The changes that have taken place recently in the field of e-commerce are huge. Not only have a lot of new online stores been created, but also those operating on the market for some time have been modernized.
According to research conducted by the American consulting company Frost & Sullivan, the global value of e-commerce in the B2B sector will reach as much as USD 6.7 trillion by the end of 2020. In turn, in our home market, it is estimated that the e-commerce industry will reach a value of over PLN 340 billion. What’s more, it is also a forecast that the advantage over e-commerce in the B2C sector will continue to grow dynamically. As a result, it is imperative that the entire industry is prepared for rapid growth. So what changes and challenges await e-commerce companies, and what do they need to be careful about?
What characterizes B2B e-commerce?
The B2B sector, or business to business, means transactions between companies. The customers of the B2B e-commerce platform are wholesalers, showrooms or other entities that want to conclude a purchase transaction directly with the producer or distributor of a given product.
These types of transactions are usually quite complicated and complex. For this reason, it is extremely important to personalize the offer, i.e. individually set prices, offered discounts and bonuses, as well as maintaining good relations with the so-called business clients.
Until recently, no one suspected such a rapid development of this sphere of trade. Today, it turns out that B2B customers spend 10 times more money on purchases than B2C customers (Aleo and Delloite Report – Digital Shopping Platforms).
What is the difference between the B2B sales platform and the B2C sales platform?
First of all, the B2B platform serves smaller number of customers compared to the B2C e-commerce platform, which is targeted at individual customers. Therefore, a smaller number of visits and transactions are observed, with a simultaneous higher value of orders placed.
It is worth remembering that the B2B trading tool must also be equipped with other functions, the main task of which is to make it easier for contractors to make decisions, manage orders often made from multiple accounts, and view and generate all the necessary transaction documentation.
How was B2B e-commerce created?
Let’s start with the basics, i.e. how B2B transactions look in offline channels. First of all, they are based on building direct relations between representatives of both companies interested in cooperation, i.e. the seller and the contractor. In this type of approach, the success of the transaction depends primarily on the way in which the work of sales representatives and sellers working in points and sales networks are performed.
This type of approach to transactions carries a positive feature in the form of establishing long-term relationships and the possibility of counting on customer loyalty. This is due to the possibility of negotiating the terms, negotiating them individually and the possibility of granting trade credits. What’s more, they are also partnerships, built and developed often over a long period of time.
So where does the need to develop B2B sales on the Internet come from? It is not a discovery that the world is moving forward. Therefore, business partners, for whom surfing the Internet are part of their everyday life, also began to expect the same. So why shouldn’t they trade there? Due to this type of need, people started to be interested in the development of online wholesale shopping.
An extremely important issue in the B2B sphere is the automation of many processes. It takes place thanks to the integration of individual programs with the sales platform and by mapping the platform’s functions. This solution allows you to save time, increase sales efficiency and modernize internal structures of the company, which, thanks to online tools, can focus on other duties.
It is worth emphasizing that one of the elements of automation that affects the efficiency of e-commerce is the integration of the platform with the ERP system and other internal systems used in the enterprise, e.g. with CRM and WMS. Also for this reason, companies operating in the B2B sector decide to use new technological solutions.
Distribution of goods in the B2B sector
What has a big impact on the changes taking place in the B2B sector apart from modern user needs? It is primarily a change in the approach to the distribution of goods. A traditional model that has been practiced over the years has been selling products from producers to distributors responsible for contact with stores. Currently, the vast majority of companies approach the transaction comprehensively in order to meet the expectations of all recipients. Including new contractors, who will thus be able to make online purchases on their own without the need for personal contact with a sales representative.
This approach also turns out to be a plus for producers who no longer need to use intermediaries and can contact the supplier and the end customer themselves, which brings additional benefits. So it turns out that focusing on direct B2B sales is one of the main reasons for moving your business to the Internet. On the other hand, from the point of view of distributors, it is an opportunity to expand their network of contacts and emphasize their importance for producers by meeting the expectations of end customers, who expect more and more amenities.
What is the impact of B2B commerce on B2C commerce?
Even though the shift in attitude towards using electronic trading tools is strongly noticeable, there are still companies with traditional approaches to wholesale trading. These types of companies do not have the appropriate technical environment to enable them to develop towards e-commerce and the consumerization of the B2B sector.
Why is this happening? First of all, these types of companies lack process automation, and most of the documentation and statements are kept only with the use of Microsoft Office. Fortunately, there is a hope still. Many companies are aware of the benefits they can derive from making changes and are following this trend. For this reason, the differences between the B2B and B2C sectors operating on the web are blurring. The traditional approach to B2B transactions is translated into online tools that enable it to be conducted in a similar nature, but in a modernized form.
In the approach to e-commerce, it is important that the B2C sector, although it does not directly translate into the business sphere, penetrates into it for a simple reason – every entrepreneur is also a consumer who is used to certain amenities that e-shops offer. Through these experiences, he also begins to expect similar opportunities in the business sphere. Hence the conclusion that B2C commerce has an impact on B2B commerce.
Therefore, business partners expect that e-commerce platforms, just like online stores, will offer comprehensive information about products, including photos or videos, have additional navigation and filtering functions by product attributes, allow searching for similar products, or display recommendations and thus shorten time to reach the articles you want. By using these types of features in the B2B platform, it begins to resemble a typical e-shop.
What else is important for business customers? First of all, transparency of information. It allows them to focus on what they need and compare it with other offers. The clearer the information, the greater the chance that the customer will make deals with your company. This applies not only to the products, but also to other information contained on the website.
Another important issue is features that the B2B platform offers. Please note that this is not only a product catalog and contact details provided. The platform should allow you to place orders, modify them, as well as access the company’s marketing messages – promotional campaigns, sales and discounts for the purchase of specific products. A modern platform should therefore fulfill two functions: image and sales. Serve as a customer acquisition tool and a place for customers to access the information they need to make purchasing decisions.
How to simplify your business processes?
Did you know that the implementation of the sales platform is not only the enrichment of B2B relationships, but also the improvement and automation of many business processes of the enterprise? Thanks to this tool, the company’s employees do not have to use many different programs. Thanks to one platform, they can manage content in all sales channels. Product information is shared with other related systems, so you do not need to manually enter it. The ability to automatically issue invoices, handle returns and other important issues saves time. In turn, the administration panel allows you to control everything that happens in the company in connection with the sale and online service of contractors. All authorized employees have access to it.
What else does the B2B e-commerce platform offer – summary
The solution, which is the B2B e-commerce platform, allows you to build a competitive advantage in your industry and respond to customer requirements on an ongoing basis. Digitization also enables establishing business relationships anywhere in the world, which increases the company’s transactional opportunities.
This feature has already been appreciated by Polish enterprises. The Aleo and Delloite report – Digital Purchasing Platforms proves that 35% of companies declare that they use IT systems as part of sales. What’s more, the study shows that the implementation of purchasing platforms can guarantee companies as much as 15% savings.
Changing the traditional B2B model, automating business processes, consumerization, modifying the approach to distributing goods and adapting to customer expectations are key elements having a strong, positive impact on the development of the entire business to business sector. Thanks to e-platforms, it is still based on partnership relations and cooperation, while dealing with the times. Such a solution will certainly contribute to the company’s long-term success!