In the past decade, we have seen a real transformation in retail, with eCommerce channel becoming not just one of sales channels but a main channel for many. Furthermore, pure online retailers are quite often taking a huge chunk of the market putting traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in a tough spot. The changes we have seen in recent years are so dramatic that those "traditional" retailers that were not able to adapt are taking a toll.
For many years the focus has been on B2C, even though B2B generates more revenue, and arguably/probably has more potential. Not long ago retail was a sole bearer of eCommerce flag pioneering almost alone in that vast space. Those days are long gone and eCommerce is increasingly becoming not just a reality but a necessity in B2B relations.
B2B buyers have always been a bit slower when it comes to adapting to new trends. However, with the eCommerce giants such as Alibaba and Amazon venturing into B2B things are starting to pick up the pace. There is still a long way to go but the path has been paved.
Still, a lot of business executives are hesitant and are having second thoughts, which could perhaps all be summoned in one single thought: B2B is not fitted for eCommerce. Be it that they think how B2B is very different from B2C in terms of complexity and longevity of sales cycles, or they think nothing can replace a handshake. The truth is that modern eCommerce solutions are managing to solve those "problems" very successfully and have proven to be a generator of growth in the companies that decided to go that way.
There is a lot that eCommerce sites have to offer to B2B, so let's mention just few main points.
The possibility to offer products and services to potential clients worldwide is just amazing. It is not reserved just for companies who have their Offices and Representatives all around the world. With the global outreach via web store the pool of potential clients simply multiplies and is available to everybody.
Unlike Representative Offices and Sales Representatives, web store is working 24/7. Potential clients will not be in a situation where they would need to be aware of the working hours. Taking advantage of the fact that clients can order comfortably whenever they have time will certainly bring more revenue.
With the storefront being widely accessible companies are in a position to present their products and services using variety of options. Online storefronts can offer very granular product details, photos, videos, tutorials, or perhaps product configurators for complex products. A good mix of the mentioned methods would help potential clients get a better perspective of the product and then eventually buy it online, and continue to do so.
Accessibility/Ease of use
Having a full range of products readily available on any platform desktop or mobile, must not be underestimated. In the ever-changing world where time is becoming a most valuable asset with a possibility to offer your products anytime/anywhere becoming a norm.
Be it that we are talking about Inside Sales or Field Representatives there are certain costs that simply can not be avoided. Not until we turn back to eCommerce. Presenting to new customers, having long "cold calls", sending out "cold campaigns" - it all takes time and resources.
However, online web store could potentially take over some of that "burden" of the back of the human workforce. Admittedly a bit differently, but with a fraction of the costs traditional ways would incur.
Ability to replicate complex processes
With the advancement of technology we are seeing very capable eCommerce solutions on the market today. Modern solutions/platforms are capable of mimicking real-life sales in B2B, in a way unknown before. Complex account management structures, complex permissions management, customisable sales/negotiation processes, different lists - these are just some of the main features that have been introduced on the modern eCommerce platforms.
The trend in B2B is changing and business executives across industries are trying to maximise the gain from every sales channel, both offline and online. A healthy combination of Sales workforce for new customers and web store for the old ones could be a successful formula for some. That said a role of B2B eCommerce site as a sales support platform will become more and more important if we are looking to increase productivity and efficiency, along with cost savings.