Taking The E-Commerce Plunge

 E COMMERCE 01Going online can expand B2B companies’ sales footprint.

By Stefan Hoffmann

Although e-commerce has traditionally been associated with business-to-consumer transactions, business-to-business companies are also evolving their business models to embrace the customer-friendly, cost-saving value of e-commerce sales channels. Whether they choose to create an online store or join an existing online marketplace, e-commerce can help organizations broaden their reach, connect with new customers and provide cost-effective opportunities for both parties.

E-commerce will continue to grow as a purchasing tool of choice for buyers in the coming years, and in time, sellers will need to embrace these new sales platforms or risk falling behind their competitors. Here are four reasons B2B sellers need to consider expanding their sales footprint to include e-commerce.

Real-Time Pricing
In today’s e-commerce market, information such as pricing and available inventories are easier to find than ever, meaning your customers’ negotiating position is stronger and more informed than ever. With buyers enjoying real-time access to so much valuable information, sellers must prioritize dynamic pricing to avoid losing sales to competitors with more powerful and up-to-date pricing engines.

Real-time pricing can also benefit sellers by preventing the sale of an item for less than market value. For example, a sudden market shortage or increased demand for a product may allow a seller to offer that product at an increased rate. Sellers with real-time pricing capabilities will be able to quickly recognize the opportunity and raise their prices before eager buyers can hit the order button, while a company without real-time pricing capabilities will see their inventory for that product fly off the shelf at a discounted rate.

Putting the Customer First

The most influential driver of e-commerce adoption in the B2B space to date has been customer demand. E-commerce platforms enable a customer-first approach by providing round-the-clock customer service and empowering buyers to make well-informed, independent decisions. As the saying goes, “the customer is always right,” and growing demand for e-commerce options from your customers should be more than enough to tip the scales in favor of implementing an e-commerce strategy.

In addition to putting customers in the drivers’ seat, e-commerce platforms also enable live chat features that can help bridge the gap between your sales team, customer service staff and potential customers. Not only will your customers benefit by having questions and concerns addressed in real-time, but they’ll also enjoy a personalized experience, helping to lay the foundation for a successful and ongoing customer relationship. Live chat functions can also provide organizations with valuable information regarding website performance, buyer questions and other customer concerns and feedback.

Empowering Your Buyers
The digital economy has provided buyers with unprecedented access to information and intelligence by placing easy-to-use, real-time consumer research and comparison tools right at their fingertips. If your product or service is the best value among competitors, customers will naturally flock to it – but only if they are informed enough to confirm your company can offer them the best deal. Building price-matching and comparison tools into your e-commerce channel will leave your customers feeling in complete control over their purchasing decisions and can help build trust in your brand. For the seller, these tools have the added advantage of keeping customers focused on your online marketplace, instead of jumping from website to website in search of the best deal, and offer a means to highlight other differentiators that place your products or services above and beyond the competition.

Cut Out the Middle Man
E-commerce platforms are simple to navigate, for sellers as well as buyers, and can also help to streamline the distribution processes. The best e-commerce solutions allow customer service centers, manufacturers, warehouses and distribution centers to connect digitally and work together in real time to process an order, locate a product and ship it directly to the customer without the product ever reaching a store shelf. For some distributors, this could mean cutting out third-party dependencies within the supply chain that increase costs and slow down the timeline between the transaction and delivery.

For years, e-commerce adoption has led to greater efficiencies that can benefit both buyers and sellers, and it’s not just for the B2C business model anymore. As e-commerce adoption continues to grow in the B2B space, so will your customers’ ability to research and shop for the best deal. To ensure your company is doing the most with its e-commerce solution, partnering with an experienced IT provider can help you connect the digital dots between your sales team and the new generation of savvy B2B e-commerce buyers. Starting your e-commerce journey can be a big step, but as today’s buyers know, a little research can be well worth it.

Stefan Hoffmann is an industry solution principal for itelligence North America focused on the wholesale distribution industry. In this role, he specializes in helping wholesale distributors with enterprise resource planning and digital technology and process transformation. 

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