Business to business (B2B) e-commerce
Companies selling goods and services to other companies online is known as
business-to-business (or B2B) e-commerce.
Business-to-business companies have, on the whole, been slower to adopt e-commerce than their business-to-consumer (B2C) counterparts. This is partly because B2B sales are generally a longer process involving multiple decision makers, to the opposite of the often impulse-driven B2C purchase of an individual consumer. B2B business owners have been understandably skeptical that a high-speed online channel could work with their business model or their clientele.
Nevertheless, B2B customers are also B2C customers in their everyday lives, and decades of innovation in the B2C e-commerce sphere have had a ripple effect both on the expectations of B2B buyers and on the development of B2B e-commerce platforms.
E-commerce has become a vital component of any B2B business strategy, and an ERP-integrated e-commerce solution makes it easy to offer your B2B clients a convenient, efficient, and secure way to do business with your company online. By integrating your online store with your back office systems, you can automate key business processes and provide an optimized user experience for your customers.
E-commerce for the B2B sales cycle
B2B sales are known for being a long process in which numerous options are weighed and considered, and often several different decision-makers have to reach an agreement before a purchase is made. This is frequently cited as a reason why e-commerce is unsuitable for B2B sales: while a B2C customer visiting a website can make an on-the-spot purchase, it doesn’t work like that in the corporate world.
The truth is that the long B2B sales process is exactly why B2B companies need a web store.
A web store acts as an online hub for your company. It allows every decision-maker involved in a potential purchase to visit and revisit your website and your products and solutions 24 hours a day. It gives you a way to present all the vital product and price information they’re looking for whenever they’re looking for it.
To put that in perspective, if a CEO decides to browse your site outside of business hours, your web store is right there helping to make the sale… and, just as importantly, making the case against your competitors.
E-commerce for B2B customer relationships
Customer relationships are a central component of B2B success. B2B companies often spend years developing highly individual relationships with their customers, who frequently negotiate personalized product offerings and pricing structures.
ERP-integrated e-commerce solutions offer a perfect way to build and develop these B2B customer relationships even further online. CRM integration through your ERP makes all your vital customer data available at a glance. Business owners can create and assign catalogs tailor-made for individual clients, complete with flexible, complex pricing structures which are kept accurate and up-to-date at all times through ERP integration.
Not only that, personalized accounts allow for cross-sell and upsell opportunities based on a customer’s purchase history and interests, and even give your clients the option of automating frequent or recurring orders.
B2C e-commerce for B2B
While B2B and B2C sales could not be more different, the underlying customer experience does not have to be.
Think about what it’s like to shop on Amazon or any other B2C e-commerce site: speed and convenience, transparency of price and product, and above all, customer self-service (i.e. the ability of shoppers to place orders and update account information themselves, without the need of a customer service rep).
In many ways, these defining features of the B2C e-commerce customer experience have come to define the overall experience of shopping online. Which means that when you build an online channel to industry best practices with an ERP-integrated e-commerce platform, you will be offering your business clients the same speed, convenience, transparency, and self-service capabilities they would enjoy on a B2C site.
Why not offer your B2B clients a B2C buying experience right out of the box, with the automation and power of an e-commerce solution integrated directly to your ERP?