If you’re a manufacturer, chances are your B2B sales experience is a bit dated. Whether purchasing is still done at tradeshows, over the phone, via fax, paper POs, or through a basic ordering portal, it’s time for brands to give their partners a better experience.
B2B is inherently more complex than consumer ecommerce, and requires a greater number of systems and processes to sell and fulfill orders. But now, manufacturing brands have an opportunity to streamline operations and scale their businesses as B2B ecommerce matures. In its “Landscape: B2B eCommerce Playbook for 2017“, Forrester estimates that B2B ecommerce will reach $1.2 trillion and account for 13.1% of all B2B sales in the US by 2021.1
Modernizing how channel partners buy from brands can equal big bucks. If a supplier is easier to purchase from, has greater transparency, a more personalized online experience, and insightful data, buyers will prioritize working with them.
Here are 5 ways to modernize the B2B buyer’s experience.
Cater to modern buyers. Today’s buyers are more educated and informed about their options than ever before and are spending more time online versus engaging with traditional selling models. Embrace an “always-open” mentality and enable buyers to research and purchase anywhere, any time, and on their own terms.
Make B2B buyers’ lives easier. Give buyers confidence with tools at their fingertips and make ordering a snap. Present the same rich content you would for a consumer site, like video, hi-res imagery, accurate colors and sizing, product reviews, and social data. A modern buying experience should surface more of the catalog, accurate inventory, manufacturing timelines, and relevant cross-sells based on profile data all in context.
Cut cycles. Make it simple to order and re-order. Streamline cumbersome processes like POs and approvals with simple online workflows and the ability to accept instant payments. Make sure these partner-customers can access their order history and current order status at any time. Display the status of products across the supply chain so distributors have total visibility, can manage expectations, and can access status at any time without calling the manufacturer for updates.
Be relevant. Leverage the B2B buyer’s account profile and preferences to customize their experience. From suggested products, to AI-powered sales insights, and account terms, invest in a scalable platform that makes it easy to manage custom catalog assortments, pricing, volume pricing, and custom payment terms for every channel partner. Have historical orders and volumes easily accessible, and any relevant data to help with forecasting.
Market to buyers like VIP customers. Digital programs open up the opportunity to continually keep in touch with buyers, as customers. Send them targeted messages with a mix of account-related alerts and inspirational content to push sales.
 US B2B eCommerce Will Hit $1.2 Trillion By 2021, June 2017, Forrester
This article is co-authored by Jeri Kelley.
Jeri Kelley lives in Montana and loves cooking, running, and skiing – especially the après-ski part. Jeri is a Sr. Product Strategist at Oracle and has over 15 years experience in ecommerce, marketing, and digital strategy. Part of the Oracle CX group, she helps B2B brands build and enhance their digital commerce footprint.