Most of us have individually engaged in eCommerce one way or another and are likely to make more online transactions in the coming years. We know B2C eCommerce intimately and enjoy the ease of finding great products, seamless services, and fast delivery. In fact, our eCommerce user experience (UX) gets better, faster, easier, and more efficient over time. As a result, our expectations of the “norm” get redefined all the time.
Today, more and more of such buying experience is being brought to life for business buyers too. In fact, what most people don’t realize is that B2B eCommerce has been growing to many times the size of B2C, accounting for $9 trillion in sales this year. Manufacturers like Schneider Electric are in an emerging and central role of this trend. We are focusing on understanding the drivers of adoption to enable us to succeed in this evolving and disrupting channel. Our value chain partners are strategically placed to benefit the most from this growth opportunity.
Trends affecting B2B eCommerce
A number of trends are prompting all businesses in the value chain to invest heavily in this channel and generating interests among new players.
- Digitization of business buyers. When you think of “digital”, conventional wisdom tends to point to the Millennials, 73 percent of whom today are involved in purchase decision-making at their companies. However, digitization goes beyond the Millennials, as evident in the emergence of the Perennials. Indeed, digitization is not a generational trend; instead, it reflects the shift in mindset among cross-generational customers who are interacting with technology more than ever.
- Always on, always available – Omnichannel. A survey of 7,000 business buyers and consumers found that 80 percent of business buyers expect companies to interact with and respond to them in real time. Across every channel type—email, chat, CCC, messaging apps, mobile in-app support, text—the overwhelming majority of business buyers expect a response in less than one hour. ‘Omnichannel’ eCommerce moves beyond the buzzword to operational reality.
- Expectations for personalization. As a private consumer, you expect web shops and their Customer Service Operators to know your preferences, assist in product search, present relevant and customized content, offer cross-sell and upsell products, provide a seamless checkout and effect next day delivery. Business buyers now have strong similar expectations. 65 percent of business buyers say they would likely switch brands if a company didn’t make an effort to personalize experience with them.
- Faster, more convenient experience. Business buyers value time and convenience even more than private consumers do, demanding friction-free experience starting from product research to shipment. With 68% indicating preference for gathering information on their own, business buyers expect relevant information to be easily searchable and presented in a transparent, consistent, and engaging manner. At the same time, business buyers have heightened expectation for speed of product delivery: 60% of industrial buyers demand delivery for all orders within 48 hours or less.
- Specific Business User demands. Business buyers are not necessarily the end-user of all products, so they need much more detailed product data and specifications. B2B eCommerce sellers must also account for the buyer’s typical workflow: the need for superior category and technical support, relevant selling propositions, catalogue completeness, competitive pricing according to account level, and specific stock and shipping needs. Different users, different needs, greater value!
We see an exponential rate of change driven by technological advancement, for which companies must prepare ahead of time. In parallel, expectations of both sellers and buyers in the value chain have become more sophisticated and more demanding. With such seismic changes in the eCommerce and digital landscape, companies throughout the value chain will need to accelerate and step up or they will lose market share.
B2B eCommerce Takes Shape at Schneider Electric
In future posts, I’ll continue to explore the role of B2B eCommerce in the electrical industry. We’ll walk through the opportunities, key players and the dynamics of our industry. I’ll also cover Schneider Electric’s response to these changes – how we are building our capabilities and collaborating with our partners, as we redefine and accelerate our digital transformation. We have built cross functional, international teams working closely with our partners through a customer centric playbook, to drive ecommerce adoption, sales and share of voice to Professional End Users. We’ll reveal a picture of the future insofar as it can be predicted as well as more technical views on how to achieve conversion! Until then join us in the comments section!