8 things we learned in conversation with OroCommerce


When hunting for partners to help with our research report about B2B buyer demands and expectations, we were looking for companies who shared our vision of a world in which effective, efficient and exceptional e-commerce experiences are the standard in B2B trade. Very few businesses out there embody that vision as much as OroCommerce, so we were pretty damn excited when they expressed interest in teaming up.

Following the publication of The Definitive Guide to B2B E-commerce Buyer Demands in 2024, we sat down to pick the brains of Aaron Sheehan, Director of Product Marketing at OroCommerce and certified B2B e-commerce guru. Here’s what we learned.

B2B buyers are attracted to the convenience and flexibility of e-commerce

Our research found that the vast majority (93%) of B2B buyers now choose e-commerce channels for their procurement needs. Why? According to Aaron, the allure of digital commerce stems from the increased demand for convenience and flexibility among buyers.

“Buyers want to go where the information is and the information is on their phone or on their computer,” Aaron explains. “They need to be able to research products and complete a transaction, or at least start a transaction, on their timetable and when it's convenient for them.”

B2B buyers are busy people, just like you and I. As more and more of them shun the 9-5 grind in the office for flexible and remote working practices, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to procurement, which makes the flexibility and convenience of e-commerce increasingly attractive.

When it comes to e-commerce, start small and grow from there

Sure, 93% of buyers are choosing e-commerce channels, and a bunch of your competitors are already operating online, but if you haven’t taken the leap yet, Aaron says it’s not too late. Just make sure to get started ASAP.

“There's no time like the present,” Aaron says, recalling the famous General George S. Patton quote from World War II:

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

Old George put it better than we ever could, but basically, stop dilly dallying around – make a decision and execute it to the best of your ability, even if it isn’t perfect. The challenge can seem overwhelming, so start small, learn from failures and build upon successes.

“If you're trying to digitise your B2B commerce channel for the first time, start with a handful of key accounts. Don't do it for everybody, but pick customers you think will be good early adopters,” Aaron suggests, highlighting that buyers with whom you have a solid relationship or that you hold a wealth of data on are prime choices for that original batch.

Other ways of starting small might be to only put a limited number of your best-selling or most profitable products online, or opening an e-commerce site in just one region.

“Get started, pick something small and manageable at first, then test and learn and grow from there.”

To build or to buy? B2B sellers should outsource tech to the professionals

"What you don't want is a two-year IT project just to get the first order in.”

When he speaks to B2B merchants, Aaron often finds that those who have spent time and resources developing their own technology solutions rarely get the pay-off they expect. Because they are not IT companies or tech experts, these projects take far longer than they should and end up becoming a massive drain on company resources.

So, the advice is to buy rather than build. But don’t just go out and buy any old thing.

“You should look at buying something that does what you need it to do out of the box. Don't buy something that is a box of parts. Buy something that is a complete solution and grow it from there,” Aaron advises. “You may decide at some point that you want to grow and evolve and change solutions. That's okay, but start with something that does what you need it to do and grow from there because what you don't want is a two-year IT project just to get the first order in.”

B2B payments are a high stakes game

We asked about the key differences between B2B and B2C transactions, and along with pricing, communication and buyer behaviours, Aaron highlighted payments as a key difference – and an important one at that.

“I've seen it over and over again. The reason that the checkout and payments are so important is because the stakes are very high.”

Yes, Aaron – now you’re speaking our language! To illustrate his point, Aaron explained that in B2B, the buyer isn't using their own money: they're using their employer’s money. And they're using a lot of it, because order values are much larger than in B2C.

“I am not ordering a pair of leggings. I am ordering a pallet of leggings,” Aaron explains. “So if something is wrong or if something is incorrect when I get to the checkout, I stop. I can't afford to make a mistake. I'll get fired if I make a mistake!”

The solution? It’s critical to establish trust with buyers at the checkout. You can do this by clearly displaying the buyer’s name, payment terms, unique credit limit, tailored pricing, delivery information and/or preferred settlement method. 

“If you don't do that, you're very likely going to cause somebody to stop and pick up a phone, which somewhat defeats the purpose,” adds Aaron. “All of this is critical information that a representative on the phone would know because they're looking at it in the ERP. If you're going to move to a self-service ordering flow online, you need to show that you know the same information.”

Merchants must focus on improving checkout speed and efficiency

In ‘The Definitive Guide to B2B E-commerce Buyer Demands’, we reveal that 55% of B2B buyers suffer from user experience issues when checking out online. That’s more than half of all procurement professionals who are subject to slow, complex, lengthy processes – and there’s a real risk that it will cause them to abandon their purchase.

“Speed is a big problem that I have seen with B2B checkouts for a lot of companies because the technology that is powering the checkout is very old,” Aaron says. “Slowness introduces doubt. If you are trying to do something online and you see the little spinning pinwheel or the progress bar and it's not moving, you will stop.”

So, how long should it take?

“You want a few seconds at most. If it's taking 8, 10, 12 seconds to get a price or to load a payment method you're going to leave because you don't trust the system anymore. Slow makes you think old and broken. Old and broken makes you think you don't want to put your money through it.”

Buyers have more confidence in e-commerce suppliers

According to Aaron, if you move online and do it right, you actually stand to increase the confidence that buyers have in doing business with you. 

“93% of buyers are using e-commerce. So, if they're not using yours, they're using your competitors. And so I think you have to be aware of the fact that people are going to gravitate towards the system that makes it the easiest for them to transact, but that also establishes the trust necessary to complete that transaction.”

Offline transactions can be digitised too

Don’t get us wrong. We love e-commerce. But there’s always going to be space for offline purchases and telesales too. However, even non-digital transactions can be digitised.

Aaron explained that, even though OroCommerce is built primarily for e-commerce, he has seen customers who put all their transactions – online and offline – through the platform.

“That is how you start to digitise offline orders and put them into a digital system. And over time, as you do that, the frontend gets smarter and smarter and more and more complete, and therefore more useful to your teams because it has more information.”

Marketplaces are the future for B2B

As our conversation with Aaron drew to a close, we asked him to look into his crystal ball and tell us his predictions for B2B e-commerce throughout the rest of 2024. His answer? It’s all about marketplaces.

Aaron told us of the countless conversations he’s had over the years with companies who say “I want to be the Amazon of plumbing supplies,” or “I want to be the Amazon of medical equipment.” Just five or ten years ago, that was quite a difficult thing to achieve, but now it’s a much more attainable goal.

“Industry specific marketplaces are becoming more popular because it's an easy way, relatively speaking, to aggregate a lot of different types of products together into one purchase area. That’s what Amazon, of course, has become for all of us,” Aaron adds. “It's so much easier to do technologically speaking, and [even more so] if you have an audience and you have the necessary trade relationships. I'm seeing marketplaces become more and more popular.”

Thanks, Aaron!

If you would like to learn more about the changing demands and expectations of B2B e-commerce buyers, make sure to download our industry-defining research report.

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