The Most Common B2B eCommerce Challenges (And How to Overcome Them)
B2B eCommerce is an emerging channel, but it’s not without challenges. Considering that many B2B buyers are now digital natives, it makes sense that they want to make purchases online. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this channel even more critical to revenue generation and long-term viability.
B2B Commerce Reaches Milestone
In the 2019 U.S. B2B Market Ecommerce Report, the data represented an 11% percent growth in the area, reaching over $1.08 trillion in transactions. These eCommerce sales equaled about 13% of all purchases. Predictions for 2023 say this will grow to 17% with a projection of $1.8 trillion.
COVID-19 has been significantly impactful to these numbers, as cited in the 2020 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report. The report now predicts B2B eCommerce will grow by 10% this year, in part thanks to the pandemic but despite economic contraction.
The numbers support growth, but what about the challenges in leveraging this trend for profitability?
B2B eCommerce Challenges and Solutions
Let’s look at the biggest challenges and proven solutions.
B2B Buyers Are Changing
A majority of B2B buyers are now millennials. According to one survey, they make up 45% of B2B technology buyers. As of 2018, the generation was the largest one in the U.S. labor force.
Millennial buyers are different. They are tech-savvy and have various processes for finding vendors and providers. They appreciate a digital experience that’s customer-centric and easy. There’s no better way to illustrate this than the fact that 61% of all B2B transactions now begin online.
This challenge is a foundational issue for many organizations. They have misconceptions about who their buyer is and what they expect the experience to be. If you haven’t updated your buyer persona in years and see volatility in traditional sales channels (i.e., distributors), you may be miscategorizing your customers.
To resolve this, do in-depth research to uncover what matters to your customer and their preferences for the sales process. What you discover could prompt you to reimagine your eCommerce channels and ensure they are intuitive and provide an excellent customer experience.
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Buying Is Personal
Many in the B2B realm forget that they’re still selling to a person. Customers aren’t just using their personal money — any buying decision is emotional. People decide to buy from you because you have a quality product and a good price, but there are so many other things that matter.
They care about your company’s mission and its values. They also look for social proof that validates your product’s effectiveness by looking at reviews, testimonials, and case studies.
They also have high expectations for personalization in the buying process. So, you have to make it personal.
You can do this by:
Using technology to deliver more personalized content when users visit your eCommerce site (i.e., product recommendations, offers, etc.)
Ensuring personal follow-ups even if it’s a digital transaction
Continuing to communicate with customers with emails about new products or new content
The Buying Process Can Be Long
In most cases, the B2B buying process is longer. It requires multiple decision-makers, each with their own priorities. As a B2B brand, you already know this, but you probably haven’t applied it to eCommerce. Manually managing this workflow isn’t practical or sustainable.
Technology is your friend here. Integrated tools can make all the difference. You’ll need to depend on data from your CRM (customer relationship management) software and marketing platform that scores leads based on actions (i.e., opening emails, clicking on ads, etc.). In reviewing it, you can create a repeatable process to support buyers in a long process.
Buyers Want Flexible Ways to Order and Pay
In many organizations, procurement is the gatekeeper for purchases. It complicates the process and is document-heavy — contracts, purchase orders, invoices, etc. It’s a controlled process that can hamper B2B eCommerce, but many are adopting e-Procurement platforms. B2B sellers can work with buyers through an e-Procurement integration that digitizes the process.
Payment is another challenge. While using a company credit card is fine for some, others need net 30 terms or longer. Offering this on your eCommerce platform can get you more business, but don’t extend credit to just anyone. Make sure you vet any possible new customers before you provide alternative payment options.
Complex Products Can Be Hard to Showcase Online
Is eCommerce right for every B2B product? That depends on how you position it. You may think that some equipment or products are too complicated to put on a website. However, you probably have a library of content regarding the product. Bridge the gap in eCommerce by including spec sheets, video demonstrations, and other information. Since you can’t give them an in-person view, use technology to build 3D virtual views.
Don’t Miss Out on the B2B eCommerce Boom
Whether you’ve just gone digital or have had an online store for years, it’s a good idea to revisit it. Are you facing any of these problems? How are you addressing them? With these tips and a commitment to creating an exceptional buying experience, your B2B business can succeed with eCommerce.
If you need help getting yourself set-up for success with eCommerce, please contact us here.