Digital commerce for distribution and manufacturing

Unlike B2C organizations that have been digitally enable for some time, the idea of doing eCommerce has not been a high priority historically for most B2B companies. Existing sales channels, through mechanisms like EDI or through a traditional sales force, have worked well enough in the past. But the evolving sophistication of online consumer buying experiences, along with changing revenue patterns of online purchasing, are leading manufacturers and distributors to expand to digital channels now more than ever. 

Rising Customer Expectations

Today’s refined B2C online shopping experience and the general public’s ever-growing savvy in using these systems is driving up expectations for manufacturers and distributors to follow suit with similar eCommerce offerings. B2B customers are growing frustrated with existing purchasing experiences. Increasingly they want a more compelling, engaging, and Amazon-like way to explore your products.

But the level of complexity of B2B products, along with unique B2B pricing structures and system integration requirements, can make it very challenging to go digital. Eventually though, it takes just one competitor to step into the digital commerce realm to drastically change things in your market.

A lot of B2B companies realize that doing nothing is no longer an option and that they are already behind their competitors in terms of digital experience. It’s clear today that most B2B organizations have no choice but to open new digital sales channels to run along side their existing channels; or to modernize and replace existing, yet aging, eCommerce systems.

Some B2B Companies are Only  Profitable Online

According to Forrester Research (Q1 2013 Global B2B eCommerce Portal Online Survey), over half of leading B2B companies surveyed said there are certain scenarios in which online channels are not only more profitable than traditional selling channels, but that online is sometimes the only profitable channel. For example, a scenario in which low-margin, low-cost components are sold it doesn’t make sense to engage a sales rep. Or when a buyer doesn’t want the hassle of using an eProcurement system. Or when it isn’t profitable to have a call center taking orders. There are a lot of instances in which organizations are finding that it’s only profitable to serve customers using an eCommerce channel.

B2B Customers Spend More Online

A lot of B2B companies that have migrated their customers to online purchasing tools have experienced increases in average order values. This is because the tools available in an eCommerce environment are easier to use for buyers and for the engineers who spec products. They have access to new tools that enable comparison of parts and specifications between multiple products, better navigational tools, richer product data, and a powerful online experience more like a B2C buying environment.

Learn more about B2B eCommerce solutions, strategy and methodology, and how to prepare your organization for digital transformation: