When it comes to selling online, B2B organisations have to adapt to changing customer expectations, driven by trends such as smartphone usage, social media and the consumerisation of IT, according to the 2013 E-commerce Report from Intershop.
Across the board, respondents in a survey of 400 B2B companies agreed that the world of B2B commerce is undergoing a radical transformation and B2C trends are reflected in the B2B environment.
Yet, almost all organisations (96%) are facing challenges. Half find it difficult to provide intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touch points such as B2B online stores, mobile apps etc. A similar number (48%) say it is difficult to manage complex organisational structures such as different user roles, multiple business models, multiple commerce touch points and multiple data domains.
One big challenge is how this change is driven by multiple factors, from customer demand and expectations (81%) to developing technologies (74%) to the fact that business buyers engage through various offline and online touch points with their peers and use multiple information sources to make decisions (73%).
Yet, almost half (49%) agreed that bringing business buyers from offline to online could result in a higher overall bottom line. At least 44% expected higher average basket values and 43% said bringing buyers online could result in more return customers and higher brand loyalty.
Jochen Moll, spokesman at Intershop explained: "Where there is complexity, there is also opportunity. Organisations that can develop their B2B commerce channels now and offer a consumer-like approach will be well placed to capture market share. They will need to understand how to manage the complexities around their new channels but the effort will pay off.”
When it comes to the features customers expect, intuitive search and navigation are understood to be important by more than three quarters (77%) of B2B organisations, followed by online order approval (75%), self-service account management (74%), category and product pages (73%) and online store analytics / monitoring in real time (72%).
Organisations also realise how important search engine optimisation and search engine marketing are (70%). Two thirds (63%) are trying to encourage ranking or scoring of their organisations' products on social media sites.
The findings from the survey underline that the transformation of B2B commerce is hitting a tipping point in 2013. The pressure in B2B is to cope with a large number of challenges and fast changing expectations, both from inside and outside their business: integrating processes and systems, providing consistent cross-channel experiences and embracing mobile and social media, to name but a few.
"B2C has become the test ground for B2B companies to understand how e-commerce technologies can support their sales strategies," added Moll. "After all, every B2B customer is also a B2C customer so if you want to understand the future of B2B, that is where to look.”
Moll concluded: "Interestingly, there is a noticeable disparity between countries in terms of how sophisticated their B2B e-commerce strategy is. E-commerce really is a global market place and B2B organisations need to raise their game to meet the highest benchmark."
To download the full report, visit www.intershop.com/e-commerce-report.