It’s no surprise that buyers love a great B2B commerce experience. As the global manufacturing economy lurches into its third year of COVID-shaped challenges, evidence keeps mounting that while people may long for some things to go back to normal, buying manufacturing products face-to-face isn’t one of them.
That’s where digital humanity enters the relationship. Automation has taken all the friction out of the transactions. Customers don’t have to ask sales reps to chase down factory updates, shipping times or recalculate using a different fabric. It’s available in real-time, with a keystroke.
That frees sales reps for higher-level thinking, paving the way for fast new product and service introductions, including subscription models that offer customers more flexibility.
When CPQ and visualizations function as they should, B2B companies can focus on better ways to help their customers. They can work on introducing new products and services faster than their competitors. And with access to real-time dashboards, they can focus on the most promising opportunities, which leads to more sales.
Not only are customers increasingly comfortable making purchases online, their expectations for B2B e-commerce experiences also keep rising. They expect companies they buy from to offer the kind of high-quality digital selling that can only be delivered by ecommerce portals. Whether they’re ordering $750,000 worth of tractor parts or updating 20,000 dealers, they expect it to be as easy as watching “Squid Game” on Netflix or ordering birdseed from Amazon. It’s a shift some experts are calling industrial consumerism.
To keep up, sellers need portals that give them everything they need to run their businesses in a way that’s seamless, intuitive, secure and satisfying. They want to connect with existing partners. They want to instantly configure prices, train their teams and sharpen their sales and marketing efforts.
Establishing and improving these B2B e-commerce experiences is likely the most crucial investment manufacturers will make in the year ahead.
Focus on B2B Commerce Experience
At this point, it’s almost hard to overstate how decisively B2B customers have swung toward digital. Recent research from McKinsey finds that 75% of B2B customers now prefer digital to in-person sales.
They’re big online spenders, with 70% of B2B decision-makers saying they are comfortable making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases above $50,000. And 15% of those buyers are even willing to spend $1 million or more with the click of a mouse.
And research from Accenture finds that by 2025, more than half of industrial transactions will happen online. Its calculations show that manufacturers that don’t invest in digital sales risk up to 20% of their revenues.
B2B customers aren’t going back. And their demands for effective–and even enjoyable–user experiences will only increase.
A Win for Manufacturers
That’s good news for manufacturers. Some undoubtedly treat digital investments as something they have to do, grudgingly, to keep up with customers. But the majority recognize this shift toward B2B ecommerce experiences, developed primarily as a convenience for customers, offers enormous potential for their own digital transformation. Partner ecommerce experiences help manufacturers to:
- Move beyond the sale
Of course, transactions are the most important part of digital commerce, offering efficient self-service options that let customers find and buy what they need as fast as possible.
But done right, B2B shopping experiences will invite customers and prospects to spend more time on the site, even as they speed checkout time. They build engagement, offering content that informs and inspires. They can connect buyers to peers and valuable experts. With blogs, social media and communities, these platforms can help customers plug more deeply into the universe of digital solutions. By creating an experience that facilitates those connections, manufacturers become more than just vendors. They mature into digital business partners.
Even better, those innovative experiences foster a more efficient selling experience for manufacturers. The more customers use self-service options, the freer the organization becomes to invest in new and better ways to cross- and up-sell.
- Build loyalty with rich user experiences
B2B commerce portals also offer a way for manufacturers to differentiate themselves from competitors, providing user experiences that create memorable — even beautiful —engagements with customers. Manufacturers are well aware that they are always competing based on price. But compelling digital, user-friendly engagements give them another way to cement relationships. That includes richer loyalty programs, offering new ways to earn status and redeem rewards, encouraging repeat business and deepening connections.
The right B2B ecommerce experiences allow manufacturers to make account-based selling especially effective, with personalized catalogs, custom pricing and varied payment options.
- Create a new planning process
As manufacturers begin to lean into richer partner experiences, recognizing their “ecommerce plus” potential, they can pivot more quickly, layering on content, services, features and connections that are more meaningful. Those can include more agile and advanced tracking tools required due to supply chain weakness and better predictive analytics — all taking manufacturers ever closer to true customer-centricity.
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