We still use the floppy disk icon to ‘save’ documents, although floppy disks stopped being made in the 1990s. Which means that the icon means “save” for a whole generation who have never seen one. Feel old yet?
The floppy disk, the landline, the ability to buy a Mr Whippy “99” for 99p…things we could once rely upon to remain as unchanging and omnipresent as the fax have now changed beyond all recognition. And with them, so has the traditional B2B customer.
The influence of B2C Commerce
The expectations of the traditional B2B buyer have been hugely influenced by B2C and today’s B2B buyers expect a consistently high-quality customer experience across all channels. 68% of today’s B2B buyers now prefer researching their work purchases online before buying and 56% expected to make half or more of their work purchases online by 2017 according to a Forrester study.
Some B2B companies have made tentative changes towards how they provide services and products to other businesses. Between 2015 and 2017 the number of B2B websites built on in-house commerce platforms had dropped from 63% to 47% according to the 2018 B2B e-Commerce 300 report. However, many B2B companies are relying on existing systems that support outdated processes and are not delivering the experience B2B buyers expect.
A good example of this was demonstrated by a catering food supplies catering company I recently met with. They found challenges in delivering a self service experience to many of their customers and hence many were still placing their daily food orders by fax or phone. This meant a lot of work was done by the supplier to ensure the correct prices were given and with the right discounts being applied which in many cases was done using manual lists and reviewing printed catalogs by the support staff.
So what does this new B2B experience look like?
In reality, there is very little difference between B2C and B2B commerce nowadays; any differences are mostly cosmetic – the core functionality needs to be the same.
Today’s B2B customer is like all of us: impatient, time-poor and expecting a hassle-free service. Pleasing them should be a doddle, right? Well, a good place to start is by letting anyone buy on any device at any time. A fully responsive and mobile experience, with the ability to digitally login and get personalised prices should go some way to keeping them happy…
Speaking of prices (and when are B2B customers not?), all special offers or promotions should be offered on your site, not just over the phone. Allowing the customer to configure their own price quote and get the best price will help you to stand out from the competition – this can be offered either with a real time response, or by sending an email a few hours after the request.
If we take our food catering supplies example business, this is a business with specific needs – it deals with small to medium sized businesses that do not have time during the day to phone in their orders. Like a typical B2C customer, they want the ability to buy anywhere, at anytime, and to have key information on the processing and delivery process.
- When their bars or restaurants close late in the evening, they want to be able to re-order or replenish the items that they need.
- They want to be able to track their orders, so that they can maintain their menus based on when foodstuffs are arriving.
- They also want to discover new products and services and to be delighted by the experience of thinking how they can better service their customers by creating new menus and services (earlier opening, delivery, etc).
- For convenience they should be able to auto-replenish certain items and get reminders pushed to them to cancel an automatic order therefore flipping the experience of intervention to manage exceptions rather than ordering the same items again and again each day.
- They also want the ability to maintain their own profit margin by looking at what discounts they can get or what offers are available, helping to create business stability.
If it is good for the customer, then it is good for business!
The key goal for many B2B organisations is being able to retain the customer and then get them to spend as much as possible while keeping operational and support costs down. Providing these self-service and easy ordering website features give customers reasons to come back and order more if the journey is thought about and implemented. For example, single-click reordering, saved baskets and quick order form placement are features that are usually not seen on B2C sites but are extensions of common functionality made specific for the B2B journey.
Keep an eye on the competition
Loyalty is now more valuable than ever, and creating a personalised online experience for your customer that reflects that is vital. It is important to approach the digital side as a unique proposition, rather than simply replicating existing antiquated business processes. (To today’s B2B customer, the catalogue has more in common with the floppy disk than efficient ordering).
That’s not to say that all of the B2B aspects should be ruthlessly excluded from your online site – incorporating auto order replenishment, for instance, is a great decision. Looking to the future (and with the upcoming launch of B2B Amazon, the future is much closer than we think) means considering a multi-channel approach. For instance, a mobile app could include a barcode scanner, allowing your customer to simply scan items in their own warehouse, then re-order with one click.
B2B Commerce Platforms
The team here at Greenlight are experts in delivering commerce platforms and we believe the SAP Hybris B2B accelerator is hard to beat for delivering great omnichannel commerce customer experiences that drive growth.
Recognised as a leader in B2B Commerce in the Forrester Wave B2B Commerce Suites, Q1 2017 Report, SAP Hybris allows B2Bs to deliver a B2C-caliber experience in a business environment, ensuring that businesses are able to satisfy even the most demanding of customers.
If you would like to speak to one of our experts about your B2B commerce project and get some commitment-free advice on whether the SAP Hybris B2B Accelerator is the right fit for your business, get in touch.