Gone are the days of businesses faxing through stock orders and buying supplies in-store. According to Magento, these days, 93% of B2B buyers prefer to purchase online, with self-serve information, direct from vendors.
They want, and expect, 24-hour on-demand access, and an experience as smooth as that of B2C customers. That’s why an increasing number of manufacturers, providers and distributors are creating B2B ecommerce portals. The fact is that if you don’t give your buyers and clients an intuitive and effortless online purchasing experience, your competitors will.
In today’s crowded B2B marketplace, buyers demand an easy, intuitive online buying and account management experience that’s so good it feels like B2C. Experts agree, predicting B2B eCommerce sales will outgrow B2C eCommerce sales by 2020. According to researchers Frost & Sullivan,
“Global business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce sales are expected to grow at an increasing rate and are predicted to reach over $6.6 trillion by 2020, surpassing business-to-consumer (B2C) valued at $3.2 trillion by 2020.”
What exactly is a B2B eCommerce Portal?
Simply put, a B2B portal is a website where B2B buyers can explore your digital catalogue and place orders online. It may be something as simple as a website with a login, or act as part of a larger platform that includes an app and secure portal. In fact, the only real difference between a portal and a website is that the information in the portal is secure and requires login information.
As we mentioned previously, today’s B2B buyer expects the same level of convenience they would get as a B2C customer, so this means mobile-optimised sites are a must. Already, 50% of B2B enquiries are made on smartphones, with the number expected to grow to 70% by 2020.
The same study by Google and BCG, found that “mobile can accelerate time to purchase by 20% by increasing efficiency in decision making and enhancing team collaboration, particularly in more complex purchases.”
What about B2B and B2C eCommerce websites?
As its name suggests, a B2B and B2C eCommerce website is an online site that lets you sell directly to both retail customers and B2B buyers.
Thanks to the internet, businesses now have the ability to reach customers in every corner of the world. Because of that, you’ll see an increasing number of businesses selling to both customers and companies to increase their sales.
Some of these companies will use two separate channels – one for B2B and one for B2C. Originally, a lot of companies did this because the two markets were so different in nature. Amazon, for example, had two URLs for retail and wholesale customers. However, they found it too confusing and inefficient to manage, which is why you can now login as a business OR customer from the same page.
It’s more than just the URL though. Having an integrated B2B portal and B2C website (even if you aren’t currently selling to consumers right now) boasts an array of advantages over separate systems.
Find new clients and customers
By investing in a dual website that caters to both audiences, you’re accessing double the market size, simply by having an online presence. However, a great B2B portal will go a step further.
For example, Magento Commerce allows you to nurture your existing customers with self-managed company accounts, the ability to track quotes and order histories, and manage their credit online. In addition it not only optimises your site for mobile but also offers B2C-tested merchandising, content management, and promotional capabilities for sourcing new business.
Full transparency across customers and stock
There’s nothing worse than when your systems don’t talk to each other. Online listings might not accurately reflect the stock availability in-store, while your staff might not be aware of your EDM promotions. It’s a recipe for miscommunication, mismanagement and misunderstandings.
Advanced B2B and B2C eCommerce websites will integrate your operations and orders across all channels, supplying customers and staff with accurate, real-time inventory updates. Some will even provide automated business rules that allow you to optimise your fulfilment costs and delivery times.
Respond to market changes quickly
Often, companies will be slow to respond to shifts in the market due to the amount of development involved. When your online customers expect an instant response, this delay can mean the difference between defeat and success.
Invest in an agile system that allows you to tweak your marketing and operations. Magento Commerce, for example, lets you assign custom catalogues and price lists to customers and target content and promotion to specific segments.
Even if you are only serving B2B buyers right now, you should still consider getting a platform that also handles B2C should you wish to expand in the future. Get in touch with our team today at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.