In the Forrester report “B2B E-commerce: A Trillion Dollars For the Taking,” Andy Hoar does a great job of outlining the current challenges faced by B2B e-commerce organizations. Largely driven by the growing influence of the millennial generation, the Forrester report outlines three key issues facing B2B organizations:

  1. B2B buyers are growing increasingly impatient with suppliers that don’t provide a B2C-like online experience
  2. The channel conflict between direct sales and e-commerce operations is growing
  3. There is a rising demand for scarce B2B e-commerce talent

In this 4-part series, we’ll discuss the key takeaways and recommendations from the report, starting with optimizing the B2B experience to meet B2C expectations.

Series Part I: Creating a B2C-like Online Experience for B2B

The lines between B2C and B2B e-commerce are blurring; B2B consumer desire to conduct business online with a sophisticated level of functionality continues to increase. The importance of e-commerce as a sales channel means that B2B organizations cannot continue to limp along on outdated platforms.

Amazon sets the standard for consumer expectations, noted many of the B2B executives interviewed by Forrester. According to the report, this means there is an increased pressure on B2B e-commerce sites to offer the following:

  • Personalization — B2B companies have a big advantage when personalizing. Since most B2B e-commerce transactions require an account and login credentials in order to place an order, it’s relatively straightforward to use information about a customer’s company, industry, and transaction history to personalize product recommendations, pricing, and promotions.
  • A long-tail selection that attracts attention — Amazon is the go-to “search engine” for product research and they’ve proven that a long-tail strategy can be profitable. This strategy takes advantage of infinite virtual shelf space and the ability to easily update online inventory. It’s especially effective using a marketplace model where third-party sellers fill out selection.
  • B2C-like pricing that appeals to deal-seekers —Let’s face it: consumers love a deal that includes great product pricing and free shipping. One executive told Forrester, “B2C shipping wars have reset the expectation of B2B purchasers in terms of shipping cost and service.”

Many of the best practices for B2C e-commerce carry over to the B2B world; yet, B2B sellers need to understand the unique considerations of a business buyer that are not relevant in the B2C experience. Join us for Part II of our 4-part series for more insight on B2B buyer needs.

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