The e-commerce industry is evolving at a rapid rate. Long gone is the time that it was reserved for B2C business only. Today, online stores are moving to accommodate B2B orders. It is a growing trend, which is expected to grow further. Investing in B2B e-commerce now gives a competitive edge compared to other businesses that are yet to consider the option.
In addition, B2B customers order hundreds and thousands of items at a go. Thus, you are able to record high sales and move products in bulk in a very short time to improve your cash flow. It’s also worth mentioning that B2B e-commerce has evolved to greatly reduce the costs of call center services.
However, B2B clients have different needs from B2C customers. This translates to a different set of challenges for B2B e-commerce. If you are too, it is important you familiarize yourself with them.
Here are some common challenges, and how you can overcome them.
1. Customer relationships
Unlike in a B2C setup, customer relationships with B2B clients need to be more personalized. You will find that your pricing is customer-specific depending on what you have agreed on with different customers. Additionally, depending on the businesses that your customers run, you might have others who don’t necessarily need all the products that you offer. The challenge is that these customers expect catalogs, product selection, and pricing to match their particular requirements when they click on your e-commerce portfolio.
You can overcome this by employing customer segmentation. Group your customers according to their specific needs to give them a more personalized experience. That way, when they interact with your B2B e-commerce, they only see what you have agreed on.
2. There is a complex buying cycle
B2B clients are businesses. This is to say that a purchase might need to be approved by different people each with his or her role and responsibility. For instance, an order might be initiated by an inventory manager, a financial representative might be needed to approve the spending among other people. This makes the buying cycle become long and complex. All these people are interacting with your business when the paperwork gets to their desks. As a B2B e-commerce business, you need to provide each person with the information that he or she needs to complete his or her task.
You can only be able to efficiently do this by employing reliable customer relationship management software and enterprise resource planning software to help you blend self-service options with your data. This way, your customers can be able to find the information that they need with ease.
3. Email marketing
As said above, B2B involves multiple people in the buying decision. Even as you send emails, you need to keep in mind that multiple people reading that email. You may need to do a number of emails for a longer period geared towards more than one person if your email marketing efforts are to bear fruits.
In this case, you need a powerful marketing strategy in place. You will also need to collect additional data points so that you are specific in the people you are targeting. Automation will also come in handy here, so you will need an email service that can offer this. Here is a great selection of providers for your email communication needs that you can choose from.
The customers need to receive their orders in a convenient and timely manner. However, shipping needs in a B2B setup is a bit complex as compared to a B2C setup. Some clients might need a B2C experience, while others might need to discuss their own specific shipping requirements.
In a B2B setup, it is good to have multiple shipping options that customers can choose from. You can also choose to tailor-make shipping options depending on products, size of an order, or customer-specific needs. Integrate your shipping management software into the platform to ensure transparency in pricing and timely delivery of shipment status messages to customers.
5. Payment methods
Customers in a B2B setup need multiple payment options. Since they are moving a significant amount of money, it makes sense to want a payment option that they feel secure.
Even as you give them different ways to pay, it is important to offer them more flexible payment terms. This can enable them to make bigger orders and anticipate paying at a later date. Consequently, you will earn customer loyalty and competitive advantage.
Selling to other businesses might never compare to selling to a direct consumer owing to the complexity involved. However, you can greatly improve customer experience by listening to their demands and keeping up with emerging technological tools to help you streamline your e-commerce platform.