By Michiel Schipperus, CEO Sana Commerce
Business purchasing habits have drastically changed over the last few years. Gone are the days of making business critical purchases through lengthy email chains and voicemail messages. Research conducted for Sana Commerce shows that businesses now buy 75% of all their products online, representing a 21% increase in the last three years. It also revealed that 90% of Business-to-Business (B2B) buyers rely on online channels to find new suppliers.
With the significant shift in B2B purchasing habits also comes new business processes, and a change in customer expectations. Customers now expect the same experience they get when they engage with Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce platforms.
Traditional B2B buying methods have major flaws
Email was the most popular buying method as recently as 2019. E-commerce closely followed in second place, and phone orders were in third place. It wasn’t uncommon for buyers to verbally place an order with a sales representative, over the phone, and not receive any further communication until the arrival of the product or service. These purchase methods lack visibility and are notoriously error prone. Although email and phone orders are time-consuming, they’re still often processed incorrectly, or never delivered at all.
While e-commerce has been a popular buying method for several years, the implementation of most B2B e-commerce platforms has been all but a smooth ride, especially for IT leaders. In a survey of over 1,000 IT leaders, conducted on behalf of Sana Commerce, 84% of IT leaders reported that their current B2B e-commerce solution has negatively impacted their business, rather than helped it. A lot of the gripes are related to maintenance issues and downtime. But most B2B platforms are also lagging in offering conventional features that we’re used to as consumers.
Surprisingly, 77% of B2B portals only allow bank transfers to pay for orders – compared to 7.7% of B2C webstores. It’s not surprising that 1 out of every 4 customer complaints are directly related to a poor B2B e-commerce experience. These shortcomings negatively impact customer relationships, and fundamentally, lead to a loss of sales and soured brand perception.
The progression of purchasing as an online-first activity has expedited the need for a new approach to B2B e-commerce. Ultimately, businesses expect the same level of convenience, efficiency and service in B2B transactions as they experience in B2C services. This is a customer need that urgently needs to be met.
B2C e-commerce is the new benchmark
There are several reasons why B2B customers have seemingly u-turned on their expectations of B2B e-commerce:
1.Millennials are transforming the industry
The growth of the working Millennial population, and Gen Z’s entrance into the workforce, has introduced greater diversity in terms of age and tech know-how. Millennials are digital natives, meaning they’re accustomed to communicating, engaging, and purchasing online. With this knowledge comes a clear idea of what a good online customer experience looks like.
2.Increasing technology in the workplace
The rapid introduction of collaboration technologies has streamlined business communication, and increased efficiency. Businesses have widely classified long phone calls and email chains as burdensome and unproductive to employees’ professional ambitions. As a result, the traditional purchasing methods of email and phone orders no longer work in the workplace.
3.Convenience is a priority
In its survey, Sana Commerce found that customers considered visibility of product features, ease of check out, ease of repeat ordering and access to order history to be fundamental in e-commerce. Ultimately, buyers in B2B sectors are consumers too. We’re accustomed to transacting autonomously and transparently from businesses all over the world. Understandably, we expect the same when we’re making purchases for our business, especially since the stakes are often higher. On average, companies in the survey declared spending $3m USD every year online, and making 428 business-critical purchases and orders everyday. It’s fair to say that they would want the most convenient experience when doing so.
Taking a new approach to B2B buying
A crucial facet of the B2C e-commerce experience is giving customers useful insights throughout their buying journey. Customers have full visibility of information such as prices, delivery timelines, and stock, as well as easy access to communication channels for support. B2C businesses are able to achieve this by integrating their systems (namely their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and webstore) to enable real-time updates. These features are often lacking from the B2B buying experience.
Adopting a B2B e-commerce website and buying process that resembles the B2C model will help your customers to better manage their business. They’ll be more efficient, and equipped with insights to build and maintain better communication with their customers.
It’s worth mentioning that creating and adopting a B2B e-commerce solution isn’t solely for your customers’ benefit. Developing an efficient and streamlined solution will reduce the load on your IT leaders, giving them more free time to work on innovating. But arguably most importantly, equipping your business to directly meet customer demand has long-term benefits. The future is online, so giving your B2B website proper consideration will help you to future-proof your business.
Michiel Schipperus, CEO Sana Commerce
Sana Commerce’s CEO Michiel leads one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the Netherlands. He’s built Sana Commerce from 1 to 550+ team members in the last 10 years.
Michiel started with Sana Commerce’s mother company as an 18-year-old, working part time while studying Economics and Business at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Two years after finishing his master’s degree, Michiel joined spin-off Sana Commerce full time. From a personal perspective, Michiel is married to Leonie, and has two young children.
Michiel: “My passion for B2B e-commerce is simple: I’ve seen businesses thrive by selling online and achieving worldwide e-commerce success. I’m still excited about the impact we make together with companies around the world, by making their ERP and e-commerce work as one.
Second, it’s always been my aim to build a company culture that people love. It’s been inspiring to see over 500 people, each with their own unique talents, grow and develop together with Sana Commerce. My aim is to make sure they look back on their time with us with nothing but pride and satisfaction on what they’ve learned and achieved.”