Particularly recognized in B2C, e-commerce certainly weaves its web BETWEEN companies. Faced with a gradual change in purchasing pathways, any company must adapt its strategy and position itself where its customers are.
The B2B sector today represents 2,000 billion euros in exchanges per year in France and a windfall of 4.5 million customers.
Until recently, very few B2B strategies focused on selling online. Companies generally have a showcase site that allows them to promote their offer, but very few of them have embarked on digital commerce for their customers. And yet, a powerful means of diversification and differentiation, B2B e-commerce is a major business challenge and constitutes a profitable opportunity to stay ahead of its competitors.
B2B buyers have become accustomed to ordering their products from printed catalogs, by fax or by telephone. Today, the challenges of e-commerce bring new business perspectives with the development of e-commerce platforms dedicated to transactions between companies.
In the age of multi-channeling, the company must have all the data to promote its know-how and its offer, on all the channels it addresses. Conducting a multi-channel strategy consists of improving the profitability of each channel used by bringing it into play at the best time in the purchasing cycle to meet new customer expectations. Relations between channels must be mobile to ensure better adherence to these new customer journeys.
So, how can you adapt your strategy to stay in step with changes in buyers’ uses and behavior? How to offer an Omni channel experience to its customers?
The essential specificities of B2B E-Commerce
Businesses that want to open up to B2B e-commerce should know that B2B e-commerce is fundamentally different from B2C. The main differences are in buying behavior, how long the buying process takes, how buyers can buy, and what features are required for an optimized customer experience.
In B2C, if customers want a product, they buy it. This purchase is not the result of a logical step. On the contrary, in B2B, buyers behave differently, logically and technically. They represent part of the supply chain.
B2B e-commerce is about improving ordering processes between companies. Order values are generally higher (average basket increasing) and many people may be involved in the act of purchasing such as decision makers, buyers, accountants, etc. These longer cycles naturally create more interactions between buyer and seller.
While on the one hand, a single store will be offered to several customers, the other side will focus on a B2B customer PAR store.
Customers have privileged access to an online platform whenever they want, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, unlike sales teams who will only be able to offer their services 8 hours a day. The productivity gain is considerable: taking orders and making quotes are fewer tasks for the teams.
Beyond saving time for the customer as well as for the seller, the former benefits from better visibility of the offer with detailed product sheets. Each store can be personalized and adapted to the graphic charter of each entity. The famous paper bags buyers catalog, often used alone until now, is then transposed onto an additional medium. The distribution channels are multiplied and make it possible to acquire more and more new customers.
But it is possible that for some customers, the prices are different (negotiations, loyalty, etc.).
Managing specific prices is an essential function of B2B e-commerce.
Companies that engage in an online development strategy need to be able to manage multiple price lists for customers, but also to create custom catalogs , activate quick order forms, define account roles company, etc. The work processes are complex and the business functionalities are specific to each company, it is necessary to be able to exploit this potential in full knowledge of the facts.
Note that each company is unique: some will want to automate all of their sales and offer a self-service store, others will favor interactions between buyers and sellers, while still others will need that their brands can promote their own products to complement their offer. Supporting a variety of contexts is an important component in B2B today.
Structure and enrich your product offer
Qualifying and structuring its product offer is carried out in an application ecosystem, often fed by an ERP and by a Platform intended for the management of product information (PIM).
The PIM for Product Information Management is the essential tool for centralizing and harmonizing all the marketing and technical information in product catalogs.
Why do you need a PIM to power your B2B e-commerce environment?
In reality, the PIM makes it possible to structure and manage data for several channels in several languages, on different commercial media and to feed your B2B and B2C catalogs. Integrating product information management into your e-commerce strategy is an essential step to enrich each piece of data and to condition it according to the context in which it will be used.
Often, the data collected come from several sources, are scattered and sometimes have different formats … The PIM will standardize these elements, which will be subsequently enriched, by the simple fact of filling in the fields concerning them, by listing images and other media.
Always with the aim of meeting the requirements of multichanneling, distributing them on the chosen channels, whether it is one or more shops, paper catalogs or even leaflets.
The functionalities at the service of B2B E-Commerce
Basically, B2B e-commerce requires functionalities specific to this field, different from those that we can find in a B2C context.
First of all, the customer connects to his own store via an authentication system. Unlike B2C where the visitor is lambda, here the user is known: his company, his department and his commercial environment in particular.
Once connected, the customer views a catalog of products, which will have been previously selected for his company. The objective here is to personalize and produce tailor-made catalogs for customers, in order to present only relevant products according to the industry, business units or customer groups.
Within the catalog, offering the customer to compare products with each other will allow him to order only what he really needs, while reducing the margins of error.
Management of specific prices
One of the most promising features of B2B e-commerce is the management of specific prices. The prices displayed may be different depending on the client companies that connect.
The customer chooses his products and validates his basket. The validation process then involves an order approval. Then, at each step of the ordering process, the buyer is notified by email in order to always be informed of his status in real time.
Delivery methods and costs
Multiple deliveries, in different quantities to several places, or even delivery costs, are all possibilities and elements offered to customers, so that everyone finds their account.
Each sector of activity has its own specificities and different needs. The functionalities must be adapted according to the need for use.
Whether in a context where a printer offers marketing material to be personalized and printed (web-to-print), a brand provides its franchises with a centralized platform or a brand provides its customers with online products. So that they can easily order them… Each need requires common standard functionalities and specific functionalities, developed to measure for each one.
The benefits of B2B E-Commerce for the benefit of customer relations
Deploying a B2B e-commerce platform simplifies your customer relationship in order to better control it.
Indeed, allowing its customer to access a B2B e-commerce platform is to constantly offer him reliable and complete product information. It benefits from a systematically up-to-date catalog and prices. Not only is he notified of the stages of his order and is informed of each change in its status, but he also has detailed statistics on his orders. He can have access to all his documents such as his invoices or quotes and switch the elements of his orders into his own ERP.
The customer interacts with his supplier and, beyond a feeling of confidence and reassurance, he will feel free and supported. And in this case, a satisfied customer is a returning customer!
As for you, as a brand, brand or franchise, you will develop the functionalities that you offer to your customers according to their needs, to always provide them with the best possible user experience.
Promotion and animation of its B2B E-Commerce platform
However, implementing a B2B e-commerce strategy also means thinking about launching and promoting the platform, with its network, brands, franchises, stores, but also with customers.
At the same time, the goal is to offer an ever more positive experience in order to build customer loyalty, but also to attract new customers with powerful tools. Effective and targeted communication operations make it possible to meet objectives and boost the brand image.
Graphic animation of the site
Having a clean, clear and reassuring home page, with intuitive ergonomics, makes the user experience simple and pleasant.
The campaign can be:
- Web to web to store
- Web to store to web
The objective is to make the new merchant site known and to generate sales, to discover or rediscover the brand and to generate traffic. This is to encourage customers to come to the store or to order on the merchant site: use the most relevant levers to carry out a powerful campaign.
Purchase of digital space
Buying advertising space on all types of media allows you to effectively reach your target and win new customers.
Objective of loyalty or conquest, direct marketing makes it possible to reach its target so that it consumes quickly (offer to seize, new product or particular event) via promotional documents, catalogs or leaflets.
The newsletter makes it possible to address its customers exclusively. Useful information, promotions, new products, partnerships or other information… The newsletter is a strong means of building customer loyalty.
Dressing of points of sale
Inside each point of sale, you can set up visuals, dress up the store to advertise the website (specific clothes for salespeople, goodies to give to customers and large-format visuals, contests, etc.).
It is important to accustom customers, brands, networks, franchises to consume and use the platform that you make available to them. Organizing a VIP day dedicated to a limited number of customers is an option to take to promote and showcase your new site.
So which solutions to turn to?
Today there are dozens of e-commerce, enterprise or open-source solutions, which will be more or less relevant depending on your objectives and your business strategy. While it is not always easy to make the right choice at the outset in B2C, B2B requires functionalities, not always available on all the systems offered.
Magneto is the benchmark e-commerce solution from the open-source community, with today more than 240,000 online stores, generating $ 25 billion each year.
Rich in features and scalable, Magneto provides flexibility in the management of catalogs, stocks, prices, quantities and promotions in particular. Designed to manage order flows, order validation and consolidation processes, Magneto meets generic needs, but also specific needs thanks to the development skills that can be associated with them. It is also adapted to the needs of franchise networks.
Associated with other technologies, such as a PIM, an online editing or customization solution or even a dynamic calculation engine, Magneto as an engine for the B2B E-Commerce module, has become THE solution to the problems that meet communicating companies.
B2B players set the bar very high in terms of functionality and business.
Simplify its ordering process, offer its customers a new digital experience, increase sales, automate tasks and achieve its development on the web … The figures are unanimous, B2B buying on the web is growing every year and will reach figures outside standards in the coming years. Let’s be ready!