B2B commerce: Times have changed

Bild von von Kai Stübane, Head of Sales SAP Customer Experience, B2B E-Commerce

Just as in B2C, today customers in B2B purchasing expect an easy, transparent shopping experience. Times have changed. That’s why suppliers should adjust and simplify all of their purchasing and sales processes to suit this new situation.

In the long months of the COVID19 lockdown, when many purchasers are working from their home offices, a new trend has emerged in B2B business. From now on, business customers would like to be able to order products seven days a week around the clock and use services online, just as they are accustomed to doing when using digital platforms such as Amazon, Airbnb, eBay, and Uber in the private sphere. These platforms network suppliers and customers based on digital technologies.

But purchasers at most companies can currently only dream of having such shopping experiences. For the procurement of office supplies, order components or spare parts for the company’s own machine park can generally not be handled with just one or two mouse-clicks. To the contrary: frequently purchasers have to juggle different procurement systems and unclear user interfaces. Thus far, free-text inputs, filter functions, and recommendation systems have been sooner the exception than the rule in B2B webshops.

Customers expect an individual customer experience

According to a current study, by 2025 B2B companies will place more than half of their procurement orders online. So what can you do to improve the shopping experience here? First, the suppliers have to understand who their customers are and what they need. For this, it’s important to get to know the people behind the procurement process. Only this way can the customer profile be refined, and the individual B2B commerce platforms adjusted to suit users’ individual needs.

Today, customers expect an individual customer experience that is tailored to their preferences and purchasing history. Thus, for example, they want a single view for all transactions, orders, deliveries, payments, and services across all channels and devices.

However, the large majority of transaction processes in the B2B process were designed at a time when business was done completely differently. The focus was on personal contact with the sales force, which could significantly influence purchasers’ decision-making. 

Prices, discounts, and availability were a secret. People bought from people. Processes were not designed optimally for customers since a company’s sales, production or logistics were what really counted. 

30% more sales and 20% cost reduction

But today’s world is different. Gartner predicts that this year, B2B companies – as compared to competitors without B2B e-commerce – will earn 30% more sales with digital offerings and reduce their costs by 20%. Here too – as in B2C business with end consumers – an inspiring customer experience is a key to success and an important differentiating factor with regard to the competition.

That’s why from now on, your business customers expect will an easy, transparent shopping experience in the B2B environment. For some B2B companies, the change from a transactional model to an online system in which the customer experience is the focus will require an enormous change of mindset. But this change is worthwhile. Satisfied, loyal business customers and a decisive competitive advantage with accompanying sales increases will be the result.

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