Three ways to ensure business-to-business success

While B2B commerce is hugely profitable, it can also become a threat if organisations don’t prepare themselves and react accordingly

Ed Kennedy
By Ed Kennedy on 01 October 2019
Three ways to ensure business-to-business success

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.

In 2018, business-to-business (B2B) commerce surpassed the trillion-dollar mark. Despite its revenue and relationship-building potential, the B2B shopping experience is much more complicated than business-to-consumer (B2C). Due to the nature of the transaction, B2B buyers typically go through various steps before successful purchases, including communication, negotiation and approval with sales representatives. As such, it’s critical for B2B organisations to become customer-centric in their digital experience management. Here’s how to prepare for next year:

1. B2B purchasers will value product selection and experience over price and distribution. B2B customers can find low prices and fast delivery anywhere online today, particularly on Amazon Business or Alibaba. Manufacturers and distributors need to differentiate by providing valuable experiences such as product knowledge and expand their product selection to solve specific problems their customers face. B2B organisations must provide expert knowledge through cross-channel content campaigns and expand their assortments to defend against commoditisation – all while creating loyalty with their customers by helping them accomplish their goals as efficiently as possible.

2. Manufacturers will launch marketplace or dropship business models to supplement their product lines, pitting them directly against their distribution partners. Manufacturers will need to get more aggressive in reaching their end customers – this might mean expanding their product lines beyond products they manufacture on their own. Line expansion will lead to manufacturers selling other manufacturers’ products on their site, either using dropship techniques or full-blown marketplaces. Distributors should invest in product knowledge and experience to counter the rise of manufacturers selling direct to customers. Distributors still hold a lot of cards with respect to digital commerce including more knowledge about end-customer needs and distribution channels. All B2Bs need to close that gap.

3. Consumer expectations for digital commerce will extend into omnichannel B2B experiences. Consumers purchasing from retailers expect to browse online and pick up in store. The same expectation will be applied to manufacturers and distributors. Distributors must provide omnichannel fulfilment options and manufacturers must make it easy to find distributors and sales representatives, and facilitate online interactions between them.  

Ed Kennedy is the senior director of commerce strategy at Episerver

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