The online B2B “consumerization” era: Is your company prepared?
In the old days, B2B sales were a long and arduous process of negotiation and bargaining. Clients wanted their products didn’t care as much about speed and didn’t trust outside verification of product quality. Today that is all changing. Buyers need supplies now and they don’t have the time to negotiate about price for months. At the same time, they are willing to accept online methods of transaction, authentication, quality control and feedback. These processes are increasing the consumerization of B2B.
Consumers are getting more and more comfortable buying online. In fact, over 79% of consumers in the US have now purchased something over the web. While businesses have been slower to pick up this trend, a majority have now also purchased online. This is the most obvious way that B2B is becoming consumerized.
The B2B market
In fact, B2B transactions are fast moving online and now more than 70% start with an internet search. In addition, 50% of purchases are by millennials so they are used to the online purchasing process. Rather than visiting a supplier’s location, negotiating a price over time and building a long-term contract, all of the information is supplied on a website with a single price for each product (with bulk discounts).
Today, rather than a paper brochure and long-term contract, the B2B marketing and sales process includes online Search, Navigation, Product Detail Pages and Product Relationship details. Pages are extremely friendly and intuitive even for new entrants to the industry to understand. This opens up the ability of suppliers to expand their client base.
For example, imagine a sales organization buying business cards for their sales people. Rather than contract with a printing company and negotiate a customized price and production schedule, the firm is most likely to visit a friendly website and order from a standardized offering. Of course, they will customize the actual words on the business cards, but they will choose from standard paper, colors, template and size. Rather than a traditional B2B process, it has now become a consumerized process.
Amazon may be one of the key drivers of this trend. The e-commerce behemoth has made buying business supplies so easy and convenient. Businesses can set-up accounts, get discounts on bulk orders and get suggested purchase all from the app or website. That ease of use is hard to compete with. Additionally, Amazon has so many different products that business are able to easily find most every common item they need. Now this ultimate consumer e-commerce website is creeping into the territory of traditional business suppliers.
Still there are several important differences to most of the traditional B2C sites and the B2B sites:
- Traditional B2B sites do not have order history. That makes repeat buying onerous;
- B2B sites are much worse at providing access to view order history and access that history for internal distribution;
- Businesses are much more concerned with tax calculations and shipping methodology. They need to track the shipments so that they can manufacture and deliver goods to their clients;
- They need to understand taxes for their internal financial projections and pricing. These sites integrate purchase orders with financial systems, ERP systems and credit management. That allows seamless record keeping for transactions.
While these business systems are not traditionally used on B2C transactions, shipping fulfillment systems and tracking are now standard in that sector. Shipments are tracked through apps and from stage to stage until delivery for consumers. Similarly, this feature is now available for business shipments.
Overall, the B2B market continues to follow the trends of the consumer market. This consumerization should lead to more innovation, flexibility and productivity for the sector.