The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the economy and continues to affect communities all over the world.
As we get near to the end of 2020, rapid change has become the “new normal”. B2B eCommerce is no exception. Though B2C eCommerce has been shifting towards digital channels for many years, it has seen explosive growth during the pandemic. With sales reps and customers all working from home, the pressure on B2B focused companies to define a digital presence has been intense.
We take a look at where B2B eCommerce is going, what’s been happening during the pandemic and how organizations can evolve their B2B eCommerce process.
More Digital Interactions
A recent Mckinsey survey recently stated that B2B sales leaders now believe that digital interactions are twice as important as they were before COVID.
For the period before COVID, 52% of decision makers viewed traditional sales interactions as more important than digital-enabled sales interactions. For the period during COVID-19 (which many territories are still in) 66% of respondents believe that digital interactions were more important, up from 34%.
While on average decision makers believe that digital interactions are twice as important, there is some variance in different territories. Decision makers in Spain and the UK rate digital interactions even more highly, on average three times more important. But decision makers in Korea and Japan value digital interactions as 1.5 times more important. Still a rapid increase in importance in those territories but this shows that many B2B companies still value the traditional approach. Even during the COVID crisis.
Self-service & The Purchase Funnel
The digital interactions described above tend to involve “self-service”. This is a big shift in B2B consumer behavior, which tended to be more sales and networking led. In Mckinsey’s survey, customers showed a clear preference for self-service channels over directed channels.
The purchase funnel in B2B can be divided into four phases. The research phase, evaluation, ordering and reordering. In 2016, in every channel, the directed approach was preferred in every phase. However, in 2019, buyers showed a strong preference for self-service. Buyers preferred suppliers mobile apps, websites, communities and even their social media channels.
Building Trust and Transparency
So it’s clear that decision makers have shifted towards digital during the B2B purchasing process.
So how do B2B vendors get their digital experiences right?
There are some transferable strategies from the B2C sector. Some of which are even more crucial to B2B consumers. The first of these strategies involves building trust.
Trust and transparency are important to all consumers. In the B2C space, there is no way you would expect a customer to order a product without seeing pricing information. There are very few exceptions to this.
So why should the B2B space be any different?
44% of B2B buyers want to see clear pricing information from their sellers. Combined with the desire for “self-service” this marks a very real shift in B2B consumer behavior. However a lot of B2B vendors are reluctant to be clear on pricing at the top of the purchase funnel. In fact some may find it impossible to do that.
So how do they build trust in a landscape with changing demographic expectations?
The answer could lie in the use of tools and online chat to give B2B customers a clearer idea on pricing earlier in the process. B2B vendors could use tools that could help a potential lead to “build their own estimate”, or use an online chat facility to give them a quote very quickly. This gives some power to the users but also helps B2B vendors to control the estimation and quotation process.
Reaching Out During COVID-19
The pandemic has changed how B2B advertising works. Although cold calling and outreach still goes on, it’s increasingly inefficient in a world where many are working remotely. So digital advertising has taken up the slack. eMarketer.com estimates that US B2Bs will spend over $8.14 billion in digital advertising in 2020, an increase of 22.6% on 2019 spend.
Another tactic for building awareness in 2020 has been the use of sponsored webinars and virtual events through publishers. These have replaced traditional networking events and they prove to be far more cost-effective. Whether this trend continues long-term is anyone’s guess. But for now many B2B businesses are successfully building awareness of their brands through virtual events.
The Logistics War
Competition between e-logistics businesses will be fierce, especially in Thailand. The pandemic has brought an explosion in eCommerce growth. Even outside metro areas such as Bangkok. This increased take up of eCommerce services requires a strong logistics apparatus. This has caused increased competition between e-logistics players. Not only in Thailand but throughout the whole ASEAN territory.
Metro areas in 2019 made up more than 50% of the internet economy in ASEAN. But due to the pandemic, increased take up of eCommerce services has fuelled growth in the logistics sector.
Increased foreign investment into this growth market in ASEAN is a certainty. This in turn could fuel growth for B2B organizations that specialize in serving the needs of e-logistics companies.
How MAQE can help
MAQE can provide help and strategic advice for your B2B eCommerce business. Whether you need to level up your user experience, technical solutions to help you grow or strategic marketing advice, MAQE can help. Reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about how you can move forward in 2021.