The B2B eCommerce business is booming, expected to reach 1.8 trillion USD by 2023. Despite the potential that represents, many B2B retailers have been hesitant to adopt a viable eCommerce solution for their business, underscoring a “generational” disconnect and a massive opportunity for those able to change with the times.
To stand out and thrive, the mindset and workflow processes of B2B sellers need to evolve as their customers have. Just as online retailers have precipitated the closure of many brick-and-mortar retailers, so to are the digital-first B2B buyers redefining the B2B marketplace and the best practices needed to succeed.
With all these changes, the question B2B retailers have to ask themselves is, “Are we employing the right tactics and strategy to be successful in today’s evolving B2B marketplace?”
Let’s dig deeper.
Today’s B2B buyers are younger, savvier, and more mobile than ever. Back in 2014, Google released a study that showed over half of all B2B buyers were millennials and by now that number has only grown.
With that in consideration, it comes as no surprise then that the average B2B buyer has evolved, reflecting the digital tendencies and personalities of a younger generation that has grown up in a wholly digital world. One where information, both subjective and objective, is not only freely given, but is what primarily drives their decision-making process.
These buyers prefer a sales process that is more independent and autonomous, meaning they’re harder to reach, moving throughout the typical sales funnel freely and making their many decisions based on their own demands and preferences. They, and the evolving digital marketplace, are redefining the sales funnel and how a business must handle their various touch points, forcing them to become more omnipresent and relevant to their buyers.
So what do today’s B2B buyers truly want? When you get down to it, they want what they typically experience with their own B2C shopping experiences, with all the user-friendliness, accessibility, and enhanced functionality they’ve come to expect.
They want a digital experience that is robust, provides an easy means of getting them the information they want, and offers an overall rewarding experience. Failing in this often means they will move onto a competitor, while succeeding offers amazing potential as shown by a recent survey that found only 13% of B2B buyers are happy with the user-friendliness of B2B eCommerce sites when compared to B2C sites like Amazon.
Taking user-friendliness a step further, sales reps can no longer act as the primary driver through the sales funnel, but rather as a facilitator, helping guide the buyer at certain inflection or touch points. Market research company, Forrester, found that during many steps of various B2B buyers’ journeys that the typical sales rep actually lagged far behind other influences such as peers, forums, and websites.
In addition, data and artificial intelligence has revolutionized how B2B sellers can approach and connect with users across all touch points. With AI-powered solutions such as chatbots and marketing automation, retailers can give buyers what they want, when they want it, and ensure they’re always a top-of-mind provider.
The hardest, and yet the most important step, before putting together a B2B strategy is to ensure, from top to bottom, that the organization is committed to adopting a new, digital-out strategy. The willingness to adjust, which can be difficult to commit to, is a necessary prerequisite.
Once buy-in is complete, there are three core concepts you should consider when constructing your digital approach:
Mobility, mobility, mobility. B2B buyers jump around the decision-making process fluidly and the tools at a B2B retailer’s disposal, along with the individuals using them, must reflect that speed. Operating on their terms, rather than your own, means you have to more effectively meet them at all touch points, ensuring you’re prepared to give them what they want, before your competitors.
AI-powered tools such as Chatbots or Samba’s Marketing automation platform, which was built specifically for SMBs to automatically iterate, optimize, and execute marketing communications, put you far ahead of the curve and gives you more time and resources to use elsewhere.
When you get in front of a buyer, it’s imperative that your communications are clear, concise, and consistent. Considering you don’t have a lot of time to make a good impression, you need to showcase your essential, value-laden points in a way that they can easily absorb and will remember.
The key to all of that is the consistency. Your overall communications and how you present your offer to the buyer must build a cohesive picture of your business so when it comes time to make a decision, you’re the one they remember.
Since we’re on the subject of “evolution”, it’s only natural that today’s salesperson would have to evolve as well. Utilizing digital tools, such as the aforementioned AI-powered marketing automation or chatbots, gives them more time and resources to focus on providing buyers, especially those identified as “high value”, a more personal, informed connection.
From creating and distributing case studies to connecting to visitors via Intercom, the advancements in technology aren’t making salespeople obsolete, they’re finally giving them the opportunity and resources to better identify, support, and nurture B2B buyers.
In trying to reach this new generation of decision-makers, legacy vendors are well-served to invest in their eCommerce offerings now, in order to avoid becoming obsolete tomorrow.
The most important step is realizing that there’s no better time to change than now and the sooner it happens, the sooner your business can reap the rewards.