The current state of B2B commerce

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The force of the digital revolution is upending the business landscape. Technologies are reshaping shopping experiences and elevating customer expectations.

The B2C space has been driving much of the innovation, breaking down traditional models and creating more modern, convenient, and connected solutions.

B2B is catching up.

The industry is at the crossroads of digital transformation, a journey that the pandemic accelerated: digital order growth boomed from 2020 to 2022, with global B2B same-site sales increasing 95%.

The direction of travel for B2Bs is one way. Pre-pandemic, just 28% of global B2B sales came from digital channels. Today, digital commerce makes up 40%. Next year, it’s expected to surpass the 50% tipping point, according to a Salesforce report.

Share of B2B revenue coming from digital commerce

Let’s climb down from the general vantage point and take a deeper look at the current B2B commerce landscape, with a closer look at the uneven digital development.

The current state of the B2B commerce landscape

Many businesses, brands, manufacturers, and consumer goods companies sell to business customers, distributors, and retailers. An increasing amount of this business is done through digital commerce. Yet many of these business-to-business orders are still placed by phone or email.

This business approach involves large overheads, which come from:

  • Customer service agents handling calls and responding to emails 
  • Manually entering orders into an order system  
  • Re-entering orders received by email 
  • The added time involved in carrying out orders  
  • Increased risks of duplicating orders and inputting incorrect information

Larger customers, such as retailers and grocery chains, may order through a direct feed via an electronic data interchange (EDI), which plays a key role in B2B transactions as it enhances the efficiency of exchanging key information between businesses like purchase orders, invoices, and advance ship notices.

However, ordering via an EDI is not an option for a large number of smaller businesses. Implementing and managing EDI systems can be complex and costly; SMBs often operate with limited resources and may lack technical expertise.

So how can businesses optimize their operations and reduce their overhead – particularly for the “long tail” of smaller customers that don’t have access to EDIs?

B2B digital commerce

B2Bs can empower their long-tail customer base to use a self-service portal to fulfil their orders. Going online unlocks broad areas of opportunities, from enhanced customer engagement to increased sales. It also frees up time for sales teams to focus on more added-value tasks – 64% of all B2B sellers report that digital commerce increases sales team productivity, according to Salesforce.

Digital commerce gives businesses greater control over how they sell. In addition to listing products, businesses can display related products to cross-sell and upsell, add product promotions and offers, and integrate services that are popular in the B2C landscape like buy online, pickup in-store. Businesses can also gain greater pricing control through customer-based pricing, capturing the maximum value that different customers put on a product, which optimizes revenue.

These can be part of a strategy to: 

  • Encourage higher basket value
  • Increase average order value (AOV) per customer
  • Boost lifetime customer value (LCV)

Let’s look at two clear examples of how digital commerce can benefit businesses.

1. A wine producer 

This company has many business customer outlets and retailers that include independent hotels and restaurants. Those in the hospitality industry often re-order products at the end of the working day – and often late at night or in the early hours of the morning. This practice is tied to the unique operational dynamics of hotels and restaurants.

Up until now, the wine producer has been taking orders by phone or email, which can only be fulfilled during the working day. It results in missed opportunities and lost customers.

To optimize its business operations and better serve its customers, the wine producer launched a website with an order portal to enable self-service capabilities that is available 24 hours a day. For a hotel or restaurant, this accelerates the speed of ordering. By having access to previous orders, they can quickly re-order or amend previous orders, potentially saving a lot of time.

2. A fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company 

This company supplies many independent high street retailers. It’s not that uncommon for its sales team to supply some of these outlets with products from the boot of their car.

To make it easier for retailers to makes orders and reduce the overhead associated with sales team delivering products, the FMCG company implemented a self-service order portal. This will also free up time for its salespeople to focus on more added-value tasks.

The FMCG company has further deepened its digital capabilities by equipping its sales team with devices that gives them access to the order portal, allowing them to place orders on behalf of a retailer during a site visit.

Retailers receive more efficient and convenient ways of placing and managing orders; the FMCG company increases operational efficiency and reduce overhead while gaining data-driven insights and the ability to improve customers engagement.

The digital commerce benefits for B2Bs 

These broad benefits are seen throughout digital commerce, supporting the shift to a B2B ecommerce approach. Businesses report that the top benefit of digital commerce is improved customer satisfaction, as they acknowledge the impact of customer relationships on loyalty metrics, according to the Salesforce survey.

Businesses also noted that their digital commerce strategy helped them expand into new markets, grow their customer base, reduce time to close deals and drive revenue.

The shift to digital commerce is elevating expectations of B2B buyers, who want the convenience and ease associated with navigating a B2C website. They want Amazon-like capabilities to do their own research, browse the catalogue, and place orders.

Whether you need to build your B2B digital commerce strategy from scratch or develop your current digital-first approach, connect with Tryzens. We empower businesses to take on digital commerce with confidence by implementing tailored solutions and supporting strategies for continual optimization.

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