New Survey Shows Growing Opportunities for B2B Retailers Online

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

It’s easy to think of the online marketplace dominating most industries, but there are a lot of places where ecommerce hasn’t reached its full potential. While this is unavoidable in some industries, the simple truth is that Business to Business (B2B) ecommerce hasn’t caught up to the levels seen on Business to Consumer (B2C) sites. A recent report highlights the current trends in B2B ecommerce, and how it creates potential for businesses to expand their client base.

The ecommerce platform BigCommerce recently released their 2008: B2B Ecommerce Report. The report is based on a survey of more than 500 retailers who either do only B2B sales, or combination of B2B and B2C sales. The participants were asked about the way they conduct B2B sales, the role ecommerce currently plays in that process and its expected role in the future, the technology and design behind their ecommerce buying experience, and the expectations of today’s B2B buyers.

According the survey, 80 percent of merchant respondents currently accept B2B orders online, and 78 percent of those have enabled ecommerce purchasing for at least two years. It’s strange to think that one in five of these merchants didn’t accept B2B orders, but this is something many of these businesses are planning to fix. According to the report, 83 percent of B2B merchants that do not yet have an online sales channel expect to add one within the next 24 months.

The fact that so many B2B transactions are happening on older, traditional retail channels create opportunities for business owners.

“Forrester predicts that B2B ecommerce transactions will reach $1.2 trillion by 2021, yet we still see an extensive amount of B2B sales taking place through traditional, analog channels,” said Jimmy Duvall, chief product officer at BigCommerce. “Today’s B2B buyers are hungry for a modern approach to business purchasing, and merchants that ignore customer preferences and available tools leave significant sales on the table.”

The report highlights some of the reasons B2B retailers have been slow to move to ecommerce systems. For example, 53 percent of merchants identified reputation as one of their business’ key selling points. There is a legitimate concern that if they make it possible to buy online, they will be competing on cost alone, which can be cut throat in global marketplace. While this is a legitimate concern, a well-designed website should convey the reasons customers trust a B2B retailer. Similarly, allowing for online chats with sales representatives make it possible to build a rapport with potential customers without meeting in person.

Another concern that some B2B retailers have is that their buyers make personalized purchases, and they want those online experiences to be similar. According to the survey, 71 percent of merchants believed an easy-to-navigate website to be the most important feature for B2B customers. Again, this a valid concern, but one that can be handled by a good website. A well-designed website can offer a high amount of easy-to-use personalization options for potential buyers, so there’s no reason to sacrifice personalization for digital B2B transactions.

An opportunity that exists for most B2B retailers in the mobile marketplace. Only 15 percent of merchants provide their B2B customers with mobile functionality, though just over half of those give their customers the ability to actually make purchases via mobile app. In other words, only 7.5 percent of B2B retailers allow online ordering through mobile devices. For those who do not offer mobile functionality, it is not considered a business priority and only 36 percent plan to develop a mobile sales app within the next 24 months.

This is an opportunity for B2B businesses to steal market share from their competitors. Even if only a few business owners were trying to make B2B purchases while on mobile, right now, they only have a few options. Becoming one of those options is a low-cost way to expand the potential reach of a B2B ecommerce website.

For more information on this topic, be sure to check out the entire BigCommerce report. It contains a lot of useful data for B2B website owners. And for more information that can help all business owners and marketers, check out this article on some recent Google updates.

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