While B2C commerce often garners the most attention, the global B2B market is actually four times the size of today’s B2C market. At $1 trillion, the B2B market is truly massive, and—what I find particularly noteworthy—a growing portion of purchases are happening online. According to a Forrester report, 60 percent of B2B purchases will be made online, helping B2B digital commerce grow 7.7 percent annually in the U.S. alone.
This is an exciting reality for B2B businesses. As companies’ digital presences evolve, they face an opportunity to improve commerce experiences and remain competitive in the rapidly growing B2B online market. But building a better online and mobile customer experience can be a difficult process to start, which is why CloudCraze has identified the five key considerations to create the most effective implementation of a digital commerce platform in the recently released B2B eCommerce Playbook. Today’s commerce solutions are more affordable and faster to implement than iterations of the past, and by following these five steps, any B2B business can build an agile digital commerce presence unique to its specific needs and customers.
- Don’t do too much at once
When creating a commerce platform, we often see businesses trying to do too much all at once. While it may be tempting to incorporate every feature and tool possible, this approach can quickly turn to clutter. Rather than offering consumers the best experience possible, software solutions that lack clarity delay implementation and become incredibly costly.
B2B companies must focus on what matters most to their customer experiences, and can do so by asking critical questions along the way. For example, what do customers really want from their digital shopping experience? Or, how can we begin the ROI payback period faster? Questions like these allow businesses to prioritize what matters most to their commerce success, and then reflect this in the features implemented first.
- Implement both long- and short-term plans
A long-term plan can help you shape a commerce solution that aligns with your overall business goals, but it’s just as important to think short term as well. Short-term objectives are more manageable, more affordable and help companies move to market faster.
In our experience, it’s best to use a SaaS commerce solution implemented in phases. If your company has multiple divisions, start by moving one division, or a few products and services online. As you find success, you can phase in other divisions in a way that never distracts from important early commerce functions. For example, if you overhaul your entire business at once, you run the risk of getting overwhelmed, inconveniencing customers or spending too much. Breaking your long-term goals down into achievable, short-term solutions can keep your transition moving smoothly.
- Incorporate customer feedback
When moving online or updating your existing digital presence, speak to your customers along the way to reinforce your choices with actual shopper preferences. Never assume what consumers want.
If you are just beginning to create a digital commerce platform, it can be helpful to show shoppers aspects like wireframes or blueprints and discuss interaction points. Likewise, if you are updating an existing platform, include your core customers in the decision-making process to hear what they like, or what didn’t work in the past. These insights lead to a better commerce experience with improved functionality. What’s more, you can get to market faster by removing the guesswork of wondering what shoppers want.
It’s also important to keep actual sales data in mind when working to revamp or develop new sites. In looking at your online sales, you can better understand which features work and which don’t to replicate success and eliminate failures. In the same way that consumers can help you shape what your digital presence should look like, sales information can help you keep it relevant and working properly.
- Make sure your entire team is on the same page
A great commerce platform is nothing if your team doesn’t know how to use it or— what’s worse—doesn’t support it. To avoid a situation like this, bring in representatives from all departments of your business and allow them to help you develop your digital strategy. If your own business cannot get behind the changes you are making, I doubt that consumers will support them either.
For example, marketing and IT personnel may not agree 100 percent on the key functionalities for a strong commerce platform. One group may want a streamlined solution, while the other asks for a gradual replacement of legacy systems. If you find out about these disagreements half way into implementation, you’ll waste time and money working toward reconciliation. However, if all parties can contribute to the process early on, you give your business time to achieve consensus and make tradeoffs.
- Develop a Culture of Commerce
Lastly, the B2B market, where calls and quotas have traditionally dominated the focus, needs a shift in mindset. B2C companies already think in terms of the user experience, and this same customer-centric culture must emerge in the B2B industry.
To embrace online and mobile opportunities, you must prioritize customer expectations and demands. When you’re developing a commerce solution, think hard about how customers will interact with your brand and strive to meet shoppers on their own terms. It’s important to have a solution that can adapt to changing consumer preferences, while always maintaining a smooth and frictionless shopping experience. Place value on these goals across your entire company to develop a culture of commerce.
As B2B commerce continues to evolve, these five tips will only become more important. Every commerce platform needs flexibility and scalability, and companies must move to market quickly and affordably. These tips can help you create a customer experience that stands out from the rapidly expanding market and remain competitive long term.
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By Ray Grady, Executive Vice President at CloudCraze.