B2B electronic commerce is no longer a new, revolutionary trend but is fast becoming a fact of life. In fact, global Business to Business sales has reached $12.2 trillion in 2019 which is way more than the current B2C market (over 6 times)(source).
Not only this, another study conducted by Statista revealed that the Asia Pacific is currently the fastest-growing region that has left Europe and North America far behind. Would you like to know it’s market share? A mind-boggling 80% of the entire business e-commerce sales across the globe. You should be proud of this fact.
As we can see, in today’s day and age, simply having a wholesale business isn’t enough. You need to have an online base for your business too. This much, we believe is clear from the stats mentioned above. So, if you are still harbouring any doubts, it’s time to let them go (you know, for your business’s sake?).
And why shouldn’t you? Since more and more business buyers across the globe are preferring to buy online rather than working their way through the traditional methods which (not to sound blunt) are both lengthy and tiring.
But we are not here to compare online and offline B2B. we assume you have already made up your mind to go online (or else you wouldn’t be reading this article). What we really want to discuss here are certain expectations which people entertain while starting their online journey. And what the reality looks like.
So here we go,
Expectation: Going online will automatically double or triple my sales
Many people believe that all they need to do is set up their business website and then, they can simply sit back and relax.
Reality: The benefits of electronic commerce take some time to show and come after a prolonged effort
The truth of the matter is, there are way too many wholesale companies out there in the market. Among those, a considerable number of companies generate revenue of some scale. And we are not even including smaller players here.
So, what will it take for your B2B website to stand out in a crowded market? Be ready to put in a lot of effort. Begin with website design and development and then you can move on to digital marketing techniques such as Search Engine Optimization, promotions, advertising, etc.
Organic traffic may take some time to bring forth any results (minimum 6-12 months). Even then, the results you get will be because of the work you have done in terms of SEO.
Whatever you do, get yourself ready for a long journey before having a successful, sustainable ecommerce business. So you see? Setting up an online business requires as much hard work as setting up an offline one, maybe even more.
Expectation: I am already successful; I don’t need my own website
It’s always hard to argue with success, isn’t it?
Especially when you are already running a successful wholesale business where you are consistently growing your sales. In such a scenario, launching an online version of your offline business might only be an afterthought. And if we are talking of small scale B2B businesses operating in small communities, this could feel like a lot of work for not so much profit.
Reality: A business website not only automates the whole buying process but also expands the reach of the business
One cannot change the fact that Business to Business electronic commerce is growing at a fast pace and will continue to grow in the near future. It’s not only the business buyers that are seeking the convenience but the sellers too, who have realized that they must offer a modern, helpful and easy-to-use e-commerce site to keep up with the competition.
All these facts further prove the importance of electronic commerce. They have shown that regardless of how successful your wholesale business currently is, digital commerce represents a highly lucrative channel. One that will only take your business to new heights quickly and dramatically.
Your competitors may also have similar assumption such as yours- they are better off without a website. Now if you’re thinking of implementing this strategy, you will easily position yourself ahead of the curve, leaving everyone behind to catch up.
Expectation: B2B businesses don’t need a trendy website like their B2C counterparts
Let’s face a fact; online wholesale can be kind of boring. That’s why it makes sense for companies not to feel the need to make their website pretty or exciting.
Not only this, but even the business buyers are rumoured to have no interest in web design. at least not in a way B2C customers can be.
Reality: Business website experience matters way more than one can imagine
Today, we live in a culture where “Googling” everything has become a norm. And it doesn’t just stop with consumers but extends itself to B2B owners too.
It doesn’t even matter where your business was discovered; was it a trade show? Or was it through word of mouth? Wait, someone made a referral, right? Whatever the case, there is an extremely high probability that people will go to your website to find out more. And this is what makes your website a vital touchpoint along the Business to Business customer journey.
Why a vital touchpoint? Because this is the point in the journey where the customer is interested but not yet convinced. It is your e-commerce website’s job to convince them enough to pick up the phone and give your business a call.
You do realize you need a trendier website than what you are currently offering to seal the deal with your customers. After all, the stakes are high here. The bottom line is, your website must deliver when it comes to selling tens (or hundreds) of thousands worth of business infrastructure or services.
Below are a few tips to help make your B2B website more appealing to your visitors.
- Your website needs to clearly and concisely explain what you do. Equally important is where you feature this information. Your best bet would be a prominent location on your homepage that receives a large number of visitors.
- Next comes the “why you do it better than others.'' Here you need to explain the value your product offers. And what better way to do it than having a well-executed and detailed product page on your website.
- Often times, page load speed gets neglected in the pursuit of integrating all the rich media into e-commerce websites. Don’t do it, keep your site speed fast since Google itself prioritizes fast loading sites.
- Making claims is another thing you can do to help establish the value of your offering besides differentiating it from competitors. Just make sure to combine them with facts, third-party validation, statistics and social proof to give weight to your claims.
- Lastly, offer the web content that meets the needs of visitors in various stages. A brand new visitor who visits your B2B website for the first time needs very different information from a seasoned prospect who is narrowing down options between you and competitors.
Expectation: A single sales channel will work for my business
Business to Business sales used to be a lot easier in the past. Whenever a person needed a product or a solution, they would simply reach out to a potential vendor and deal with a sales team.
This sales team, in turn, would pitch them with the best options to choose from. And if they were satisfied with the sales representatives, they would make a purchase.
Simple enough, right?
The thing is, earlier it was a relatively straight forward process. Marketing was used to fill up the sales funnel with leads. From there, the sales team would take over and get those leads in a sales pipeline, move them down the funnel and into a sale.
Reality: The complex B2B buying process demands an omnichannel approach
Over time, businesses have changed how they purchase new products or services. Today, they base their buying decision on internal research that includes anything from online searching to friendly recommendations to scouting other web sources.
As a result, the roles of sales and marketing has significantly changed, with marketing teams taking over many aspects of the sales process. This, in turn, has reduced the role of sales to assist in the final stages of the buying process.
Do you know what that means for your wholesale e-commerce business?
It means that you can no longer rely entirely on your sales teams to haul in the customers. What you need instead is to be proactive and find the channels where potential customers are, and share relevant content with them that addresses their needs.
In simple words, adopt an omnichannel approach. Why? Because your brand needs to be present, active and consistent across all channels. Besides all other benefits, it will ensure that your customers are able to “pick up where they left off” regardless of the channel.
Failure to do this will only confuse your B2B audience leading to losing trust in your brand altogether. For example, one of your customers is receiving support via live chat and for some reason, the issue got transferred to your phone team. Now, if there is no consistency between the two teams, the customer will have to repeat his entire issue all over again.
Imagine that happening to you. It’s frustrating, right?
Just remember, once you have built a robust and consistent presence throughout the available channels, you can consider branching out, and becoming even more omnipresent as you go.
Expectation: Old-school marketing tactics will work fine for my business.
There’s nothing worse than seeing a great B2B company with a great product or service, marketing themselves the wrong way. Now, we are not saying that they do this on purpose, it’s just that they are stuck in their old ways.
They think that the same strategies that have brought them success in the past are the ones that will work in the future as well. So, they simply shrug off new digital strategies saying, “they don’t work for our industry”.
Reality: Old-school marketing tactics may still be relevant today but they still need a modern touch
The thing is, in order to stay competitive, you have to be up to date with contemporary methods. You need to change with your customer and adapt to your environment.
Here’s what you can do.
- Invest in Search Engine Optimization to ensure that your e-commerce website draws in web traffic from customers searching for relevant products.
- Social media is another channel you can effectively use for brand building and sharing exciting promos and deals with followers.
- Include case studies and customer testimonials to infuse immediate trust in the website besides helping accelerate the purchase and shorten the sales cycle.
- Use email newsletters and abandoned cart mailers to bring back customers who have dropped off in their buying journey.
- Offer customer support in the form of online chat, IVRs and emails to further assist the customers in the buying process.
- Once converted, encourage their future loyalty and repeat purchases by offering automated discounts and offers through emails.
Just remember, all you need to do is make the online experience educational and easy for your B2B customers to use, all while making the back-end streamlined and automated.
If you do this, you will find yourself with not only happier customers but also more repeat business and an influx of new opportunities before long.
People generally believe that all they need to do is build their online presence, and sales will automatically follow. Or they believe that there is simply no need for a business e-commerce strategy at all.
Well, neither of them are true.
At the end of the day, what you expect from your wholesale business and what you really get are two completely different things. In short, going online is way harder than it looks.
But at the same time, you cannot simply ignore it since it’s more of a necessity these days than a luxury. But don’t worry, with the right experts and sustained effort, this online version of your business can open up a whole new horizon.
Meanwhile, you can try to understand the difference between the expectations and the reality of the B2B ecommerce world and incorporate a marketing strategy that fits in well with your business.
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