A version of this article was published on Nasdaq. Contributed by Yoav Kutner, CEO and co-founder of Oro, Inc.
Back in 2019, a majority of c-level executives believed that digital capabilities were a luxury as opposed to a necessity. But the pandemic has caused a shift and now eCommerce businesses saw an explosive growth happen in just three months at the start of the pandemic.
Customers who’d ordinarily placed orders in person or over the phone sought online or touchless options during the pandemic. Some B2B companies were able to implement digital options for their customers but most B2B companies are still trying to figure out how to approach digital modernization.
Unlike B2C consumers, the typical B2B buyer has a different mindset and different needs that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the current B2C-driven Ccommerce model. To succeed in the new world, and to retain digital customers while continuing to support offline sales, B2B brands will need to address those needs effectively — no matter where their customers are reaching them.
B2C just don’t cut it
Understandably, many B2B companies have mimicked B2C strategies and even B2C software to bring their business online- but this isn’t a solid long-term strategy for most B2B sellers.
The reality is that B2C and B2B customers are very different. The traditional B2C shopper is driven by either an impulse to buy or in response to a one-time need or sale.B2B buyers, on the other hand, build an established relationship with the brands they use and prefer to find a seller who can cater to their complex needs, including things like multi-destination shipping for large orders, then they’re likely to keep coming back for more.
An ever-evolving relationship
Understandably, the B2B customer’s needs and outlook did change during the pandemic. For example, you might not have such a direct relationship with an online B2B buyer and you might find that brand loyalty doesn’t count for quite as much when B2B shoppers are clicking around online rather than shaking hands with your sales representatives. The key for B2B brands, then, is to find ways to deliver an eCommerce experience that keeps the best things about B2C eCommerce, but tailors them to the unique needs of B2B buyers.
Driving eCommerce success starts with taking an assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses. Customer surveys and insights from sales reps can help to identify pain points where there’s room for improvement, and to develop processes that can streamline and enrich the sales pipeline in ways that make sense for your specific customers.
That’s where technology comes in and the goal is to find software solutions that serve as an extension for your sales reps, and add real value for your customers. B2B buyers have complex needs, and they’re often working with a multi-person procurement committee to make decisions. To get buyers on the hook and keep them there, sellers need to provide easy ways to get more information and personal assistance and to ensure that their sales reps regard these digital interactions as being just as valuable as face-to-face contact with a client.
The key is to build your way toward a successful strategy by incrementally testing and validating new tech solutions to make sure you’re adding value for both customers and sales reps. That might mean building out personalized landing pages or other products for customers on the front end, while simultaneously creating automated workflows to drive efficiency and results for sales reps on the back end. There’s no single strategy or tech solution that’s right for every business, so the goal is to develop a people-centric strategy that lets you improve your eCommerce capabilities over time.
The next phase for B2B sales
When done right, B2B eCommerce can empower brands to deliver more value to more customers, more quickly and cheaply than ever before. To get to that point, though, B2B sellers need to think carefully about what their customers are looking for, and how that is changing as they move into a digital-first relationship. Customers want the efficiency and convenience of B2C, but they also want the care, competence, and attention they’ve enjoyed as offline customers.
Brands can’t deliver that by adopting B2C eCommerce tools. Instead, they need to use a hybrid approach that empowers the sales team and uses technology to make them more efficient. By equipping your sales reps with smart, B2B-focused sales enablement tools, you can empower them to deliver the results your customers want.