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Five things B2B organisations can learn from B2C eCommerce

With the global B2B eCommerce market set to hit £4.3 trillion in sales by 2020, B2B will dwarf its B2C cousin. However eCommerce is first and foremost a B2C discipline. B2C has benefitted from a 15-year head start, allowing for some extremely useful lessons from which many B2B organisations can greatly benefit.

Increasingly sophisticated B2C eCommerce experiences are driving up B2B buyers’ expectations. And with 49% of B2B buyers stating that they prefer making work-related purchases on B2C websites, B2B organisations must learn quickly from their B2C counterparts if they want to offer a user-friendly online shopping experience.

And for those B2B businesses that get it right, there are rich rewards in store – including increased revenue, a wider reach, improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, to name a few.

Despite the many differences between B2B and B2C when it comes to pricing, order volumes, fulfilment, marketing and even organisational structure; B2B organisations can still learn a great deal from their B2C counterparts when it comes to eCommerce.

Take a look at these five valuable lessons.

1. Make convenience your top priority: According to Forrester, B2B buyers increasingly expect a B2C-like shopping experience, incorporating aspects such as price transparency, immediacy and convenience. Consider, for example, the significance of one-to-one interaction for your customers. If this is important to your clients, you may want to think about incorporating live chat and ‘request a call-back’ features into your site, so they can interact with you at their convenience.

2. Don’t let technology be a distraction: Plan out a technology roadmap, to avoid organisational silos and ensure the required resources are in place. The chosen eCommerce platform should be “pluggable” to easily integrate any new systems into the ecosystem as your business evolves. And don't forget to continually re-evaluate and adjust the technology roadmap as necessary, with an eye on the customer and their cross-channel journey with your company.

3. Don’t ignore mobile: One of the latest trends in B2C eCommerce is omni-channel; the ability for customers to buy, receive and return seamlessly across all touchpoints – including mobile. B2B organisations should be no different in their approach. Forrester reported that 54% of B2B companies selling online report that their customers are using smartphones to research products, while 52% are using their device to make online purchases. It’s therefore important to keep mobile sites clean and user friendly to boost conversion rates.

4. Optimise the digital marketing mix: Marketers in the B2C retail space employ a wide range of digital marketing strategies to acquire and retain customers – from content marketing and social media to SEO and personalised landing pages. If you haven’t already, consider investing in marketing automation software such as Marketo or Eloqua, so that you can leverage the valuable A/B testing and personalised landing page capabilities among others.

5. Learn how to merchandise online: Merchandising is one of the cornerstones of B2C retail and B2B retailers can successfully adopt many of the tried and tested merchandising techniques used in B2C eCommerce. The aim of the game is to have customers find what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible. For instance, when looking at sort order, consider questions such as: in what order should products be presented – by newness, margin or availability?; should this sort order be personalised?; should it vary by geography?; how should the online and mobile planogram be aligned?

Despite the vast differences between B2C and B2B, it is evident that B2B retailers have a lot to learn from their B2C equivalents. With a 15-year advantage, B2C retailers have learned many valuable lessons on their eCommerce journey, including how to acquire and retain customers, how to merchandise online and how to manage technology. So it is time B2B organisations took note and started to embrace the eCommerce world in the same way the B2C world has.

Eric Fergusson, Head of Retail Services,