The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

Business-to-business (B2B) is a commercial transaction that is conducted between businesses, as opposed to B2C which is a transaction between a company and its customers. B2B transactions might take place between, say, a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a retailer. 

Multiple B2B transactions take place in a supply chain where a manufacturer might buy raw material or components that can be used in the manufacturing process. The end-result is the finished product. Much of the purchase process occurs through electronic data interchange (EDI) currently. EDI is well suited for large, recurring orders. B2B eCommerce can also include electronic products such as websites as well as software to increase business efficiencies. 

Learning from B2C

Spurred by the success of eCommerce in the B2C space, many organizations are gradually moving to the Internet and applying some principles and practices from that sphere to that of their supplier or wholesaler and retailer relationships. In 2019, global B2B eCommerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) amounted to 12.2 trillion U.S. dollars, up from approximately 5.83 trillion U.S. dollars in 20131.

Just as an eCommerce shop uses the power of the Internet to allow people to find out more about the company’s products or services and purchase them, online product or supply exchange sites allow other businesses to find out about the products and initiate procurement via an interface. B2B eCommerce sites also allow for more information, images and product descriptions that allow for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

B2B vs B2C

While B2C involves more impulse buying, B2B solutions purchasing is more thoughtful and planned. B2B relationships are long-term and ongoing and purchases are usually recurring, and for this, the customers expect reliable deliveries along with attractive and dynamic prices and terms

It is no wonder then that B2B purchasing has become even more complex with more stakeholders involved and deliberating in the purchase process2. These developments have become imperative to make the process itself easier. A smooth customer experience is paramount, even in a seemingly standardized B2B purchase journey3.

B2B eCommerce Marketplaces

Leveraging an eCommerce platform, companies can set up marketplaces and online directories specializing in certain industries or products that facilitate B2B transactions. Besides Amazon Business which uses very similar principles to its B2C business, some of the most well-known B2B marketplaces include:

  • Horizontal marketplaces: An early pioneer of a horizontal B2B marketplace was Alibaba. Launched in Guangzhou by Jack Ma in 1998, Alibaba filled a need – to connect Chinese small and medium-sized businesses and wholesalers with clients overseas. Like Amazon, it charged a subscription to sellers who wanted to customize their shop. Unlike Amazon which leveraged its logistics network, Alibaba remains a platform player. Similar generalist marketplaces such as ThomasNet in the US and Tradenet India also exist. The other elephant in the room is Amazon Business. Like Alibaba, an Amazon Business account is a one-stop shop that enables a company which purchases corporate items and supplies to save costs and makes the process efficient. Amazon Business is set to top US$31 billion in revenue and US$52 billion in gross merchandise volume by 2023, including sales by third-party sellers on the marketplace, according to RBC Capital Markets4.
  • Vertical marketplaces: Vertical marketplaces have been around in industries such as automotive and healthcare for a couple of decades but new ones such as Makers Row for fashion, GoDirect Trade in aerospace, CheMondis in chemicals, FastMetals in iron and steel, and Farmers Business Network in agriculture are proliferating. Today, there are more than 70 B2B marketplaces in more than 13 diverse industries, according to research compiled by Digital Commerce 360 B2B5.
  • Service marketplaces: Service marketplaces such as Upwork (for freelancers) and Fiverr (micro-services), where the buying process is different from that of physical goods. One does not choose a supplier or offer but instead sends a request for quotation through the system, and receive offers from all the service providers. Buyers generally can’t browse seller profiles.

B2B eCommerce Trends 

  • Mobile: Mobile transactions for B2B eCommerce are becoming increasingly popular as more millennials drive the purchasing process. Given the 90% increase in B2B executives using mobile devices to research business purchases, mobile sites are now an essential business tool6. Mobile B2B eCommerce requires dynamic pricing and stock indications as well as real-time discount calculation.
  • Personalization, user personas and user journeys: According to Salesforce, almost 75% of business buyers expect vendors to personalize engagements to their needs and 8 in 10 say that the experience is as important as the products and services themselves7. These are high-level decision-makers with complex priorities and speaking to them about their pain-points, roles, goals, and objectives cuts through the noise.
  • AI-driven features: Tools powered by machine learning such as search enable the customer to find what they are looking for faster, with features like auto-suggestions, as well as fuzzy, partial and faceted searches, only added to the utility of the site.
  • Content marketing: The General Electric (GE) B2B experience is held as the gold standard of how to communicate with customers in a B2B environment. Using innovative videos, blogs, user-generated content and collaborations with influencers, GE uses content marketing to demystify its business products and build its brand8.

B2B at BORN

For a North American machine tool manufacturer, BORN implemented a sophisticated solution whereby when a part of a client’s machine goes down, an automated email is sent and the unit is reordered and replaced. This was a vast improvement from the previous system that consisted of multiple steps executed manually.

In another use case, BORN developed an innovative and efficient eCommerce and service experience for client Nestlé Starbucks and its Starbucks Branded Solutions by delivering a best-practice, extensible, global eCommerce framework leveraging an enterprise-grade platform and other key systems to amplify the growth of the online channel.

Over the years, BORN has worked with leading enterprise eCommerce platforms with a focus on B2B commerce, as well as associated applications such as order (OMS), content (CMS) and product management systems (PIM). Powering many of BORN’s solutions are B2B accelerators such as the first-ever SAP-certified accelerator for SAP Commerce Cloud, Eagle. Eagle is our eCommerce framework built exclusively by BORN for SAP Commerce Cloud (B2B, B2C & Custom C2C). In addition, Bulldog is BORN’s Adobe Commerce accelerator which includes pre-built extensions, B2B custom UX & UI features, and special B2B enhancements to essential functionalities.

For more information surrounding BORN’s B2B offerings and case studies, please visit here.

_______

1. Global B2B e-commerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) 2013-2019, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/705606/global-b2b-e-commerce-gmv/

2. The New Sales Imperative, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-new-sales-imperative

3.  New B2B Buying Journey & its Implication for Sales, Gartner, https://www.gartner.com/en/sales/insights/b2b-buying-journey

4.  There’s a unit inside Amazon that will be a $31 billion business in four years, RBC says, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/06/amazon-business-a-b2b-unit-to-reach-31-billion-revenue-by-2023-rbc.html

5.  Why marketplaces occupy center stage in B2B ecommerce, DigitalCommerce360, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2020/03/05/why-marketplaces-occupy-center-stage-in-b2b-ecommerce/

6. The Changing Face of B2B Marketing, ThinkwithGoogle.com, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/the-changing-face-b2b-marketing/

7. Young Buyers Are Driving B2B Expectations of B2C-Like Experiences, Marketingcharts.com, https://www.marketingcharts.com/industries/business-to-business-83757

8.  GE Raises the Bar for B2B Content Marketing, enveritasgroup.com, https://enveritasgroup.com/campfire/ge-raises-the-bar-for-b2b-content-marketing/

Personalization: The Key to Creating an Exceptional Customer Experience

Personalization: The Key to Creating an Exceptional
Customer Experience

Personalization has come a long way from only addressing the customer by name in a direct marketing email that arrives in your inbox – of all the digital strategies being talked about in the race to better customer experience, and thereby setting your brand apart from the competitors, personalization has now grown to be the most paramount.

It has been shown time and again that personalization drives engagement and builds relationships with the customer, making it one of the most important tools in a marketer’s toolbox. A whopping 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize them by name, remember their preferences, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations1. A customer that is seen and heard and feels special is one that will return.

As opposed to the customization of products or services to suit a particular individual, personalization is the tailoring of an experience based on the customer’s previous buying behavior and preferences. The holy grail is to offer the customer an intelligent and contextual, and therefore superior customer experience, which in effect creates more value for the business.

In the past, marketing communications was mostly one-way. The new approach using data to ground insights begins a conversation with the customer.

The underpinning of personalization is data. Most of this data already exists within an organization in the form of the technology that enables every sale – sales and support information can be folded into customer data platforms (CDPs) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, unstructured data in the form of positive or negative feedback, reviews and social commentary consolidated into reputation management systems – all that data just needs to be harnessed, analyzed and put to work not just as the end of the shopping funnel but throughout the customer journey.

Here are a few paths to personalization of the customer experience:

  • Personalized home page, navigation, and copy: New visitors need to be targeted with tailored messages, pages, and navigation compared to returning visitors or regular customers because they aren’t very familiar with the brand or the website. Personalized pop-ups and greetings are one way to do this. Encouraging social sign-ins are another. By understanding target customers’ pain points, interests, and problems, you can also target relevant copy for different segments, thereby increasing conversion. Knowing device types also means mobile users can be offered a different experience compared to those using a tablet or laptop.
  • Location targeting/geofencing: Visitors from different countries are segmented and these segments to allow for personalized pages and experiences. A US apparel brand could have different sizes, not to mention currencies, compared to the UK site. Geolocation targeting also enables daily or seasonal weather-related personalization. One new development is geofencing which puts a ‘virtual fence’ around a physical location. Geofencing triggers a command to the mobile phone when an individual enters or leaves a geofence. Whole Foods launched geofences around their competitors’ locations. When a customer using the Whole Foods app came into or left the geofence, they would receive ads with store-specific offers2. The campaign is said to have had a post-click conversion rate which is more than 3x the industry average. 
  • Predictive personalization: Amazon, followed by Youtube and Netflix, made the ‘Recommended for you’ feature famous. These days, many brands suggest options while the customer is buying or even at checkout to upsell their products and increase average order value. Uniqlo measures neurotransmitters in their UMood kiosks to gauge customers’ reactions as they are shown different clothing items in kiosks. The AI algorithm then uses that data to recommend products3.
  • Retargeting: Google Ads offers brands the ability to remarket their product to visitors who visit their website in other locations. Since they have already shown interest in the brand, retargeting offers another avenue to complete the sale. Conversely, personalization also means that the transition from clicking from an ad to get to your website is seamless and the text matches to suit.
  • Category specific offers: Just as with initial contact, segmentation offers a chance to target specific offers to specific customers. One effective example is how Sephora used to announce all their products to all their customers, but now they send only relevant information with their behavioral-based email program4.
  • Gamification: Using gamification in your brand marketing strategy helps brands know their customers better through features such as quizzes or creating user profiles and avatars. Awarding points is another method can keep consumers loyal. Makeups and skincare brands such Sephora’s skincare quiz or Roadrunner Sports’ “Which Nike shoe fits your personality” are great examples of gamifying your commerce experience to drive return traffic5.
  • Video tutorials and inspiration: Offering how-to videos and tutorials post-sale turns customers into repeat customers. Technology has made it easy to offer personalization even in video and editing techniques mean that text in a video can be customized for easy consumption. Inspiration areas are used by many brands’ websites to guide customers through their product line.
  • Lead generators: Displaying offers free trials or discounts tactically are a useful feature to generate customer leads and keep them on your page. An exit discount pop-up box is one way to do this.
  • Omnichannel delivery: Features such as ‘Continue watching’ and ‘Watch from the beginning’ made popular by Netflix are also being used by retail brands that have a presence on different channels. Headless CMSes can enable shoppers to switch between devices for a seamless experience while also remembering their preferences. Neiman Marcus, for example, remembers your size when you return6.
  • Chat and customer support: AI and machine learning is being used especially with chatbots which can gather data and segment customers, especially if you don’t have the resources to offer round-the-clock support. Information and predictive analysis can be pulled up for customer-facing employees for an enhanced customer service experience. 

More brands are offering hyper-personalized experiences at every customer touchpoint. With enough data, customers can be shoehorned into each segment of one. However, personalization can make the marketing mix more complex and such complexity is both time and resource intensive. Therefore, A/B testing is a key factor to check efficacy before embarking on individual personalization strategies.  

Furthermore, using customer data for the purposes of curation and interaction is treading a fine line – brands would reap the benefits if they were to make their processes transparent, respect data privacy, and safeguard customers’ data while doing so. In the end, personalization is as much about customer behavior and their needs as it is about their data.

_____________

Footnotes

1. Accenture 2018 Personalization Pulse Check. https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-83/Accenture-Pulse-Check-Infographic.pdf 

2. Thinknear Location Score Index, Q4 2017. http://info.thinknear.com/rs/835-JWB-681/images/Thinknear_Location_Score_Index_Q4_2017.pdf?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=&utm_term=&utm_content=

3. AI In Retail: How Tech Is Changing The Customer Experience, Forbes.com, March 26, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/03/26/ai-in-retail-how-tech-is-changing-the-customer-experience/?sh=47f31dc1958a

4. Accelerating Agility: eCommerce Marketing Lessons from Sephora, Bluecore.com, https://www.bluecore.com/blog/accelerating-agility-ecommerce-marketing-sephora/

5. Roadrunnersports.com, https://www.roadrunnersports.com/blog/quiz-which-nike-shoe-best-fits-your-personality-free-rn-or-free-rn-flyknit/

6.  5 Outstanding Omnichannel Retail Examples In Fashion, Intelistyle.com, https://www.intelistyle.com/omnichannel-retail-best-examples-fashion/

Insights, Trends, and Predictions for 2021

Insights, Trends, and Predictions for 2021

The next few months should see us at the cusp of a post-pandemic economy – with multiple vaccines looming over the horizon, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for another tumultuous year globally – a new US President and people adjusting to a post pandemic world. There’s a few trends born out of the disruptions over the year to note when considering the state of eCommerce moving into 2021, and I’ve decided to highlight what we believe are the five most important trends. Of course, I hasten to add, every single one of my predictions could be wrong. I have learned at a very young age that I have no orbuculum at my disposal and my scrying is a game of dice!  

Each trend connects with a greater cluster of users, from the consumer all the way to the integrity of the digital economy, so understanding each pillar of these predictions can go a long way in preparing for future disruptions and innovations ahead.

Hyper-personalizations: Considering the Consumer Alone

As buyer profiles grow more and more distinct with the aggregation of big data and the development of machine learning, hyper-personalization is a vital component of building modern customer experience. The world will move from broad segmentation to one to one marketing as the technology to further target content to the individual advances. We’ve begun to see this already to great effect in social media eCommerce as platforms like TikTok and Instagram have mastered the endless scroll via tailoring content specific to the individual, and now we see clear opportunities for early adopters in both B2B and B2C spaces to capture significant growth. Marketing to broad segments like Millennials or Baby Boomers won’t do. Everyone in these segments is unique so think about how you deliver 1:1 personalization. 

The Elastic Enterprise: Reevaluating Business Models

With demand and supply becoming global, business models will change. We will see more Direct to Consumer (DTC) and composite hybrids – B2B, B2C and B2B2C power the digital economy. Both DTC and B2B2C are now proven business models that have challenged conventional wisdoms in eCommerce and thrived in the wake of their disruption. Throughout the pandemic, DTC models have transformed household essentials into subscription based services that are tailored to one’s needs and personalized to their wants. B2B2C models on the other hand have allowed businesses to specialize in providing services to other smaller businesses who you may engage – like an air conditioning supplier (B) who works with the small business contractor (b) you (c) trust. 

The Longitudinal Book of Record: Understanding Connected Data Science

So I know your name and email. Over time I get to know your preferences.I keep building the small stub of information I have on you- like building a longitudinal book of record. Omnichannel has long been an established pillar of the digital economy, but going into the next decade, connected channels and the data science behind them will only skyrocket in significance. Companies will rely on building an infinitely extendable longitudinal book of record by collecting and compiling data from various channels – connected channels will be the next big thing. Efficient and effective CRMs, OMS’, and ERP solutions will help ensure that a business has that central node by which all customer interactions can connect towards. Building that book of record is the key piece in accumulating and executing the data to accomplish the sort of CX transformations like hyper-personalization that distinguish one commerce practice from another.

The Speed of the Human Mind: Powering Mass Consumption Instantly via 5G

Infrastructure across nations, cities, homes and businesses will upgrade to 5G to cater to mass consumption of information, instantly, everywhere, and as a result, the consequences to the digital economy will be staggering. Already we’ve seen brick and mortar rapidly erode from its conventional use-case as the nexus of shopping into a portal of customer experiences and tailored moments to match robust eCommerce solutions. 5G and the ensuing wave of digital infrastructure will only accelerate those trends further as it becomes even easier to search, engage, and purchase via any electronic device. Furthermore, that digital infrastructure can capture new consumer markets globally, putting more emphasis on useful technologies that can ensure fulfillment and tax liability across the world. So are you ready to deliver rich media. Chips, computers, phones, infra and 5G are ready to deliver it. 

Resilience: Safeguarding Your Business and the Digital Economy

All it took is one pandemic to change the nature of business irrevocably. Companies will seek to protect themselves from such events – a mindset to be battle ready in all circumstances has emerged. Both digital security protocols and multiple routes of fulfillment will be top of mind for businesses as the world moves closer to a pandemic vaccine. Tools to ensure credit monitoring and ID theft protection will find more and more value as we tilt even further into a digital first economy.

All in all, these insights reveal a commanding trend towards leveraging new technologies to heighten CX in the space. Between personalization, distribution, speed, and safety, disruption comes in many waves that each elevate a business towards the most efficient and effective commerce experience. We’re excited to implement these insights and heighten the brands we work with over the next years, and capture our onwards and upwards sentiment with the changing digital economy. In short: is your business capable of change. Rapidly.