4 challenges B2B merchants face when entering the world of e-commerce
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. E-commerce is King.
Ok. We might not have said those exact words, but if you’ve been reading our blogs, checking us out on LinkedIn or opening the emails we send, you’ll have heard us going on about how B2B trade is moving online.
Research by Digital Commerce 360 found that e-commerce has become the preferred sales channel in B2B, with 35% of sellers rating it more effective than in-person sales (26%), video conferencing (12%) and email (10%). Sorry, telesales fans – the humble telephone is preferred by just 8% of sellers.
Meanwhile, our own research shows that the overwhelming majority of B2B buyers (92%, for those asking) use online channels for procurement, with over a third making 75% or more of their business purchases online.
Considering the seemingly unstoppable rise of e-commerce in B2B, it’s no wonder that so many merchants are scrambling to get a piece of the action. The thing is, most of these sellers have operated uber-traditional offline businesses up until now. With no experience of e-commerce and limited digital know-how, it can be a formidable challenge for old school B2B merchants to make the leap to online.
You might be one of them. But you’re here, reading this blog post, which tells us that you’re ready to take that leap. Here’s four of the most significant challenges that you’re going to face when you do.
Challenge #1: Choosing the right e-commerce platform
The first hurdle you’re going to face is choosing a B2B e-commerce platform that serves your needs and requirements.
When deciding, you’ll need to think about functionality (i.e., what you want your e-commerce site to be able to do) as well as the regulatory side of things. It’s no good having the world’s best e-commerce site if it isn’t compliant in all your target markets. You also need to consider how easy it will be to integrate with any other solutions or platforms you already use, such as your ERP or CRM tools.
Once you have an idea of what you need, it’s time to determine whether you want to utilise a platform like Shopify or Adobe Commerce, or whether you want to build a bespoke e-commerce store from the ground up. Naturally, it can be easier to create your store on an existing platform, but if high levels of customisation are required to reach your needs, a bespoke solution might be worthwhile.
Ultimately, the only people that know what you need are the people in your business. While it can be a challenge, with solid research and advice from those who have done it before, you should be able to make the right choice here.
Challenge 2: Customer account management
This isn’t like B2C, where transactions can be spontaneous and emotional, or where a single individual is all it takes to make a purchase. Instead, there are often many buyers within a single company, as well as many different stakeholders at different levels involved in selecting suppliers and authorising purchases.
This idiosyncrasy of B2B is easier to handle offline, where you know who you’re dealing with over the phone or in person. But if 10 people with different levels of authority have access to the same online account, things can start to get messy very quickly.
It’s essential to build an e-commerce site that enables all necessary buyers access to their company account with the right level of permissions.
Challenge 3: Replicating the buyer experience across all channels
The inherent complexity of B2B transactions means it can be difficult to replicate user experiences when you begin to operate an omnichannel business. However, your buyers expect consistency and coherence across all channels.
They expect the same pricing structures and discounts. They expect to be able to search online as easily (if not more easily) as they are able to tell you over the phone what they want to order. They want to be able to make repeat purchases regardless of the channel they’re using. They want their delivery details saved across all channels so they don’t have to keep entering them.
The irony is that you are moving online because you want to grow, but if you can’t give your buyers the same high standard they’re used to offline, then you may actually end up losing customers who are dissatisfied with the disconnect.
Challenge 4: Finding the tech resources to integrate payment terms
We don’t want to underestimate you or your business. But if you’re just now moving into the e-commerce space, there’s a good chance you may not have considered the tech resources required to give buyers a harmonious payment experience across online and offline channels.
This includes payment terms. It’s relatively easy to offer lines of credit to buyers that you know and trust; people that call you up or come to your bricks and mortar store. But the anonymity and scale of the internet means that new B2B e-commerce merchants are not able to rely on the old ways of credit management.
However, giving buyers a payment terms experience online that matches traditional offline practices requires a degree of development work that some merchants simply don’t have at their fingertips.
The solution? Hokodo’s hosted checkout enables merchants to get up and running with a fully functional credit offering in a matter of hours. It’s a truly plug-and-play option with absolutely no development work required, designed specifically to help merchants who are already dealing with the challenges of migrating to e-commerce. Sounds helpful, right?
Check out the video below to learn how Hokodo’s fastest integration ever could help you start offering the payment terms your buyers expect.