While e-commerce has long been associated with B2C, it is now revolutionizing the B2B sales process, which is expanding beyond traditional techniques such as email marketing and telemarketing. This trend, which began well before the Covid-19 crisis, has accelerated over the past year.
E-commerce is becoming one of the leading sales channels in the world. A study from Xerfi on "the digital transformation of distribution" also highlighted the fragility of certain business models that have been focused on a single sales channel for a long time.
Going fully digital is not the solution as it can’t compensate for certain shortcomings, particularly those related to customer engagement and relationships. But how do you adapt B2C best practices and make them accessible to B2B sellers and buyers?
This guide aims to provide answers for the three main aspects of the B2B digital experience so that both parties are satisfied.
1. A B2B Experience Worthy of a B2C Model
First of all, it is important to note that B2B buying habits have evolved, and this began well before the covid crisis. One of the characteristics of B2B is that buyers attach great importance to having access to complete, clear, comprehensive information. This product sourcing process is essential to give the necessary momentum to the negotiation stage.
B2B buyers also expect sellers to offer an online sales interface that is as intuitive as the ones they are used to navigating for their personal purchases. This means the online shopping experience must be as smooth as possible and provide appropriate reassurance, especially for direct online sales.
Finally, these same buyers want to be accompanied from the beginning of their sourcing experience to the delivery of the order. Sales support or responsive customer service is key for a successful shopping experience.
2. Simplified Quote Management to Facilitate Offline Transactions.
As we have just seen, one of the keys to a successful B2B transaction is to be able to adapt to the needs of buyers without impacting their preferred purchasing habits. They expect to be given all the information they need to make their purchasing decision. Therefore, the quote - from the
negotiation to acceptance - can, thanks to an adapted negotation interface, facilitate the task:
- for sellers who customize their offer according to the buyer's project (technical specifications, quantities, prices, etc.)
- for buyers who have the opportunity to negotiate with sellers by asking for example for changes to a quote or even refusing offers that do not meet their criteria.
VirtualExpo Group's marketplaces have developed a negotiation interface in which buyers receive quotes then discuss with sellers. This interface allows them to get in touch with professionals without radically changing their purchasing process. Every seller can use the negotiation interface to send quotes, while continuing to use telephone contact - or even physical meetings - to close the sale.
This approach gives buyers the opportunity to optimize their product sourcing process without depriving them of a direct exchange with sellers.
Another category of buyers wants to go even further and order their products directly online. In order to meet this requirement, B2B sellers have had to find new alternatives, again inspired by B2C, especially to facilitate the payment of online orders.
3. Payment That’s Flexible AND Secure
One of the most sensitive steps in the purchasing process is payment. Two important factors have to be taken into consideration: the payment methods and credit authorizations offered by sellers, and the security of the transaction.
Online payment issues in B2B only arise for a certain category of transactions. This means that for products eligible for payment by credit card, the buyer can easily make a purchase from the seller directly via the marketplace on which the product is presented.
For costly orders, sellers should offer more flexible payment methods such as bank transfer, instalments or deferred payment.
As for the security of online transactions, B2B sellers are no exception to the rule. Several reassuring elements must be used to guarantee the serenity of the buyer during their buying journey. Marketplaces generally use companies specialized in online payment that manage banking transactions between buyers and sellers.
Mangopay is one of the leading solutions on the European market. It handles tens of thousands of transactions every day. This is this service provider that will now handle all the transactions carried out on our marketplaces. (Initially this service will only be available for sellers and buyers located in France).
4. The Guarantee of After-Sales Service
As mentioned above, the notion of customer relationship in B2B is essential to ensure the smooth running of online transactions. Whether orders are placed directly on sellers' websites or via B2B marketplaces, several entry points - including their customer account - allow buyers to review their orders in order to modify or even cancel them.
Once the online payment is made via the marketplace, the monitoring of the products' stocks and deliveries is ensured directly by the sellers. But in general, marketplaces that do not manage the stock of sellers on their platforms continue to play an important role as trusted intermediaries by allowing buyers to follow the progress of their order, contact customer service or make complaints to sellers.
VirtualExpo Group's customer service is available to buyers for any questions related to their orders placed via any of its six marketplaces.
By the end of 2021, online sales will account for 17.5% of total retail sales worldwide. This means a huge growth potential for B2B in the years to come. Sellers need to adapt their strategy and offer new sales channels to meet the demands of increasingly connected buyers. Digital is now an important driver for sales, and complementary to traditional sales methods.