The Covid 19 pandemic has forever changed the way people spend money. Business-to-Consumers (B2C) were early adopters of online-only shopping models, but before this last year, Business-to-Business (B2B) companies struggled to reach the same sales as the B2C companies they saw online. Fast forward a few months, and B2B is now thriving in the e-commerce space.
According to the newly published 2021 B2B Ecommerce Market Report from Digital Commerce 360, B2B electronic sales (including e-commerce and EDI) grew by 9.6%. The report continues, "Sales on B2B e-commerce sites grew by 10% to $1.39 trillion in 2021 from $1.26 trillion in 2019. Combined with e-procurement sales, B2B eCommerce sales in 2020 increase by 11.8% to $2.19 trillion." This amount of growth, while impressive, left small and mid-sized businesses struggling to catch up with the companies that already had been leveraging online sales or were using large marketplace platforms such as Amazon.
Despite the overall sales growth, studies are showing that the increase was very uneven throughout various industries. Bloomreach Inc., a developer of personalization applications, released metrics that show that total digital sales dropped year over year by 2.3%, and conversion rates decreased by nearly 30%.
"We think that the traffic and search traffic was due to a heavy amount of traffic for personal protective equipment (PPE), but overall sales numbers were down due to the overall business cycle, with many B2B customers impacted by the pandemic and lock-downs for restaurants, schools, office, and other locations," says Bloomreach's Chief Marketing Officer and e-commerce analyst, Brian Walker.
The B2B sales cycle is different from a B2C cycle and is very dependent on the success of other businesses. Business success in 2020 was not linear. Brick and mortar stores temporarily closed for longer than expected, with some having to shutter their doors for good - mainly in the restaurant/bar and retail brick and mortar sectors. Regardless if a B2B company has successfully shifted online, when a store closes, that B2B company loses income. So how, as a B2B company, can you leverage an e-commerce platform?
Gaining Traction online with B2B:(1) Optimize Site for Self-Service
Use your website to allow purchases to happen. Most B2B businesses today use their website to give information rather than providing the customer the ability to purchase something on the spot. It generally utilizes a "contact us today" call-to-action for the potential client to get information on products or to buy a subscription. Instead, invest in the infrastructure to enable other businesses to directly purchase your products from the website, which helps streamline sales.
(2) Hybrid Strategy Between ABM and Digital
While e-commerce is here and here to stay, it's crucial to adapt and focus on what currently works. Traditionally, B2B companies rely on Account-Based Marketing (ABM). It's easy when making that first leap into e-commerce to neglect what has worked well in the past. Transitioning to e-commerce is a huge investment and can truly take up a lot of a business's time. It's essential to keep the aspects of the company that works well while expanding your offerings. Some customers will still want traditional face-to-face interaction, while others will want to log on, add to cart, purchase, and then leave.
(3) Consider Online Marketplaces
Online Marketplaces such as Shopify, Amazon, or Etsy are wildly beneficial. When implementing e-commerce, many companies set up an online store on their existing website. While we ultimately think that's a significant first step, creating an e-commerce webpage often works best for interacting with existing customers, not necessarily for acquiring new ones. Marketplaces are a great place to find new customers. There are hundreds to chose from, all offering different benefits. Additionally, just because a customer finds your business on a marketplace doesn't mean that they purchase from the marketplace. More and more consumers, especially those who want a more traditional B2B experience, use marketplaces as a search engine to find new businesses. For the complete list of marketplaces that integrate with DesktopShipper, click here.
#ShipTip: Find the right marketplaces that fit your business needs and products. Don't invest your time and money into something with no ROI.
The world we live in changing fast. Within months, everything went online, and consumers expected businesses to meet their demands. B2B, while a bit slower to change, still has those high expectations. It's essential to stay ahead and not get left behind in the wake of fast-paced change.