This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
I continue to be impressed with the number of manufacturers and distributors who are focusing their efforts on improving the online customer experience. Companies who used to “do business with a hand-shake” are finally starting to realize that the next generation doesn’t want to shake hands or even pick up the phone. But, there may be something else those users don’t want….a traditional shopping cart.
Now, most traditional eCommerce transactions involve adding products to a cart, checking out and submitting payment. This is fine for most consumer transactions but B2B is different. Some B2B users are looking for a quote, others need to modify a product and others may just need that product sent immediately to them at the jobsite and do NOT have time to mess around with a shopping cart.
One great consumer example of this is Uber. This company forever changed our paradigm of “hailing a cab”. There is no shopping cart, there is really not a checkout. There is simply a 1-to-1 relationship which is enabled by an industry-changing mobile app. Payment info is saved and we can skip the formalities of checkout to expedite the process. The result is a very personalized 1-to-1 transaction which felt nothing like a shopping cart.
So, what happens when we take this approach in B2B? It does the same thing. Consider a B2B interaction between a customer and his sales rep. As is often the case in B2B, this is not a simple order because it requires a quote. What’s the biggest issue with quotes? They take a LONG time and are often very manual – requiring emails, spreadsheets and more emails. But what if we could automate this as part of the B2B eCommerce process? If you reference the graphic at the top, Joe is now able to identify what he needs via his tablet, make necessary changes and request a quote from his sales rep while he is still in the field. This becomes a similar experience to our Uber example above. Clean, fast and convenient.
“B2B is a more complex transaction requiring more real-time interactions….”
There are many other great examples in B2B which are not cart-based. What if your customers systems have the ability to know when a product is low and replenish it automatically? Their system could punch-through to your commerce system and upload the entire order. That M2M (machine-to-machine) order could be treated like an auto-replenishment order and have no shopping-cart or checkout process. A salesperson leveraging a mobile catalog specifically designed for her customer is yet another example.
Far too many B2B organizations are choosing to go cheap on their eCommerce and portal experiences in an effort to save time or money. Unfortunately, this results in lower adoption from customers because their specific needs are not being met. There is also plenty of bad advice going around stating that “B2B is just like B2C”. For those of us who live in B2B…we know this is not the case.
However you define the term eCommerce, the ideal scenario for your customers will be based on digitizing those personal interactions which are critical to building and maintaining their loyalty. Challenging old commerce norms is one of the ways you will help define the future of commerce for your organization.