Business to Business eCommerce Drives Sales & Lowers Costs

By
Michael Elmgreen
May 19, 2015

As more and more commerce transactions and customer interactions migrate online, a major behavioral trend is emerging that highlights the growing potential of providing self-service capabilities to Business to Business (B2B) customers. Increasingly, Business to Business eCommerce is seen by business leaders as a major opportunity to amplify their sales, marketing and customer service efforts while also lowering costs. For wholesale manufacturers and distributors, the acceleration of B2B eCommerce technology has enabled sales, marketing and customer service teams to complement or augment their “human touch” channels with online convenience for the customer. While self-service will not be appropriate for all interactions or customer types (technology cannot respond to misunderstandings or non-verbal cues from a customer), it can provide unparalleled convenience in many situations. A survey commissioned by Nuance Enterprise found that 67% of respondents preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative, while a Forrester analyst recently reported that nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative. Here are three ways we’ve seen B2B businesses reduce overhead and accelerate sales using B2B eCommerce.

How Business to Business eCommerce Drives Sales and Lowers Costs

1. Empowering customers and reducing unnecessary customer service calls

By empowering customers to gain quick access to basic information online, including updated product pricing, specifications, and availability, B2B eCommerce can drastically minimize call volume to customer service departments. If businesses provide easy access to accurate, detailed product descriptions and pricing information, as well as rich digital product images to allow customers to quickly see color and pattern variations or nuanced details, customer answers will be answered quickly and efficiently––without clogging phone lines or monopolizing Customer Service’s time. One of the most common examples we hear is the “Where is my order?” inquiry from a customer who is looking for the latest updates on order status. A B2B eCommerce solution will typically provide an account of order history, including recent order status for quick access online (without having to jump through hoops with an automated phone answering system). Customer service personnel can then focus on value-added tasks like identifying opportunity accounts.

2. 24/7 Self-serve re-ordering

The catalyst for a customer reorder can happen any time––with a late night stocktake, unexpected consumer purchases of all remaining product, or an analysis that suggests the need to respond to demand for a particular color or size. Providing 24/7 availability to place reorders allows you to expand your reorder execution outside of business hours, enabling customers in core territories, foreign markets or different timezones to action reorders at the time that suits them. It also reduces the friction and costs associated with common outdated methods of processing reorders. Such orders are often dictated over the phone to customer service or transcribed from faxes or emails––all methods that require multiple human touches and increase the potential for data entry errors and mis-shipments.

3. Easy self-serve product education

Outside of simple core product information, leading companies selling B2B are looking to provide better product education through rich content available to customers via their online B2B channel. B2B eCommerce websites provide a destination for your marketing team to drive awareness of new products or promotions recently brought to market, and an online repository for product one-sheets and training materials that enable your customers to become better educated on core product features. For instance, we’ve seen customers provide online access to brand merchandising guidelines, enabling better sell-through and facilitating compliance with best practices.