The COVID-19 pandemic has created a marked shift in how organizations interact, connect and do business together. While companies around the world continue to navigate the “new normal,” online B2B marketplaces are seeing major changes in their customers’ buying behavior and preferences. The ability to make purchases digitally is more important than ever before in keeping businesses up and running, especially with in-person interactions at a standstill for the foreseeable future.
As B2B companies look for ways to stay relevant with their current and potential customer base during this time, they should consider looking to a few best practices from the B2C side to give their online ecommerce sites a fresh take. In fact, recent survey data from Futurum Research shows that the ease and pace of business-to-consumer shopping motivates B2B customers. Of course, B2B buying will always be a more involved process than B2C purchasing, but B2C models have successful attributes that can translate well for B2B companies in their own digital selling strategies and initiatives.
Without transparency, there is no trust
More and more consumer marketplaces, specifically those offering apparel and home goods, are adding features to their online and mobile offerings where consumers can virtually “try on” or “try out” a product before they buy it.
Now that in-store buying has slowed significantly, these online and virtual customer touchpoints are becoming even more important to buyers during the purchasing process. This same level of trust is critical for B2B companies to mirror, and can achieve that trust by offering such things as price transparency and product trials. Futurum’s data backs this up, showing 90% of organizations see trials and price transparency as key factors in guiding their decision to buy.
Price transparency specifically supports a more connected customer experience and adds more long-term value to the relationship by letting customers explore varying price options before they decide on what they’re going to purchase. This way, customers know exactly what they are getting as well as how much it will cost before they ever reach the checkout page.
Customer experience should drive how the platform operates
Customer experience has long been a key driver for revenue growth, and it certainly isn’t going anywhere. The survey further indicates that almost 62% of businesses are making their enterprise software purchases online due to time and resource efficiency. Just like B2C buying, B2B decision makers want the flexibility to acquire what they need quickly and whenever they need it. This means they need the same ease of use they would get if they were buying something for themselves via Amazon, and it’s a part of the purchasing process where experience reigns supreme.
B2B sellers should place acute focus on providing an online marketplace and ecosystem conducive to quick and simple access to the products and solutions customers need without those customers needing to waste time wading through multiple pages of information and purchase options. In the current business climate, B2B organizations need to go beyond competing just on products and price points alone. The customer experience online needs to be seamless and engaging if they want to start seeing an uptick in repeat customers again.
The key to success is in the path to purchase
Forrester predicted in its 2019 B2B eCommerce Playbook that B2B ecommerce in the U.S. will reach $1.8 trillion by 2023. This shows a massive opportunity for B2B organizations to grow their revenue via digital buying channels. To maximize this opportunity, B2B sellers need to better understand a universal truth about customer goals—any consumer, whether shopping for themselves or shopping on a vendor website for a business, is looking for the fastest and most frictionless way to reach checkout.
B2B companies need to ask this question: Is the path to purchase an efficient one? Successful digital marketplaces are ones with all potential barriers to purchase removed, from difficult page navigation to unclear calls to action. One-click, on-page buttons, various payment options, transparent terms and conditions, and well-defined expectation management for what will happen post-transaction, are an absolute requirement for better purchase experiences that lead to loyal customers.
Digital buying bolsters the path to digital transformation
These concepts were already making their way into the B2B sector before the pandemic, but the current business landscape has made it paramount for businesses to put this into practice now. B2C brands have spent more time prioritizing these areas and have more success cases for B2B sellers to model after. At the end of the day, online buying has officially become a core tenet for B2B and a linchpin for helping companies achieve their digital transformation journeys.
Sharon Ruddock is head of SAP Digital Commerce at business software company SAP SE. Since July 2019 she has overseen digital customer strategy for SAP across sales, customer success, support and marketing. Previously, Sharon was responsible for all learning in the Global Customer Operations organization within SAP and served as chief operating officer, Mobility.Favorite