In 2021, B2B companies will be more reliant than ever on digital channels. That means that a full-featured ecommerce site is now table stakes in order to meet growing buyer expectations. 

Thanks to the pandemic, the evolution of B2B sales toward digital accelerated rapidly. With trade shows and other in-person sales opportunities canceled, B2B ecommerce took the lead. More than 7 in 10 B2B buyers now say they prefer digital self-service and remote sales rep interactions, McKinsey found.

And because digital selling is efficient and saves on travel costs, the shift is likely to be permanent. More than a third of B2B purchases and replenishment orders now take place via fully self-service interactions. 

Higher Expectations for a Complex B2B Buyer Journey

The new dominance of digital means that B2B online offerings are more important than ever. Simply adding shopping cart functionality to existing static sites isn’t enough. B2B buyers are bringing their expectations as retail consumers to work. Amazon’s role as a standard-setter in B2C ecommerce is now crossing over into corporate purchasing, with the company’s B2B unit, Amazon Business, growing faster than the company overall.

B2B buyers seek out vendors with sophisticated online offerings in part because their purchase journey has grown more complex. Gone are the days of the linear purchase funnel. Now, B2B buyers undertake extensive online research. They backtrack to consider new potential vendors discovered via word of mouth. And they navigate multiple internal stakeholders prior to purchase. Further product customization or co-development can occur prior to putting items to use, after which the need for service, repairs, upgrades, and replenishment can trigger re-engagement and repeat business—if brands have proven themselves worthy along the way.

Personalization And B2B Ecommerce White Paper

Written in conjunction with Brian Beck, one of the world’s leading authorities in B2B Ecommerce, this white paper covers the critical nature of delivering hyper-relevant experiences, particularly after COVID.

Download

A Robust B2B Ecommerce Platform Benefits Buyers and Brands

To accommodate B2B buyers in 2021, suppliers need an end-to-end solution that can deliver consistent, unified experiences.

A robust and comprehensive platform meets B2B buyers’ expectations by:

Enabling 24/7 Self-Service

With a significant portion of orders and reorders occurring without the assistance of live sales reps, vendors that offer end-to-end ecommerce enable B2B buyers to buy whenever is most convenient and efficient for their schedules. 

Boosting Payment Efficiency

B2B-specific payment and ordering tools that support payment by PO and corporate credit accounts smooth the purchasing process. 

Supporting Collaborative Purchase Decisions

The ability to share custom configurations with team members speeds internal approvals.

Offering Custom Catalogs and Pricing

Tailored experiences can display products, pricing, and payment options specific to individual corporate customers, including volume and loyalty discounts. 

Suggesting Relevant New Products or Services

Personalized recommendations and cross-sells can expose buyers to adjacent product categories they hadn’t previously considered, offering the opportunity for added cost savings and efficiencies.

Serving these needs with a personalized solution not only helps vendors win sales, they also derive other organizational benefits. These include: 

  • Increased efficiencies. A robust B2B ecommerce platform offers a single management tool for product and pricing data that is personalized for accounts. Manual data entry and catalog management is reduced, cutting costs.  
  • Multi-touchpoint capabilities. B2B sellers can easily reach corporate buyers wherever they research products. Products, pricing, and content are managed in a single location and adapted to the end-user on the fly.
  • New customer insights. By connecting the buyer journey across devices and touchpoints, vendors build a unified customer profile and increase their understanding of buyers. 

Key B2B Ecommerce Platform Features to Drive Relevance at Scale

B2B companies setting out to improve online capabilities should develop a robust set of technical requirements to support their goals. Among the priority features:

A Unified Site Builder

Companies should be able to manage content, products, and pricing from different sources through a single interface, weaving together an engaging and dynamic experience that can then be tailored for output on international sites and microsites as well as the flagship brand offering.  

Candy maker Jelly Belly migrated from a home-grown system to Kibo’s solution. It now manages offerings across more than 45 sites for both B2B and B2C audiences through a single interface. As a result, it’s achieved a 21% increase in web traffic overall and a 300% jump in mobile sales.

Real-Time Shipment Information

Fulfillment is an essential part of the buying experience. Therefore, vendors should seek out a B2B ecommerce platform that integrates seamlessly and in real time with inventory systems and carrier network status to deliver accurate cost estimates and delivery timeframes.

b2b ecommerce platform 2021

AI-Powered Personalization

By harnessing the power of machine learning, companies can offer B2B buyers relevant experiences that adapt in real time. 

Office Depot uses Kibo Personalization, powered by Monetate and Certona, to dynamically offer products and content based on customer intent, as determined by site behavior and predictive insights. If B2B buyers explore office furniture, the site also serves information related to delivery and packaging disposal services. It even determines whether the company has recently changed locations so further moving-related content can be offered.

Relevant Product Recommendations

B2B buyers accustomed to purchasing a select product category from a given vendor can expand their horizons by discovering complementary products, accessories, and services. AI-powered recommendations expose these potential matches throughout the research and purchase experience. This can occur across search results, on category and product pages, and in the shopping cart. 

MSC Industrial Supply uses Kibo Personalization to surface new relevant products from its catalog of 1 million products. By deploying product recommendations throughout the site, MSC realized a 38% increase in conversion rates. 

Advanced Search Capabilities

Companies with large catalogs should seek out faceted search capabilities that allow B2B buyers to filter based on multiple criteria. Personalized search capabilities can likewise help purchasers connect with products more quickly by tailoring their search experiences, from suggested search terms based on keyword input to results based on account preferences, order history, and more. 

Account Management Tools

In 2021, customer-specific catalogs and pricing add another layer of relevance to the buyer experience. Vendors should also look for capabilities that enable assigning purchasing roles for employees of customer companies, with authorizations and spending limits set at the individual user level. 

Checkout Built for B2B Buyers

Integrating functions such as PO processing, credit authorization, and stored card information enables B2B buyers to complete purchases seamlessly and in compliance with their own internal purchasing rules. Stored order histories streamline replenishment ordering. 

Seek Out a B2B Ecommerce Platform That Can Deliver Modern Experiences

As 2021 unfolds, B2B buyers’ expectations will continue to grow for streamlined and efficient digital procurement options. With the right B2b ecommerce platform, companies can handle the complexities of corporate purchasing while delivering relevant experiences at scale. The right ecommerce platform should let you deliver seamless B2B experiences that your customers enjoy from their daily lives as B2C consumers. And it should allow you to emulate your offline B2B relationships to create personalized and memorable shopping experiences.