If you're involved in B2B or wholesale eCommerce in any way, you are part of the fastest growing industry in the market today. Although still smaller than its retail counterpart, B2B eCommerce has seen exponential growth over the last few years and is projected to grow even bigger in the near future.
In 2018, electronic channels such as eCommerce websites, eProcurement software, and electronic data interchange (EDI) accounted for $7.579 trillion in B2B transactions, or 50.7% of total US B2B sales. This result can be attributed to consumers' changed perspective of how buying and selling should be—fast, convenient, and digital.
The Shift to B2B eCommerce
As consumer demands change, so should suppliers' tactics and means of sale. Customers are the focal point of every business. That said, wholesalers need to adapt to how their regulars prefer to buy. At the same time, they need to listen in to what their prospects are interested in so they can acquire new business opportunities. These strategies are all possible through an eCommerce platform and more and more businesses are taking notice of the technology and its benefits.
Aside from growth, wholesale businesses that embrace eCommerce as their main selling platform also benefit from features like automation—where customers can set their own orders, payments, and shipping all in a single platform.
B2B eCommerce software also allow for recurring orders, which is appealing to both buyers and sellers as it eliminates errors in the sales process and makes order-to-shipment as fast and seamless as possible.
A Couple of Roadblocks
Despite the obvious benefits, B2B eCommerce is still considerably smaller than B2C and still tends to be underutilized by businesses who already have them. Wholesale businesses are still not ‘all-in’ with eCommerce because they’re still not sure if it’s worth the extra cost. Based on a DHL study, despite the increase in total revenue for businesses using eCommerce, 60% of companies have not fully implemented this strategy. However, according to a 2017 study conducted by Frost and Sullivan, B2B eCommerce sales are expected to reach $6.6 trillion by 2020. For some companies, this is enough reason to turn their business towards B2B eCommerce—but this does not apply to all.
A number of wholesalers are currently using B2C platforms and are reluctant to make the switch. They’re satisfied with existing software which allows them to manage their sales, but are completely unaware of what they’re missing by not using a platform designed for wholesale.
B2B eCommerce allows customers to place orders and make payments on the platform itself. This setup is much like traditional or retail eCommerce sites, but include additional features specific for wholesale distribution. These features include recognition of delayed terms and easy reordering.
Once wholesale companies realize all the benefits that come with a B2B-specific software and sales platform, the faster its growth rate will be. With a little push coming from small-to-medium businesses, it can reach its potential as a revenue-generating powerhouse. Until then, B2B eCommerce will have to earn its way up and catch up to its retail counterpart.
How to Continue B2B eCommerce Growth?
In order to pick up the pace, wholesalers need to be both aggressive and creative with their sales strategies and follow what technology their customers use. Here are some things you’ll need to consider so you can help contribute to B2B eCommerce growth:
- Mobile and Social Media Readiness
These days, mobile apps and marketplaces are gaining more popularity since they offer convenience when making a sale. An estimated 10 billion mobile devices are currently in use and 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device. This tells us that mobile-ready eCommerce platforms contribute to the overall growth of the industry.
For you to market your products to new prospects, you need to identify where your target customers are. Some B2B platforms offer features that help you identify which social media platforms you can use to better increase your reach.
- Order and Payment Flexibility
Not one sales transaction is the same. These differences can present themselves from anything as simple as a change in shipping details or updates in preferred payment methods. Whatever the case, your B2B eCommerce platform should be able to accommodate these kinds of changes without requiring too much effort from your customers.
Most of your return customers are likely doing business with you because of the convenience you offer. Don’t lose them just because your eCommerce platform is not allowing them to make changes to their order or payment details.
- Proactive Customer Service
Much like any modern-day business, customers are right at the heart of B2B eCommerce. Providing customers with a positive experience at any stage of the buyer’s journey (from the attraction, conversion, decision, and delight), almost always guarantees a new business or a repeat order.
Today’s customers also aren’t shy about sharing their thoughts on their purchase experiences online, and can take to social media to leave reviews—positive or otherwise. This can be beneficial to your company, but it’s also good to have your own platform where your customers can leave their reviews for other prospects to see.
You want your chosen eCommerce site to accurately showcase customer feedback on products and/or services. Peopleclaim.com shares that as early as 2013, 70% of customers consult reviews or ratings before making a final purchase. The study also shows that 63% of consumers are more likely to buy from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.
Applying these improvements to your eCommerce strategy won’t only help you grow your business, but it will also help the entire B2B industry achieve its perceived net revenue in 2020—perhaps even surpass it.
B2B eCommerce: What the Future Holds
Without question, B2B eCommerce has a bright future ahead. While still in its infancy stages, it shows signs of maturing into technology that more and more companies could rely on if they want to grow their business.
The industry depends on small-to-medium businesses—like yourself—to maximize the utilization of B2B platforms and to show other wholesalers what options are available out there.
In an increasingly customer-centric market, it’s important to consider what your customers are asking for.Whether it’s the number of goods, the means of payment, or their feedback, look to address these needs so you can grow alongside your consumers. Technology like B2B eCommerce platforms allows you to keep up with the pace your consumers have set. Those who are able to switch and maximize available platforms are already a few paces ahead of their competition. The question now is, just how far are you in maximizing your B2B eCommerce strategy and platform utilization?