce personnel, resistance from traditional sales departments, and competition from Amazon Business.
Breakout tactics for B2B selling
Many of these issues will be addressed by the speakers in the B2B workshop track at IRCE @ RetailX 2019: “Breakout Tactics for B2B Selling.” Their presentations, which are previewed in report released this week, cover how to address the latest technology trends, recruit ecommerce talent, deal with Amazon, and equip sales reps to bring more value to customers at time when customers are turning more to self-service ecommerce.
“Savvy sellers need to understand the new B2B customer and how to leverage technology for B2B results in an experience-driven world,” says Penny Gillespie, research vice president at Gartner Inc., who will kick off the IRCE B2B track with a presentation on cutting-edge technology for ecommerce. “It’s a new experience-driven world enabled by technology: conversational, immersive, visual, personalized, and smart (with AI) coupled with the emergence of internet-connected ‘things,’” she says. “It’s commerce of the future. It’s a world where your customers’ experience matters almost as much the goods and services being sold.”
In addition, the presentations will feature insights into how two multibillion-dollar companies, US Foods and chemicals distributor Univar Solutions, have reworked traditional ways of operating to better interact digitally with their customers.
To provide members of the audience with insights into how well their own B2B ecommerce sites meet the increasing expectations of today’s buyers, the final session will offer live critiques of their sites by web design experts.
Sign up for a complimentary subscription to B2BecNews, published four times per week, covering technology and business trends in the growing B2B ecommerce industry. B2BecNews is a publication of DigitalCommerce360.com, whose titles also include Internet Retailer and Internet Health Management. Contact B2BecNews editor Paul Demery at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @pdemery.
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