Sales & Marketing Strategy September 11,  2020

B2B commerce is changing. Are you ready to solve your customers’ needs?

Sofía Acher   •  Communication Specialist   •  Linkedin
Felipe Carrera   •  VP of Business Development   •  Linkedin

Why is B2B undergoing certain transformation? How is this impacting the industry? How should you respond to this new reality? These are some of the questions we aim to answer in this article, but before explaining and reflecting with you, defining terms is key. Business to business (B2B) Ecommerce works in its own practical way, different from Business to consumer (B2C). Overviewing both will help understand this transformation because one of the changes B2B is facing starts from a more direct relationship with B2C. Buying cycles are longer in B2B than they are in B2C since they require heavier research for a higher amount of products and the formal execution of an approval process that usually takes some time. Moreover, purchases in B2B are logical while they are emotional in B2C, which is related to the buying process just mentioned: in B2B purchases have to be justified, there is more investigation, and they have to be approved. Individuals do not analyze that much when deciding what and how to buy, this is what March and Simon, social science theorists and authors of the book Organizations, explained: the human being makes decisions that are not optimum, because of lack of time as well as the impossibility to perceive and analyze the reality’s total complexity (Arocena, 2010). In addition to these aspects, traditional B2B sales have always been carried out by salespeople who visited customers in their workplace or called them on the phone to offer their products or services; the sales process was really personal and required full involvement of a human being at every interaction.

During the past years, B2B has been changing because of two factors: the appearance of a new generation of buyers and commerce expectations set by B2C Ecommerce. This new buyer has different characteristics, lifestyles, and learnings in comparison to its predecessor. They have updated needs on how to buy or on the interaction with the seller and these needs boost an important transformation in B2B. This generational change is related to our second factor, Ecommerce expectations set by B2C Ecommerce, since this new buyer already has complete understanding on Ecommerce purchases on B2C and naturally translates it to B2B as an unconscious expectation. Indeed, there is a study performed by Google that shows that B2B researchers within the age of 18 and 34 years old represented 27% in 2012 and this amount climbed all the way to 46% by the year 2014. (Snyder, 2015). This means that in two years people who did a first selection of products to be purchased by the company changed significantly and so did the way they buy. Former buyers approached many different channels to find products while new buyers are young and completely knowledgeable about Ecommerce, technology, and social media. This new buyer, the millennial, is hard to satisfy and always digitally connected. The fact that they are hard to satisfy is related to a well-known Advertising and Marketing concept: nowadays buyers are not only more demanding and careful but they are also conscious of the available channels for them to have a voice. As they are digitally social, they use that voice to prevent others from a negative purchase experience with a brand and express themselves through reviews, social media, etc. Therefore, companies and brands should be prepared for this reality and know in depth the person on the other side. Looking at the numbers, the evidence is clear. 64% of B2B buyers are doing online research for at least half the products they buy and 38% of them are completing online half of their B2B purchases. Additionally, more and more, the smartphone is being used in the B2B purchase process as a whole (Hoar, 2017). This new panorama brings two challenges: the current buyer aims and expects to buy without depending on anyone and salespeople lose too much time on small accounts so they lose profitability.

In light of the above, some conclusions can be drawn. B2B Ecommerce is no longer being a differentiating element and it is starting to become a need for companies to stay relevant. Based on our experience, those who implement B2B Ecommerce successfully typically observe the following results. In the first place, small accounts that do not require a salesperson to carry out their purchases are growing without an attributable nor variable cost. In addition to this, it is easier for salespeople to manage their accounts — because they can leverage the tool to showcase their portfolio remotely — and buying cycles are shortened. What is more, there is higher profitability in regards to salespeople since they can focus on bigger and more profitable accounts.

Facing this reality, which is the right track for organizations? Firstly, accepting the need to offer an automatic sales system is key in order to satisfy new buyers’ expectations. Secondly, concerning B2C standards established on B2B, the Ecommerce site should be more than an online selling instrument for the company, it should be incorporated into the sales process making it a tool for salespeople, and not their competition. It should support the sales team when managing opportunities and allow both fast and clear communication between them and buyers. All in all, the B2B tool should be carefully developed to be competitive.

Sofía Acher Communication Specialist   •  Linkedin
Felipe Carrera VP of Business Development   •  Linkedin