The B2B market in the past few years has been growing exponentially. An ocean of opportunities is being unlocked every day as more and more business decisions are taking place online.

Several factors are driving this growth as the digital economy is continuing to expand. In fact, Forrester estimates that by 2020, B2B e-commerce will top $1.1 trillion and account for 12.1% of all sales in the United States.

However, to truly understand the complexity of B2B e-commerce projects, we first need to do an extensive comparison between B2C and B2B features and requirements.

Our experience at silver.solutions has shown that B2B e-commerce projects are generally more complex than B2C shops, and they often require more complex business processes that need to be mapped out by an organization. Regardless of internal complexity, however, B2B customers expect organizations will deliver similar features to those provided in B2C shops.

This raises a central question: Do B2B shoppers need the same customer experience as B2C shoppers?

While B2C experiences tend to rely on storytelling and creating inspirational shopping trips, B2B experiences depend more so on practical functions that simplify a B2B shopper’s work. After all, a B2B customer is not in the market for their fifth pair of fashionable sneakers. Instead, they are searching for specific products that are used in their daily work life, such as printing paper and office pens. This is where we face the shopping dilemma of storytelling vs. functionality.

In this blog post, we will dive deeper into discovering what B2B customers want and need.

The must-have features for B2B shops

Ninety percent of B2B shoppers would say that they expect an “easy and fast shopping experience.”

To satisfy their needs, here is a list of features that are indispensable for every B2B shop:

  • Fast and easy-to-use search engine with good filters and quick search results
  • Ability to quickly reorder recently purchased products
  • Shopping lists for regularly ordered products
  • Drag-and-drop cart option for faster checkout process
  • Management of large quantities using CSV files
  • Access to order details, including invoices and delivery notes
    • All records should be up to date, no matter if the order was done in the shop, on the phone or via fax

How to integrate B2B e-commerce features into your business processes

For organizations to succeed in meeting B2B customers’ expectations, they must offer not only the fundamental features mentioned above but also additional capabilities.

These capabilities should include approval and workflow processes, budget management and price request functions, e.g. when customers want to negotiate individual prices for a large order. E-commerce solutions designed for the B2B sector usually offer such functionality in the form of standard modules or plugins out-of-the box.

To avoid additional costs, businesses should thoroughly examine all of their processes before selecting their e-commerce solution. This is especially crucial when setting up a new shopping system for your online store.

eZ Commerce offers customers a flexible modular design and a wide range of features. One of those modules is the Customer Center, a feature that maps customer-specific business processes and makes them available in the online shop. Large B2B customers, where many employees need access to the shop, can independently create and manage their employees as shop customers. Users then receive specific rights, e.g. access to certain product categories and budget limits in combination with approval processes.

The Customer Center also simplifies the work of the shop owner, since customers can manage their own contact data and employee shop access themselves. This data can be exchanged directly with the central ERP and is therefore always up-to-date.

In fact, as your online shop grows, your team can easily add new capabilities to meet your companies’ requirements, such as an SEO add-on, automated personalization and much more.

However, in order to stand out, your shop needs to provide a unified solution that combines practical functions with an appealing design that is also rich with engaging content.

Bridging the gap between content and commerce

For B2B organizations to successfully win, retain and nurture customers, they need to begin delivering personalized experiences with relevant content anytime and anywhere.

Today, B2B customers are extremely digitally conscious and value customer experience more than the pricing of their products. Therefore, businesses should look to create and enable interactions that are engaging, differentiated and personalized to the individual at every step of the customer journey. For example, a business could create target-specific product information pages or special interest pages to address B2B customers personally.

Let’s look at a use case of a manufacturer that produces screws and gaskets. He does not necessarily need to include high-quality images or craft a detailed story about the screws in order to drive sales.

However, he can build connection and trust with his customers by adding a short film on the home page that explains the company’s history. Or he could include testimonials and examples of different projects where these screws were installed in the past. The more useful information the manufacturer provides, the more likely his consumers will make an informed decision on whether or not they will buy the screws and gaskets from his shop.

To achieve all this and grow your business, you will need a CMS to maintain both the marketing website and e-commerce shop. This integration should be one of the key elements you consider when choosing your e-commerce software.

Modern e-commerce solutions should have a full-featured CMS directly on board to link products and content directly together. eZ Commerce is a full-featured content and commerce solution, perfect for advanced commerce and B2B projects. To learn more about eZ Commerce, please visit www.ez.no/eZ-Commerce.

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