Source: Äri-IT Spring 2023
Author: Rauno Raid, Head of E-commerce at Finestmedia
E-commerce is here to stay, but should it only be aimed at the end consumer? Absolutely not! Below we will discuss why e-commerce is also necessary in B2B transactions and explore the upcoming trends in this field.
The continuous evolution of technology coupled with the emergence of a new generation forces companies to thoroughly assess their business operations. E-commerce has become a natural part of our lives, as confirmed by the fact that the volume of digital purchases is growing from year to year. These new trends also reflect the role of e-commerce in B2B transactions.
Self-service portals are the key
The year 2022 presented novel challenges for many companies as they had to find ways to better reach their customers and provide a more convenient service. In B2B, one way to do this is to create a self-service environment.
A trend that has quietly emerged on the global stage in recent years has now made its way to Estonia. An increasing number of manufacturers and importers are contemplating ways to structure their sales process in such a way that it meets the expectations of even the most demanding customers. The B2B self-service environment offers a solution in this regard. An environment that enables customers to effortlessly find answers, make quick purchases and see an overview of their purchase history gives the company a competitive advantage on the market. The demand for self-service portals is here to stay and is set to grow even more substantially in 2023 than ever before.
Importance of customer satisfaction
Given the uncertainty prevailing in the world, businesses operating in B2B commerce are facing the challenge of retaining customers and maintaining a balance between income and cost through their customers. How to keep customers satisfied and prevent them from switching to competitors? While it is true that pricing certainly plays a role here, it is not always enough. We can offer alluring low prices, but if we offer subpar customer service then sooner or later we will lose the customer. Regrettably, global statistics reveal that around 90% of business customers still experience poor customer service (especially when making purchases online).
Customer expectations have changed. In addition to reasonable prices, customers seek added value. When creating an ordering environment, it is important to keep in mind that it is more than just a purchasing environment for customers – it also functions as a hub where they can quickly and conveniently get all the necessary information without having to contact a sales representative. It is important to clarify that the creation of a self-service environment does not entail the elimination of sales representatives for the merchant, quite the opposite. The more channels we provide for customers to contact us, the easier it is to keep them satisfied.
E-channel – a tool for discovering new customers
As competition intensifies, finding new customers becomes more and more challenging. In an ideal world, customers would always find us first, without us having to invest time and resources into the pursuit, but such an idyllic notion often remains just an elusive dream. If we look at the customer journey, at the end of which the customer reaches the merchant on their own, it often begins with a search engine. In the light of this, it is logical for a company to have an e-channel that customers can find through a search engine.
Prior to the global pandemic, B2B self-service environments did not play such a big role in customer acquisition, but last year a trend began that is becoming increasingly more significant. Customers are progressively embracing the chance to explore the merchant’s product range at their own pace, delve deeper into product specifics and, if desired, make a purchase independently. The very same principles hold true in B2B transactions where the customer is represented by a person accustomed to accessing product information through e-channels. Therefore, the B2B ordering environment should be regarded as not only a purchasing platform but also as a significant marketing channel.
No unambiguity in delivery
Virtually no products, spanning from chips to pharmaceuticals, have been untouched by supply challenges over the past few years. The persistent uncertainty surrounding product availability and delivery timelines has instilled a sense of caution in customers. They expect to have unambiguous information about the quantity in stock and precise delivery time prior to making a purchase. If you are in the process of creating an e-channel for your company, it is important to take these two aspects into consideration. While concerns over competitors gaining access to valuable insights about your company are valid, the absence of such information can indeed pose challenges in retaining customers.
The demand for availability and stock information is on the rise within B2B transactions, echoing the practices observed in the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment. Calls to the merchant’s sales representative to clarify quantities in stock or delivery times are gradually fading, which is something we need to be prepared for. Every customer who chooses not to initiate a call is potentially a lost customer. By fostering transparency as a merchant, you substantially increase the likelihood of securing a new sale. In B2B transactions, same-day or next-day deliveries, as commonly seen in the B2C sector, cannot be expected but it is evident that business customers are also seeking increasingly shorter delivery times and want to know the quantity in stock prior to placing an order.
Reduce environmental impacts
In the coming years, the prevailing trend points toward a transition to more responsible business practices. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, the demands they place on merchants in the B2C sector are extending their reach to B2B companies as well.
Therefore, it is important to take a critical look at both your delivery partners and packaging methods. If a merchant has not taken any steps to reduce their ecological footprint in recent years and has no intentions to do so in the future, there is a potential risk of customer attrition.
Creating a digital identity
The B2B industry is undergoing significant evolution and so are consumer habits. The entry of the younger generation into the labour market has had the greatest impact on consumption habits. A generation accustomed to screens from an early age considers it second nature that things can be done digitally.
In view of technological advancements, evolving consumption habits and the ambitious growth objectives of B2B companies, it is essential to optimise both the customer experience and the buying process. Now is the right time to start creating and perfecting your digital identity in the B2B segment, if you have not already done so.
While reading the article, you started pondering about the efficiency of your online store? We offer a free workshop where we provide an overview of your current business state and suggest the next steps that would enhance the growth of your company’s e-commerce. To register, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.