Everybody everywhere is connected. Salesforce’s Connected Shopper report found retail in a revolution, with customer expectations rising alongside the boom in mobile and social media. To stand out in a crowded landscape, retailers are challenged to differentiate the experiences they offer across a broad spectrum of shopping activities. Today, retail is more than a transaction at a checkout counter. Rather, it is a full spectrum of activities — including research and discovery, browsing and buying, receiving service, and becoming a brand advocate. The way consumers approach this range of activities has changed significantly — and become part of everyday life.
But what about the world of B2B? B2B purchasers are also consumers: of B2C retail, on-demand media and transport such as Netflix and Uber. B2B purchasers are no longer comparing to your competitors; they’re comparing to every experience they’ve had that day. The truth is, many B2B experiences are just not stacking up.
What can you learn from B2C, media, and the changing world consumers are operating in to gain a competitive edge?
What is B2B Commerce, and what’s the benefit?
Put simply, B2B Commerce is taking what has typically been completed by sales reps, and moving it online. According to Forrester, 50% of B2B companies believe that over half of their customers will move to online purchasing in the next three years.
B2B Commerce allows you to grow sales (without increasing your sales team) by enabling self-service and allowing smaller customers to order products quickly. This frees up sales reps/channel partners to focus on the top accounts to drive revenue through strategic partnerships.
Why is it broken?
It’s difficult to cater to the diverse and complex needs of B2B buyers, who are often harder to pin down then their consumer counterparts. But across industries, at least one demand is resoundingly apparent: easier, more convenient options to browse, research, and purchase products. 83% of B2B buyers expect their B2B marketing experience to be as creative and personalised as their consumer experiences.
The B2B buying process can be manual, impersonal and feel outdated. A quick look around these companies reveals product description pages without imagery, the inability to customise price based on negotiated discounts, and limited dynamic upselling if online ordering is available at all. For a lot of companies, work is still completed by sales reps, or by placing an order via a form system or call centre.
The Forrester report on the Total Economic Impact (TEI) of Salesforce B2B Commerce found that organisations that did not provide an eCommerce option felt increasing pressure from their customers to offer quick 24x7 ordering for straightforward orders that did not require assistance from a sales or service rep, along with access to account information such as prior orders. Organisations already providing an eCommerce option were doing so with systems that did not meet their customers’ expectations (or their own) for the breadth and quality of an eCommerce experience, leaving those organisations vulnerable to competitors. Because online ordering was confusing and did not provide needed information, most customers continued to submit orders and obtain product and order information via phone, email, or fax.
The B2C Experience
It should come as no surprise that when you serve your customers faster and more efficiently, they are more satisfied and more likely to become repeat customers. Companies interviewed by Forrester reported significant benefits from Salesforce B2B Commerce including increased customer satisfaction with self-service ordering; a better customer experience with detailed product descriptions, imagery, and dynamic cataloguing; real-time information about availability and delivery; ease of ordering and reordering. In fact, better online product information has led to greater order accuracy and fewer returns and claims.
The mandate from B2B buyers is clear: they want easy, seamless, personalised experiences across all of their interactions with a brand: as a buyer or a consumer. They are no longer prepared to put up with manual, clunky processes when they spend the rest of their time interacting with companies like Netflix, Uber, or Amazon.
Salesforce B2B Commerce
When people think of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, they typically think of the industry-leading B2C solution. Since the acquisition of CloudCraze, Salesforce is now also able to offer a leading B2B solution designed explicitly for businesses eager to provide exceptional eCommerce experiences for their business customers.
Why do they need a separate one? B2C shoppers and B2B buyers both want great eCommerce experiences, but business buyers are often making more significant, more complex purchases. Even though it’s built natively on the same platform, unique B2B-specific functionality is required that is markedly different from what consumer shoppers need. These features include shopping carts capable of accomodating hundreds or thousands of SKUs, custom storefront themes, custom product catalogues, negotiated pricing by the customer and complicated shipping and payment functionality.
This post was written for OSF Commerce.