Consumer-focused retailers were quick to embrace ecommerce when it became a practical sales platform more than two decades ago. Today, the majority of B2C retailers have an ecommerce store. B2B suppliers, however, were slow to adopt ecommerce. B2B sales relationships are quite different to those in the B2C world, often involving contractual negotiations, personal relationships between procurement and sales professionals, and a host of other concerns that don’t apply when selling to consumers.
Even today, it is estimated that 80 percent of manufacturers and distributors process orders manually rather than via an ecommerce store. However, the winds of change are blowing through the B2B commerce space as millennials begin to dominate procurement roles. Half of B2B researchers and buyers are digital natives who expect B2B sales to offer the same convenience as the consumer stores they are familiar with.
Businesses that fail to embrace B2B ecommerce will soon be at a substantial competitive disadvantage compared to their more forward-looking competitors.
Business Buyers Rely on Google
Once upon a time, a procurement professional would pick up the phone and talk to a supplier’s sales advisor when their company wanted to buy a product.
That’s no longer the case. Most B2B product searches start with Google. On average, B2B buyers carry out 12 searches before they interact directly with a potential supplier. If a B2B seller doesn’t have an online presence with a detailed description of their products, they won’t even be on the buyer’s shortlist.
Online Catalogs are Non-Negotiable
A survey conducted earlier this year found that 83 percent of B2B buyers will spend more to make a purchase “from suppliers that offer a robust ecommerce experience.”
Why would they willing to spend more? Because ecommerce reduces the complexity of B2B procurement and the amount of manual labor involved. The cost efficiencies of ecommerce-based procurement are of real value to businesses looking to reduce procurement spending. Buyers are often prepared to pay a little more to suppliers because ecommerce reduces their overall procurement spend.
Ecommerce Offers Easier Integration
We have already noted that business buyers prefer solutions that allow them to find cost efficiencies within the procurement process. That’s why so many businesses have invested in eProcurement and spend management platforms. EProcurement allows businesses to see what they’re spending and where, to implement rigorous procurement policies, and to eliminate manual labor.
However, eProcurement platforms are only as good as the data they have access to.
Many B2B buyers now require suppliers to integrate with their eProcurement platform to automate the transfer of data. They want catalogs, purchase orders, and invoices to move between the buyer and the seller automatically. An ecommerce store makes integration relatively straightforward; there are many solutions that can integrate eProcurement platforms with major ecommerce applications like Magento and WooCommerce.
Businesses without an ecommerce store can’t offer the level of integration buyers expect, and they’re unlikely to win sales from businesses that prefer suppliers who can offer close integration.
A B2B supplier without an ecommerce store is invisible to a large part of the market and unacceptable to many buyers, which puts it at a competitive disadvantage.