Online shopping has established itself as mainstream. E-commerce brings a mega size shopping mall accessible right from your home couch. The reasoning behind this is fairly easy to figure out. From a customer’s point of view, the range of products available is almost limitless. Competition has lowered the prices of products offered. Companies on the other hand save on costs as delivery chains get shorter. The need for staff decreases as they get access to global markets. The value of online shopping in B2B commerce has outgrown B2C commerce globally, and its importance will grow further. The advantages sought after in B2B e-commerce are like those of consumer sales, but the logic of customer relationships is more complicated. Fame and fortune is up for grabs, but only for those who know what they are doing.
B2C e-commerce is generally straightforward. Prices are fixed, quantities delivered are small. Well-established practices of taxation, control and other regulations make the sales cost-effective and attractive in the customer’s point of view. Consumers are usually familiar with the products sold to them and it is easy to display and market them online. Online consumer sales flourishes and it has been a goldmine for countless businesses worldwide.
It doesn’t show directly to consumers that in fact B2B e-commerce is globally larger than consumer sales. By the year 2020 it is expected to have grown fast enough to be worth more than twice the value of B2C online sales – almost seven trillion dollars.
This is of course logical considering that companies make bigger purchases than consumers. Therefore, there are also greater scale challenges in B2B e-commerce. As customers, companies are more demanding than consumers. Companies seek bids from providers and require customized products, service solutions and individual pricing. Companies also demand more specific product information before ordering. Marketing to these companies requires more efforts. Large order quantities complicate the deliveries. Logistics have to be planned for each order separately and the taxation and regulations are more severe than in consumer sales.
B2B e-commerce is considerably more complex and more challenging than consumer sales. This makes it particularly important to carry it out successfully. There is huge potential in B2B e-commerce and its ongoing fast proliferation will separate the wheat from the chaff in a ruthless manner.
How to get on top of this development?
Bear in mind that the purchasing staff in companies consists of persons similar to those in the consumer audience. It is easy to sell products online to the consumers when the web shop site is easy to use, attractive and simple, while providing all the necessary information about the product. Many successful B2B online stores have striven to simplify their web shops similar to B2C online stores. This seems to be the trend also for the near future.
As B2B customers are more demanding regarding product information, individual service and pricing, it is a good idea to utilize the online shop profile created by the customer. Re-purchases, product recommendations based on the previous shopping and personalized prices can be offered to the customer after log in. In this way it is possible to offer the customer outstanding individual service at a low cost and to commit customers to returning to the online store.
Comprehensive use of technology is important to satisfy the needs of demanding customers and to ensure a high quality service experience. There has to be enough product information available and here for example, three-dimensional CAD-modelling can be useful. Support for mobile devices must also be a certainty for most online retailers.
Related to the fast rise of industrial internet, the utilization of smart technology will play a key part in measuring B2B e-commerce potential. The fundamental benefits of e-commerce are to get rid of the middlemen and pointless work phases. Integrating the company’s ERP and CRM systems to the online store and to the company’s other electronic purchasing operations can release huge amounts of resources to more valuable uses.
As recent history has taught, the market and technology develop quickly – the best B2B online store will hardly be the best on the market anymore after two years if its further development stagnates. The best technology is technology, which is able to transform and adapt to the evolving demands of the market. Thus, it is possible to invest in the re-development of existing technology instead of acquiring and implementing a whole new system.