Forrester forecasts that by 2023 U.S. B2B eCommerce will hit $1.8 trillion.
$1.8 trillion. That’s a lot of money. But it’s not a huge surprise. Why? Because times have changed. Customer expectations have evolved. Our personal shopping lives have molded our expectations for B2B buying experiences. If you’re not delivering Amazon-like experiences, you’re probably getting beat by competitors who are.
The truth is, most manufacturers and wholesalers have realized they have to evolve to survive. They’re just not always sure where to get started. So, we thought we’d share some stories of manufacturers and distributors who have made transformational changes within their businesses through eCommerce. But first…
What is B2B eCommerce?
B2B eCommerce or business-to-business electronic commerce refers to online business conducted between two or more companies. B2B eCommerce occurs through an online sales portal or channel and involves the sale of products or services from one company to another.
B2B eCommerce is not to be confused with its distant cousin, B2C eCommerce. B2B eCommerce is far more complex. A B2B site needs to accommodate the complexities of B2B including things like complex workflows, customer-specific pricing, multiple personas and multi-site instances.
You can learn more about what B2B eCommerce is and how it is different from B2C eCommerce here. But the biggest point to remember is that B2B eCommerce is more than a website. It’s not just about shopping carts or online transactions. Given the areas of impact within your business, B2B eCommerce is transformational. It’s about bringing your company into the future.
Why should I sell online? What benefits will my B2B business see from eCommerce?
Many manufacturers and distributors have been in business for 75+ years. We have lots of conversations with companies that simply aren’t prepared for digital transformation yet. So we’re no stranger to hearing things like:
- We don’t sell to consumers so we don’t need to sell online
- In our 75+ years of business, we’ve never done it that way, and we’re doing just fine
- Drive sales? That’s what our salespeople are for!
- Our business is about relationships…websites take that personalization away!
When you’ve built a successful business that’s been around for decades, it’s understandable that you might not want to shake things up. But the businesses that are able to see where the industry is headed are the ones that will survive and beat the competition. If you’ve been in business for the past 75 years, think of eCommerce as the way to serve your customers for the next 75 years.
When we analyze the results that our manufacturing and distribution customers have seen since incorporating eCommerce into their businesses, we tend to see benefits related to three overarching categories:
With the right eCommerce strategy and a strong B2B eCommerce platform to build that strategy on, manufacturers and wholesalers can see transformational business results in the form of higher efficiencies, more engagement and increased revenue.
It’s likely that your team is getting tied up completing tasks like checking order status or filing a PO for a new order. These are all tasks that could be automated by eCommerce. Your customers want and expect easy access to their account information, and your team wants to free up their time to focus on more consultative tasks and relationship building. With eCommerce, your team and customers have new tools and solutions to get their jobs done better than ever before.
Here are four ways you can drive efficiency with eCommerce:
- Reduce your cost to serve your customers
By providing rich administrative tools and capabilities, your team is freed up and your total cost of ownership is lowered.
- Reduce costs to acquire new customers
eCommerce enables you to attract new customers through digital marketing and provide tools to channel partners in order to best identify new customers.
- Increase customer self-serve activities
You can save your CSRs time and cost by enabling your customers to self-serve through customer portals. With eCommerce they can check order status or history, complete payments, get quotes and have access to rich product and technical product content.
- Capture higher margin product sales
Digital commerce allows you to provide a seamless and systematic method to market higher margin broader catalog products that customers typically buy from other sources or even your competitors.
As we know, in today’s world, anything less than an Amazon-like experience is not going to cut it. Seamless digital experiences are the expectation. If you don’t deliver the experiences your customers want and expect, your competition will. With B2B eCommerce you can deliver a better brand experience for your customers, partners and potential customers.
Here are two ways you can drive engagement with B2B eCommerce:
- Increase Digital Engagement
Drive persona-specific digital engagement across critical buyers, influencers and channels. Plus, reach them in their moment of relevance whether they’re in the field or behind a desk to drive more revenue and efficiency.
- Drive Online Channel Migration
With a new channel, you and your team are now able to serve as strategic guides to assist with channel migration from offline to online while reporting KPIs to measuring success and identify areas for improvement.
Finally, there are a number of benefits B2B eCommerce can have on your bottom line: revenue. Moving your business online means you can meet your aggressive sales goals by opening new channels, addressing new markets and providing data-driven recommendations to your current customers. Here are four ways you can drive revenue with B2B eCommerce:
- Retain Customers
Make it easier for your customers to do business with you and enable them to engage with you in new ways across new channels and devices.
- Increase and Acquire New Customers
With eCommerce you can find customers like never before. When you are present and findable online, and you deliver rich product information and compelling content, new customers can find you and you can grow your market share.
- Increase Revenue per Customer
Beyond new and retained customers, you can also grow wallet share by providing intelligent merchandising and search capabilities, personalized experiences and tools to increase conversion rates, quick order, repeat orders and cross-sell, upsell.
- Increase Revenue per Product
In addition to increasing revenue per customer you can also get more out of your products by providing superior merchandising and data-driven recommendations for next best product and to configure products online.
It’s clear there are benefits far beyond a simple website when it comes to B2B eCommerce. But how should you approach such a huge business transformation? The best way to learn is from example…
Examples of eCommerce Success in B2B
Cleaver-Brooks Puts Customers at the Center of their Universe
Founded in 1929, Cleaver-Brooks is a complete boiler room solutions provider that helps businesses run better every day. Cleaver-Brooks develops hot water and steam generation products aimed at integrating and optimizing the total boiler/burner/controls system to maximize energy efficiency and reliability.
By listening to the market and their customer base, Cleaver-Brooks knew they needed to get more solutions and tools in place to take their business into the future. With ambitious aftermarket growth goals and a dedication to going the extra mile for customers, Cleaver-Brooks voyaged into eCommerce.
Prior to eCommerce, Cleaver-Brooks’ rep network was their sole channel for part sales and estimates. While the reps were doing a great job, Cleaver-Brooks recognized that they were only addressing about 25% of the addressable market. They wanted to incorporate new channels that would allow them to target more prospects.
To grow their aftermarket business, beat the competition and meet the needs of a changing buyer, Cleaver-Brooks needed a robust eCommerce website.
Cleaver-Brooks’ eCommerce site enables customers to:
- Find specific part numbers
- Access inventory, custom pricing and other information
- Easily order products online
- Leverage “Find a Representative” tools to identify the closest Cleaver-Brooks representative partner
- Quickly filter through product information on product detail pages
Since incorporating eCommerce, Cleaver-Brooks has seen a steady growth of adoption and an increase in returning customers to the site. Customers are far more efficient now that they have access to tools that enable them to self-serve.
Key Benefits: Increase customer self-serve, retain customers, reduce cost to serve, increase digital engagement
See the site in action: https://parts.cleaverbrooks.com/
Amerhart Goes Beyond the Order
Family owned and founded in 1940, Amerhart is a Midwest wholesale distributor of lumber and building materials, including decking, engineered wood products, plywoods and siding. Amerhart goes beyond the order by delivering exceptional customer service every step of the way.
Amerhart realized their customers’ expectations were changing, the workforce was getting younger, and competitors were investing time and resources in eCommerce. Amerhart set out to enable their customers to easily access their account, order and invoice information.
Amerhart’s site includes:
- Customer-specific pricing
- Promotions engine
- Multiple delivery location capabilities
- Intuitive admin console
- Account access
For Amerhart, eCommerce isn’t just a project. It’s a paradigm shift. Before incorporating eCommerce, Amerhart lacked visibility into how customers engaged with them online. Now, the Amerhart team is empowered to make data-driven decisions based on self-service events and transactions. Beyond the sales team, eCommerce impacts purchasers, buyers and operational staff. Every person on the team is able to do their jobs more efficiently. Since incorporating InsiteCommerce, Amerhart has deployed about 50% of their product catalog online with more than 880 registered users.
Key Benefits: Increase efficiency, drive digital engagement
See the site in action at: https://www.amerhart.com/
Consolidated Supply Humanized eCommerce
Established in 1928, Consolidated Supply Co. is a family-owned plumbing, heating and water works wholesale distributor headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Consolidated Supply serves professional plumbers and utility contractors via 17 branch locations in the Pacific Northwest.
Consolidated Supply recognized that without a digital branch, customers would gravitate to competitors that had eCommerce websites. They also considered the generational impact on purchasing. Customers were getting younger. They wanted to make it easier for customers to do business with them and aimed to improve their own team’s productivity.
At consolidatedsupply.com customers can now take advantage of 24/7 access to the catalog and have access to specific pricing and inventory availability. Less than one year after launch, Consolidated doubled the number of online registered users. In order to ensure success, Consolidated Supply hired two Digital Engagement Specialists committed to improving the online experience.
Key Benefits: Increase digital engagement, increase self-service
See the site in action at: https://www.consolidatedsupply.com/
Behler-Young Builds a Strong Future
Family-owned since 1926, Behler-Young is a wholesale distributor of HVAC/R products. The company represents hundreds of manufacturers and serves thousands of customers throughout Michigan and Northwest Ohio with 18 branches and a 140,000 square foot distribution center in Kensington Park, Michigan.
Behler-Young set out to give customers more capabilities to serve themselves, integrate technology systems and generate new leads and new business.
Behler-young.com features ease of access to account information, enhanced search functionality and online ordering. The site is fully integrated to Behler-Young’s ERP so the company can deliver a seamless user experience, instead of a disjointed one. Customers can order products, create lists, cross reference their order history with their invoices and register for training all in the same place.
Key Benefits: Increase and acquire new customers, drive digital engagement
See the site in action: https://www.behler-young.com/
Macpek Drives Digital Engagement
Founded in 1974 and based in Quebec, Canada, Macpek is a leading heavy duty parts and car wheels distributor. Macpek has more than 400,000 feet of warehousing space and inventory to keep you on the road. With highly qualified staff at 15 locations, Macpek is in constant pursuit of delivering the highest quality customer service possible. In order to continue delivering highly satisfying customer serve, Macpek transformed its business with eCommerce.
Macpek invested in eCommerce for many reasons. A shortage of talent meant Macpek needed to find a way to augment its teams’ processes and make employees more efficient. Customers wanted to research and make purchases on their own time. The Macpek team was spending hours cold calling to attract new business and completing mundane customer tasks like checking order status. Finally, Macpek had aggressive goals to create better brand awareness and attract new customers.
Macpek.com/en features an intuitive, modern customer experience with responsive design for mobile devices and tablets. The site handles quantity pricing with more than 63,000 price matrix combinations.
Overall, Macpek was looking to see its customer base grow and provide current customers with the digital tools that would enable them to do their jobs more efficiently. Since implementing InsiteCommerce, Macpek has seen an 86% increase in online revenue. Today, Macpek is opening three to four new accounts per day and sees an average of 8,000 website transactions per month.
Key Benefits: Increase and acquire new customers, retain current customers, increase customer self-serve
See the site in action at www.macpek.com
Royal Canin Builds a Robust Online Presence
Royal Canin is a global pet food manufacturer established in 1986 and headquartered in southern France. They are just as obsessed with your pet as you are. This passion drives them to create highly nutritional food that’s formulated to make your pets healthy.
Royal Canin knew that providing a robust digital eCommerce platform was essential to growing their business. Customers were shifting to online purchasing and Royal Canin needed a better way to support their referral and direct sale business.
Royal Canin’s site handles B2B eCommerce requirements like complex pricing, integration with their existing CMS system, and a robust promotions engine, to name a few.
After one year of implementing InsiteCommerce, Royal Canin saw a 54% increase in orders online. Ease of placing orders improved, order count increased and the majority of orders shifted from phone to online. In fact, today 70% of Royal Canin’s orders are placed online.
Key Benefits: Drive online channel migration, increase customer self-serve
See the site in action at: my.royalcanin.com
What is a B2B eCommerce platform?
A B2B eCommerce platform is a solution that enables B2B companies like manufacturers and wholesale distributors to manage their product catalog online and enable their customers to self-serve.
B2B eCommerce platforms solve complex B2B challenges like customer-specific pricing, multiple personas, approval workflows and more. B2B eCommerce platforms are built differently than common B2C platforms like Shopify or Magento.
Manufacturers and distributors like Cleaver-Brooks, Amerhart, Consolidated Supply, Behler-Young, Macpek and Royal Canin chose InsiteCommerce as their eCommerce platform because it is built to handle the complexities of B2B.
In B2B, eCommerce is far more than a transaction or a website. B2B websites are strategic channels that enable you to drive efficiency, increase revenue and build brand engagement.