With buyer behaviour shifting towards B2B online marketplaces, Adobe’s Scott Rigby advises sellers how to do B2B e-commerce right so that buyers can enjoy a unified digital commerce experience.
Globally, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of B2B (business-to-business) e-commerce to unprecedented levels. With businesses and supply chains locked off at various points, the importance of digital-enabled sales interactions increased exponentially.
As a digital hub, Singapore has seen its e-commerce landscape grow by leaps and bounds. Nationally, e-commerce revenue is projected to reach US$7,293 million in 2022. This figure is predicted to display an annual growth rate of 16.22%, with a forecasted market volume of US$11,448 million by 2025.
As buyer behaviour shifts towards B2B online marketplaces, the Singapore government recognises the importance of leveraging on technology to aid businesses to navigate this complex territory. This includes various initiatives such as the E-Commerce Booster Package and SMEs Go Digital Programs to support businesses in their transition to B2B digital sales.
As we tentatively move towards a more positive landscape, the time to ask if your business is ready to take on the B2B e-commerce arena has never been more pertinent.
1. Putting customers first
Know your buyer’s habits: B2B buyer behaviour is becoming more aligned to the regular consumer’s behaviour with a strong reliance on the web, IT forums and search engines. On average, B2B buyers undertake 12 online searches before making a purchase decision, the key being the fact that pre-sales research is far easier than ever to attain. This is especially significant as Singaporeans spend approximately eight hours on the internet daily, predominantly on personal purposes such as online shopping.
Sellers need to add value: B2B buyers expect more from their sellers. Be ready to research your buyer’s needs, challenges and competitors to identify where you can add value. Go beyond what is expected and become a truly valued partner. Offer innovations and stay one step ahead by identifying new trends and work hard to find more responsive and innovative ways to add value to the process. For instance, buyers now see salespeople as outsourced research partners, trusting them to provide objective data and case studies. In addition, buyers prefer digital channels with a human touch and flock to online marketplaces that combine personalised consumer features with B2B buyer tools
2. B2B e-commerce needs a unified digital commerce experience
For B2B firms to thrive, digital business professionals must reposition themselves as more than "the e-commerce people". There is a need to develop a future-proof commerce strategy that incorporates all channels and selling motions, and all flavours of self-service to support the full range of low to high consideration purchases. To move towards achieving this means focusing on the following:
Provide more complex products across more channels: Products are quickly becoming commoditised as suppliers broaden distribution and buyers seek more inventory and price transparency. B2B companies must shift upmarket to offer more complex products that command higher margins and leverage sales-assisted models.
Offer new and differentiated value-added services: B2B companies can further augment sales by focusing on higher-margin services, such as warranties, insurance and financing. These differentiated services enable digital business pros to capitalise on consultative selling techniques. It is becoming increasingly imperative that B2B firms invest in self-service tools for both customers and internal users as a two-way gateway for customer engagement and transactions. Singaporeans place such high value on customer experience that 60% of consumers are willing to spend more for better service experience.
Expand opportunities for sales rep-free B2B business models: Firms are now finding ways of working without sales reps to close deals, such as “web-only” exclusives and bespoke self-service models. This saves on commission, meaning the differentiated cost savings can be passed on to customers.
3. Key ways to do B2B e-commerce right
Quotations: Business buyers require fully itemised quoting to gain approvals from accounts and internal teams to complete transactions. Therefore, the ability to lock in the price and shopping cart contents is crucial. With the relevant system enhancements in place, bigger orders can be closer than ever. Simultaneously, B2B buyers also require multiple login access points for approvals, quote updates and details. The best B2B sites offer individual logins with differing roles and permission parameters to consolidate the buyer process.
Bulk buying and negotiations: Highly valued B2B commerce sites allow bulk lists of items to be uploaded directly to the cart, saving hours of procurement time and increasing sales. With B2B customers spending big, they crave the ability to negotiate on price, meaning staff need access to special rates for their customers regularly. To do this requires an easy-to-use tool for managing and applying quotes.
Inventory management and analytics: Visibility on real-time inventory and orders is crucial across the supply chain, and using automated business roles optimises fulfilment costs and delivery times. A better customer experience is achieved and profitability maximised. B2B buying changes the whole customer journey and impacts the way sellers analyse data and optimise processes. Thus, it is important to ensure that appropriate analytical tools are employed to improve the effectiveness of the B2B model.
The future has never looked more uncertain, which is why it is more important than ever that businesses are future-proofed by moving with the times. The above methods will demonstrate sellers’ willingness to go the extra mile for their clients. With B2B buyers seeking guidance in the awareness phase of buying, quick and dynamic responses will be rewarded more often than not.