For years, B2B companies have used print catalogs to showcase their products and services. Customers received these product catalogs via postal service mail and were able to see all of a companies’ products, including photos, descriptions, and prices. Going all the way back to the 1890s with Sears’ “Big Book”, print catalogs were an effective sales and marketing tool.
Today, Sears is a shell of what it once was and Amazon, the eCommerce company, is the retail giant who 75% of Americans order from. Needless to say, consumers do most of their shopping online. Even more, businesses are increasingly shopping online as well. According to Forrester, the online B2B market is forecasted to grow from $899 billion at the end of 2017 to $1.2 trillion by 2021. In particular, the B2B eCommerce market is anticipated to grow to twice the size of the B2C market by 2020.
The massive shift to eCommerce has forced B2B companies to rethink their strategy. Some questions companies’ B2B sales and marketing teams now face include:
- How should we distribute our product information?
- Should we stop using print catalogs?
- What alternatives should we consider instead?
Here are 6 key reasons why companies should move towards a B2B wholesale ordering platform for their digital catalog needs.
1. B2B Buyers Are Increasingly Researching and Purchasing Online
The internet has transformed how B2B buyers shop. 94% of B2B buyers do their research online before making a purchase.Once a buyer has concluded their research, they often will then contact your sales teams directly to learn more or finalize the purchase. Today’s B2B purchase journey is controlled much more by the buyer.
Due to this shift in buyer behavior, print catalogs have largely lost their relevance. Rather than flip through a physical catalog, B2B wholesale buyers prefer to search for specific products on the internet and then typically purchase online, via phone calls, or over email.
Therefore, if your business does not have product information online in a digital catalog or in a B2B eCommerce portal, potential customers cannot find out more about your products and your sales growth will suffer.
2. Print Catalogs Are Expensive To Produce and Distribute
The costs to design, print, and distribute a print catalog can vary significantly. For a company with a small number of products and limited distribution, all-in costs can start in the low thousands. On the other end, a photo-rich, content-heavy catalog featuring a large selection of products with distribution to thousands of customers can cost tens, potentially hundreds, of thousands of dollars.
In addition, creating and distributing a physical catalog on schedule can be costly. A last-minute correction which impacts whether your print catalog ships in time for the holiday shopping season can drive up design and printing costs significantly.
Due to these potentially high costs, our advice to companies is to undertake a calculation of your return on investment from print catalogs. It’s highly possible your print catalog is a net cost and does not drive sales growth.
As a side note, for a company with environmentally conscious customers, or for a company concerned about its own triple bottom line, abstaining from print catalogs can also be a strategic initiative to reduce its carbon footprint.
3. Digital Catalogs Provide Customers Easy Accessibility To Product Information
One important benefit of using a digital catalog is the fact that your customers can access your product information anytime, from anywhere they have internet access. For this reason, it’s important to ensure your digital catalog is responsive and fits well on a mobile device’s screen.
Furthermore, when using a print catalog in B2B, a customer potentially has to comb through an extensive catalog if they’re looking for a specific product. If you use a B2B eCommerce portal to host your digital catalog, buyers can easily search for products and find information quickly. This results in a better customer experience as they can locate what they want easily.
4. Digital Catalogs Offer Greater Flexibility To Make Updates
A digital catalog, done well, can provide your buyers access to your most up-to-date product information. Even more, listing your products via a B2B eCommerce portal online catalog allows you to adjust active products, prices, availability, and other details, in real time. Buyers can view this information without having to navigate away to another page.
Your company would benefit from the ability to add new products in place of other products performing poorly. Confusion from out-of-date information would be reduced, helping to create a more streamlined workflow for your business.
5. Buyers Enjoy Frictionless Purchasing Via A B2B eCommerce Portal Online Catalog
The B2B eCommerce market is growing at a rapid rate. To make sure your business does not fall behind, it’s certainly a good idea have a digital catalog. Going an additional step and integrating your online catalog with a B2B eCommerce portal provides your customers a first-class B2B experience.
The top two things B2B buyers look for is the ability to self-serve and a convenient payment process. A B2B eCommerce portal solves both of those needs.
With a B2B ordering portal, your customers can view your digital catalog and place orders with you directly from the catalog. This creates a frictionless transition from research to purchase for your customers. By reducing friction for your customers, you will likely increase your sales conversion rate.
6. Collect Data and Gain Insights From Your Customers’ Behavior
Moving your catalog online allows you to acquire information about your customers’ activity and how they are browsing through your products. Using one of the many tools available to track online activity, you can determine which products are viewed the most, purchased the most, what users are looking at and clicking on, and how long they’re spending on each page.
One very effective tool for understanding user behavior is a website heatmap tool. Using a heatmap tool, you can view the areas of your website which users focus or click on the most. There are also some heatmap tools which allow you to record individual user sessions, allowing you to track where a user is moving their mouse, anonymously of course.
This enhanced ability to understand your buyer’s interactions with your digital catalog and their overall purchasing behavior is invaluable. The insights you stand to gain allow your design, sales, and marketing teams to find out what is working for your business and what is not. Steps can then be taken, in rapid fashion, to optimize the catalog. You may be surprised by which products are clicked on but not purchased, or find that certain aspects of the digital catalog are unnecessary. Consumer behavior data like this would be difficult, if not impossible, to acquire with a print catalog.
How can you start to move from a print to online catalogs?
It’s high time to create your online catalog and reassess your print catalog strategy. Research has shown that 69% of B2B companies expect to stop printing a catalog within the next 5 years.
Start now and take the first step towards giving your wholesale customers an impressive B2B customer experience.
With Sweet, you can create your online catalog using our B2B eCommerce Portal. With this portal, you can display your entire product catalog online, create customized price lists and allow your customers to order from you, at a click of a button. Setup takes just a few minutes, you will be ready to start selling to your B2B customers in no time. Click here to sign up for a 14-day free trial today and experience how Sweet can help you to scale your business profitability.