B2B e-commerce: the secrets to make it fly

The Editorial Staff
Content Intelligence Network

Nothing will ever be the same again. Evolving digitally requires a rethinking of operational processes, in order to bring together seamlessly the physical and digital experience. To activate this change, different actions are required at multiple levels: one of them is the optimization of the interactive digital experience.

And indicated in the report Innovation in B2B Digital Commerce: Trends and strategies for success by IDC in collaboration with Liferay, e-commerce applications are undoubtedly the most influential facilitators of such user experiences.

According to IDC, in the next 5 years this market is expected to grow at a CAGR rate of 18% in Europe, reaching a turnover of almost 30 billion euros. In the previous 5 years the rate was around 16%, and the growth is mainly due to Germany and the United Kingdom, which account for 50% of the European market.

B2C business applications account for 70%. But it is expected that in the next 5 years, B2B applications will have a higher CAGR rate. This is because the B2B digital business - especially in southern Europe - has not evolved much and therefore there is more room for expansion.

 

B2B-B2C differences

 

Because of digital technology, B2C users have high expectations of the brand: assistance, pre-purchase information and after-sales support, etc. Along the entire customer experience, needs have to be met immediately and in a customized way.

These expectations also apply to B2B, because the users are the same, though in a different context. B2B digital experiences must therefore be rethought, becoming personalized and covering many touchpoints in an agile and dynamic way. 

That's why we need to bring the B2C experience into B2B... but there are differences. B2B e-commerce platforms have to handle greater complexity, starting with data management. Specific requirements must be met, like defining the access rights to product catalogs within an organization, or defining who can buy products or services and make payments etc.

As pointed out at the Netcomm Forum during a panel on the topic, it is advisable to make the user live a seamless experience, and the first step to it is bringing everything on the same platform, which must be flexible and integrable. No workarounds to simulate omnicanality are admitted: in "classic" B2B e-commerce, the first two phases of the funnel (attracting and engaging) are exclusively in the hands of the CMS, while the conversion happens on the e-commerce.

The resulting situation is rather messy: a customer enters the CMS, then moves to the e-commerce to complete the purchase, then back on the CMS to look for more information and so on. Different systems are used, with considerable integration costs, and users themselves feel the platform switch, even though the theme may look the same.

In 78% of cases, content management needs to be improved and this is essential: IDC expects that by 2021 the companies that provide seamless experiences will reduce the drop-out rate by 20%. That's why we need a single, integrated, omni-channel platform.
 

Best practices

 

  • Enabling "smart" commerce

User experience can be improved thanks to automatic learning algorithms: we are talking about recommendations based on previous behaviors (this can also be integrated with CRM data), intelligent search (an engine that facilitates navigation of the catalog and suggests the most used keywords), dynamic prices and fraud prevention. As IDC points out, Artificial Intelligence applied to e-commerce can be a differentiating element in the customization of products and services, increasing the chances of conversion. 

  • Optimizing the shopping experience

It is important to optimize for mobile: the use of smartphones and tablets is increasingly widespread. IDC tells us that more than 30% of B2C e-commerce purchases are made on mobile in the U.S., and this trend, which has grown by 10% in the last 3 years, is extending to B2B.

It is also advisable to enrich the product/service sheet with the most complete information possible (multimedia content, reviews, best-selling products, etc.). This makes up for the inefficiencies in the producer-retailer relationship.

  • Microservices

It is recommended to design the application architecture as a set of microservices that allow different approaches. The use can be configured based on roles and skills.

  • Self-Service

Each organization has its own order approval process, so IDC recommends a B2B e-commerce application that allows administrators to set rules. The platform can be used, for example, to support the account manager, who should have access to a dashboard with all customer data, from which to set marketing automation campaigns. Technology does not replace the human of course, but it can support them in achieving omnicanality.

  • Security&Integration

The platform must guarantee the security of both the transactions and the global data security. And it must be integrated efficiently with the company’s business management tools (especially the ERP).