Forrester Outlines 3 Best Practices For Manufacturers To Beat B2C Sites

How Manufacturers Can Compete Against B2C

The competitive landscape for manufacturers is changing fast. In a recent report, Forrester outlines a new B2B ecommerce trend which manufacturers are facing: stiff competition not only from other manufacturers’ ecommerce stores and distributors, but even from B2C sites, too. The report describes the “two-windows phenomenon,” in which B2B buyers load your ecommerce site in one window and a competing site in another—a distributor, Amazon, or any site that sells the same or similar products.

In this scenario, the easiest buying experience has a strong advantage, though price may still be a strong factor, particularly contract pricing that beats public pricing on other sites. (More on that in a moment.)

At a high level, the Forrester report calls out 3 key best practices which manufacturers should steal from B2C to compete against distributors and B2C: Personalization, Interactivity, and Advanced Search Functionality. Here’s why each of those matters for B2B—and how you can offer each one.

1. Personalization

In the world of B2C ecommerce, personalization means intelligent product recommendations (cross-selling/upselling) based on buying history. With enough browsing and purchase data, an intelligent B2C site can build a personalized catalog offering so the user doesn’t waste their time looking at products they would never buy.

We’re all familiar with personalization in our lives as consumers. Amazon’s product recommendation algorithm is a prime example—and it’s startling how intelligent those recommendations are.

In the world of B2B, personalization means all that—and more.

In addition to personalized catalogs and cross-selling/upselling based on sales history, intelligent B2B ecommerce must offer personalized contract pricing and ATP (available to promise) calculations. Because it often replaces phone/fax/email as order entry methods, the web store must provide all the accurate data which a B2B buyer would get if they called customer service.

How can you get that personalized data into ecommerce? The key is a real-time SAP integration.

How to provide personalization:

Because customer data lives in your SAP system, it’s crucial to integrate ecommerce to SAP. Because it ties each ecommerce user to an SAP sold-to, a solution like Corevist Commerce loads personalized contract pricing, ATP calculations, and more in the web store—straight from SAP, in real time. That’s in addition to catalog-level personalization like product recommendations. For more info, see this post (scroll down to “Getting the most out of your SAP eCommerce solution).

2. Interactivity

Here’s where B2B comes with its own unique needs. The complexity of manufacturers’ relationships with their customers is one reason manufacturers have been slow to adopt ecommerce. For example, if it requires a phone call to Customer Service to figure out which products you’re allowed to order, how many you can order, and what your credit status is, how on earth can you replicate that exchange of information in ecommerce?

These aren’t fine points, either. When a B2B buyer calls Customer Service with these questions, the answer to each one is critical and could make or break the sale. Because a B2B buyer is buying for work, they may not have the luxury of waiting for a product on backorder. They may have a strict budget for the product, and they need to know if their contract pricing at that quantity will stay within budget or not.

The list of purchase-critical information is nearly endless.

And sadly, many B2B ecommerce solutions can’t provide that information.

They can’t provide real-time inventory availability or ATP calculations. They can’t provide contract pricing that changes in real time with quantity adjustments. They can’t provide intelligent error messages to let a customer know when they’ve placed a discontinued or incorrect SKU in the cart.

The answer to the problem is interactivity—an ecommerce solution that interacts with your SAP system in real time.

How to provide interactivity:

For each of the data points we mentioned above, a real-time SAP ecommerce solution like Corevist Commerce solves the problem of interactivity. Real-time inventory availability (or real-time ATP calculation, depending on your business rules) ensures that the buyer can place their order with confidence. It guarantees that the product is there, reserved for them when they click “Submit.”

Likewise, a solution like Corevist Commerce prevents order errors. Corevist queries SAP in real time and returns intelligent error messages, straight from SAP, if a user tries to order an SKU that they don’t have permission to order. This ensures that every order posting to SAP from Corevist is 100% error-free and ready to ship.

That’s just the beginning. Click here for more on SAP-integrated ecommerce.

3. Advanced search functionality

While experienced procurement managers may know how to order by SKU, today’s younger buyers may not. They’re used to browsing products on Amazon, and they want to read product descriptions to figure out if they’re getting the right item.

To land on the right product page, they need intelligent search.

Amazon’s search engine is remarkably intelligent. And while manufacturers can’t exactly launch Amazon’s A9 algorithm in their own ecommerce stores, they can look at the user experience which Amazon provides in search and choose an ecommerce solution that offers intelligent search.

How to provide advanced search functionality:

When you choose a solution like Corevist Commerce, with Magento integrated to SAP, you get the full power of Magento’s native search functionality in the catalog. In the Corevist Cart, you get intelligent search, too, so your buyers can make adjustments to their order directly from the cart. This ensures that your products are “findable” for buyers who don’t order from a list of SKUs.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Wondering how all this looks in real life? Download this case study on Mannington Mills. You’ll learn how this leading manufacturer of flooring took all 3 best practices from B2C and built them into a world-class B2B ecommerce experience. The result? 150% sales growth through ecommerce.

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FREE Case study: 150% Sales Growth with Rich Content

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About Author

George Anderson

George serves as Digital Marketing Manager. A blogger and journalist with a passion for B2B ecommerce, he has written for the Magento blog, Digitalcommerce360, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, ERPgenie, and others.