Delivering the self-service sales experience that today’s b2b buyers demand

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The value of global business-to-business eCommerce is predicted to reach over $6.5 trillion dollars by 2020 as customers continue to embrace buying online. Research shows that the behaviour of b2b buyers has fundamentally shifted over the last few years, as an increasing number of tech-savvy millennials lead the way to digitalised procurement. As a result, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors are having to rethink the way they work and how they sell to their customers.

In our experience, a lot of companies are keen to modernise their approach, and many have committed to opening an online sales channel to better serve the needs of b2b buyers. But the problem is, a large number of these companies tell us that their website doesn’t support the kind of seamless eCommerce experience that today’s buyers expect. On top of this, many of the cost saving and business efficiency benefits that should accrue with a digital sales channel often fail to materialise.

The source of these issues can usually be traced back to the inadequacy of legacy technology. We frequently meet companies whose systems are unable to cope with the demands of modern eCommerce and are not optimised to streamline sales processes. These b2b sellers are stuck with websites that were originally designed as sales tools or online brochures to support reps and face-to-face or telephone ordering. On the other hand, some b2b buyers say that while their supplier’s website allows them to buy online, the process is painful and protracted.

We know from market research studies and our own conversations with b2b companies that today’s professional buyers want to research and purchase products on their own terms. And if they can’t access the kind of sales experience they expect, they’ll quickly find another supplier. Increasingly they want to research and buy online, when and where they choose, and often using a mobile device.

Ideally, for straightforward purchases, buyers would like to get through the entire ordering process without human engagement. In fact, by 2020, it’s predicted that buyers will manage 85% of their businesses relationships without talking to a single person. Instead, they look for a seamless, automated, self-service purchasing experience that delivers quick and easy product discovery, detailed product information and images, and simple ordering and shipping. And these are just the basic requirements.

By taking a few simple steps to enhance website performance, top b2b sellers who want to maintain competitive advantage are able to offer much more than this. From providing personalised pricing, payment terms and promotions, to real-time inventory position, and individual order history, these sellers have integrated their websites with business and accounting systems, such as Sage and Pegasus, to create a powerful sales tool. This not only supports customer loyalty by delivering an outstanding buyer experience, it also helps to increase average order value, cut out processing errors, reduce resourcing cost, and improve margin.