Sam Bayer


6 truths about B2B e-commerce

Intershop, one of the pioneers of the eCommerce industry, recently released a white paper entitled “Online Commerce – Unnecessary Luxury or Efficiency Shift?  Six noble truths about B2B E-commerce”.   You can get your own copy of the white paper from their media center.  If you’re still in need of convincing yourself, or your corporation or client, of the role that B2B eCommerce should play in your world, than I think handing over your email address to the folks at Intershop is a small price to pay for an informative and inspirational read.

So what are the “Six Noble Truths” according to Intershop?

Truth #1 – More and more B2B buyers prefer to shop online

Here are some statistics from the white paper:

  • 74% of B2B buyers today research at least half of their work related purchased online and 30% completed at least half of all work related purchases online.
  • 89% of buyers use the Internet during the B2B research process

Aside from that, all of these B2B buyers are also consumers when they go home.  They have expectations for what eCommerce transactions should feel like.  And an increasing number of them are using their smartphones in the process.  There are literally billions of smartphones out there!

I’ve been saying this since we started Corevist back in 2008, we might as well resign ourselves to the fact that the Internet is here to stay. :-)

Truth #2 – Large or small, everyone’s doing it online

“Forrester Research projects that in 2015 US manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors will sell $780 billion to other companies via the web – more than twice the figure released by the US Department of Commerce for 2014.  And this growth is set to accelerate until it reaches $1.13 trillion in 2020.  So while B2B ecommerce may still be in its infancy, it’s growing fast.”

Truth #3 – B2B eCommerce isn’t all about channel shift

Cries of channel conflict, in my humble (and experienced) opinion, are thinly veiled attempts to cover up the organizational fears of investing in B2B eCommerce.

According to Intershop, “Research shows that the more channels customers have to buy from, the more money they spend – and the more loyal they are”.  They go on to say that, “Giving customers the ability to manage an order, track status and make changes online generates additional revenue that complements more traditional offline routes to market like face to face sales.  Alongside a 44% increase in average order value, companies report that 31% of B2B eCommerce is incremental”.

Once again, the world is changing.  I can’t help but roll my eyes every time I hear a client, or prospective client, tell me that their customers are different.  Their customers won’t use the internet, they prefer to speak with a salesperson.  Almost six years ago I posted this blog post entitled “Why Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You”.  It rings more true today than it did then.

Truth #4 – The cost and efficiency myth

“While many businesses have happily embraced new digital innovations like social media to boost brand visibility, generate traction and build stronger relationships with customers and prospects, it’s surprising so many are backwards at coming forwards when it comes to eCommerce adoption.”

Does that hit the nail at the current state of affairs or what?

The authors go on to provide their hypothesis as to why this is so.  They say that these backwards companies believe that “…online commerce represents an unnecessary cost – especially when existing channels are already successfully generating revenue.”  What the folks at Intershop don’t say, and I know this to be 100% true, is that the term “unnecessary cost” is actually a euphemism for “excessive cost”.  If the cost of bringing up an SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce website was less than $200K full stop, than I’m certain that those costs wouldn’t seem as “unnecessary”.

According to the white paper, these are some of the benefits that organizations would enjoy when they overcame the cost myth:

  • more efficient order processing
  • less human errors because less humans are involved
  • 24×7 ordering and customer self-service capability
  • reduced inbound phone calls
  • freeing up sales staff to sell
  • soliciting new customers
  • opening up new ways to market and reach customers
  • extending reach in local markets
  • opening doors to lucrative new international and global markets

According to the white paper 52% of surveyed customers say that their support costs have decreased by migrating offline customers online – and that customers are more loyal.  Also, their survey found that 56% of the respondents believe that they now have customers that they can only profitably serve online.

Truth # 5 – Your competitors are doing it

I must admit I’m not a big fan of this motivator to get onto the B2B eCommerce bandwagon.  With that said, we are seeing early signs of the laggards coming to the party especially since we’ve lowered the barrier to entry for them.   As the lady with the torch says:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Welcome everyone!

Truth # 6 – Simplicity and automation accelerate time-to-value

The final truth feels as if it was scraped from the Corevist website :-).  Here are your keys to B2B eCommerce success:

  1. “Simplicity and speed” in your implementation
  2. Your eCommerce platform needs to be “easy to buy, deploy and use”
  3. “Simple, fair pricing is key” one that is affordable and grows as you grow.

So there you have it.

It’s 2016.

The internet is here to stay.  Consumers are everywhere and they bring their expectations to work.

Don’t be afraid of change.  Embrace it.

It doesn’t cost nearly as much to change as as it does not to.

Call me.