The 10 Ps of launching an effective B2B eCommerce site

Eric Fergusson, Head of Retail Services, eCommera, explains the 10 Ps of launching an effective B2B eCommerce site

With B2B online retail set to hit US$6.7 trillion (£4.3 trillion) in sales worldwide by 2020, representing close to 27% of total B2B sales, B2B retailers can’t afford to ignore eCommerce. And with 49% of B2B buyers stating that they prefer making work-related purchases on B2C websites, B2B organisations must adapt quickly, to offer customers a superior online shopping experience.

Doing so is no easy feat; in comparison with B2C, B2B eCommerce is more complex, with variable prices and high order volumes, which can make fulfilment more complicated – not to mention the difficulty of transforming legacy organisational structures, processes and attitudes.

However, for those B2B businesses that get it right, there are rich rewards in store – including increased revenue, a wider reach, and improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, to name a few. Using the following 10Ps framework, B2B retailers can understand how to successfully make the move to eCommerce, and avoid getting left behind.

1. Proposition

The B2B proposition is traditionally built around a high level of human interaction, based on developing deep relationships with customers to anticipate demands and become a trusted part of their supply chains. In the new digital era, it is important to first of all understand why your customers buy from you - is it because of proximity, customer service, range, relationships? Then evaluate how you can extend and adapt your proposition into a digital environment. 

2. Plan

When looking at going online, the plan might be to increase revenue and have x% of sales coming through the online channel, in order to reach new geographies or to reduce administrative costs. Whatever the vision, have a clear plan in place, but don’t forget to continually re-evaluate and adjust the plan as necessary, with an eye on the customer and their cross-channel journey with your company.

3. Place

In today’s digital landscape, the ‘place’ encompasses the various digital customer touch points: the online shop, the mobile store, mobile apps, and so on. As customer expectations change, the focus is shifting towards online stores where customers serve themselves. Understanding digital channels and the self-navigated customer journey can be tricky; but by understanding the respective roles of online and offline sales channels, customer experience will be rightly prioritised.

4. Platform

When moving online, there are several potential hurdles for B2B organisations to overcome, such as choosing the right eCommerce platform and the right integration partner and ensuring that you have the right knowledge and skill sets in place. Having a clear technology roadmap in place and ensuring that your chosen eCommerce platform is “pluggable” are two ways in which you can make the transition smoother.

5. People

B2B eCommerce is a relatively new field, meaning that it can be difficult to get the right people with the right skill set. When it comes to B2B eCommerce, your new recruits need a unique blend of B2B retail understanding, eCommerce knowledge and analytical skills. Clearly communicating the value of eCommerce to both senior management and your business development team should also be high on your priority list, to ensure its successful adoption.

6. Promotion

Times are changing and B2B organisations must place a greater focus on the digital elements of the marketing mix. For example, you might consider the role of SEO, content marketing and personalised landing pages in acquiring new customers. Given increasing competition from the likes of Amazon, it can also be useful to highlight customer service as a distinguishing factor, to set you apart from other self-service sites.

7. Planogram

When approaching online merchandising, your primary goal should be to help your customers find what they’re looking for with as few clicks as possible. The challenge for B2B organisations here is getting the basics right, such as optimising the search function, site navigation and B2C-style merchandising; but by keeping the process simple and deploying a commercial eCommerce platform, retailers will have the ability to incorporate these various aspects into their sites.

8. Promise

B2B organisations are not necessarily bound by the same customer expectations as B2C. For instance, B2B customers are less likely to demand same-day delivery; but they might be more interested in services like automatic reordering, real-time inventory, customised pricing and the ability to specify spending limits and approval hierarchies. Your organisation’s challenge is to choose the most valuable services to empower your customers, then stick to them and deliver on your promise.

9. Processes

The core processes of eCommerce - particularly in the B2B sector - are still evolving. The challenge for B2B organisations is navigating a wide range of new and unfamiliar activities – understanding what is new to the industry, versus what is just a new activity for the existing organisation. As a business, you must develop processes that work for the organisation and meet customer expectations and refine these processes over time.

10. Performance

eCommerce is data-rich but often information-poor. It is paramount to track profit-centric outcomes, with a wide range of input measures that drive action. Setting out and measuring against meaningful KPIs at each stage of the eCommerce journey will help to build confidence among senior management and ensure top-down buy-in and support, which is crucial to B2B eCommerce success. 

Stepping into the world of B2B eCommerce needn’t be complicated; with a solid plan in place and key metrics for measurement, there is no reason for B2B organisations to be left behind in the eCommerce world.