While B2B companies have been hesitant to invest in ecommerce solutions, 2017 may be the year where that trend pivots. Early ecommerce tools often seemed too simplistic to handle B2B demands, but the technology has been in a process of continuing evolution. Current solutions are robust enough to support products and services of any complexity, giving companies who invest in these tools an edge.
Drawing from Forrester Research and other reports, Patrick Wolf has written for the Avalara blog, sharing five of the key trends that will affect B2B ecommerce in the near future:
Growth of B2B ecommerce to surpass B2C — By the end of this year, Forrester expects to see at least half of the B2B buyers completing at least half of their work-related purchasing with ecommerce. The sales estimate for this increase could reach more than $1 trillion. The savvy use of ecommerce tools will give some companies an advantage over those who don't cater to their customer's buying preferences.
Businesses buying like consumers — B2B purchasing reps are also private shoppers. They shop on Amazon and know what can be expected from ecommerce sites. This means, whether we like it or not, we're all competing with Amazon now. Your B2B buyers will increasingly expect you to offer a purchasing experience that is as informative and helpful as Amazon's. This might involve some rearranging, but the companies that adjust to these new conditions quickly and effectively will gain an edge.
eCommerce mobility — One of the details of the "consumer-like buying experience" mentioned above is that consumers are busy and like to get things on the go. This translates to mobile devices. Improving the customer experience, and thus retaining your customers, will likely include offering an effective mobile commerce option. The numbers on this point are clear: at least half of your potential buyers will be researching your product on their phone.
Personalization à la AI — Taking a slight tangent from Wolf's write-up, let's talk next about how artificial intelligence might affect your company. Automation can create noteworthy long-term savings, while machine learning is gradually becoming capable of processing complex situations. Companies that can leverage this digital speed and computerized reliability can pull ahead of the competition.
Cart-to-cash integration — Saving the best for last, this fifth ecommerce trend is on the leading edge of competitive advantage. Robust and reliable tools are available to integrate your sales process. Businesses that can unify their quoting and pricing, contracting and revenue management activities are better positioned to support customer success. Following this concept through to the logical conclusion, we can see that integrating ecommerce functionality with inventory, accounting, CRM, and ERP amplifies the benefit. Your can expand your company's vision beyond the end-to-end view of a single line of sales data. You can view the intersection of your warehouse line, customer support line, and resource planning line too: three-dimensional data of your business.
As Mr. Wolf has explained and Forrester Research has supported, this is the future of business advantage.
A variety of tools are available for these goals. This brings up the next question of how to select the best option and provider for your small or mid-sized business. Flexibility is a key trait to investigate. No matter how thorough a software suite might be, there will almost always be a need for customization — unless the vendor's stance is that you should rearrange your business to fit their modules. A second vital component of your software decision is to research what current clients have to say about the product. Often an SMB can't test a software suite with live data and actual customer transactions; however, the real-world experience of existing users can provide case studies on the software's performance.
For 3D data, flexible customizations, and a proven track record of success, explore what aACE 5 can do for you.
“[I would recommend aACE to] any business owner facing the challenging task of integrating their Amazon orders into one solution that handles all of their needs. There isn’t much limitation to what the software can do, and it flows beautifully.” — Cory Elliot, Founder and CEO, Troy Filters Ltd.